From the smallest bee hummingbird, to the largest ostrich, birds come in different color, shapes, and sizes, with its own distinct behavioral patterns that sets them apart from the rest. It is hard to believe that birds with their wings, beaks, and body—covered in feathers—could have anything to do with the scaly reptiles but research shows that the class aves evolved from a suborder of dinosaurs called theropods, to which species like Tyrannosaurus rex belonged.
These theropods were somehow able to survive massive extinction that claimed almost all of the life on earth after an asteroid supposedly struck earth around 65 million years ago. The aves developed specific characteristics of today’s birds for their ease of survival.
Birdwatching is slowly gaining popularity in recent years but for those who have not heard or experienced birdwatching, the question may be ‘what is so good about watching birds?’ An enthusiast will tell you that it is interesting, fascinating and a great opportunity to learn. Like with everything else, people watch bird for different reasons. For someone, it may be an opportunity to learn and explore whereas for others it may be a way to relax. However, birdwatching is something everyone has to try for themselves to understand the appeal.
One of the many great things about birdwatching is that it really is an inexpensive hobby with almost no equipment required, maybe with the exception binoculars that anyone can get for little to nothing.
Soon you will find yourself identifying birds by their sounds, naming them when you spot them, and learning about their behavior. Such is the addictive nature of birdwatching.
Nepal is as oasis for birdwatchers given that around 870 species of birds fly in its skies, which make up around 8% of the total species of birds found in the world. Spiny Babbler is the only bird endemic to Nepal. Like with every other species of flora and fauna found here, Nepal owes its large bird population to its diverse geography and climatic variation. Among the birds found in Nepal, more than 150 species are facing some kind of threat for survival and nine species have been declared protected by the government of Nepal.
More than 400 species of birds are native to Kathmandu valley itself and outside the valley various National Parks and Wildlife Reserves like Chitwan National Park, Bardia National Park, Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Shuklaphantha National Park, etc., are famous for their bird life diversity. In Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, the smallest wildlife reserve of Nepal, more than 250 species of birds alone have been recorded. This reserve is home to many species of herons, duck, storks and egrets, which includes both in house and migratory species.
Within the valley, Godavari, Taudaha, Nagarjun forest, Sundarijal, and Bajrabarahi forest are some areas where different species of birds can be spotted. Herons, owls, kingfishers, woodpeckers, cuckoos, doves, eagles, and warblers are some of the birds that are common in Godavari.
To the southwest of Kathmandu, areas around Taudaha Lake are famous for the migratory birds that take shelter there during the winter. Twice a year, every year, large number of birds flock to Nepal in search of food, and for breeding. Mid-September to mid-October is the peak season for winter migration when birds migrate to Nepal from countries like China, Siberia, Korea, and Mongolia. Grey headed lapwing, ruddyshel, common teal, Eurasian wigeon, and many other duck species can be sighted at Taudaha during the winter.
On the other hand, the peak season for summer migration is March/April, when birds from South India, South-East Asia, and from as far as Sub-Saharan Africa fly to Nepal. Birds like Eurasian cuckoos, kingfishers, pied cuckoos, and flycatchers that come to Nepal for breeding during summer – settle in the forests and wetlands of Terai.
Although, some new and rare species of birds are spotted in Nepal at times, many birds are on their way to being extinct and many migratory birds common in Nepal in the past have stopped appearing. Indian thick-knee, yellow-wattled lapwine, ibisbill are only a few of the species that have disappeared from Kathmandu valley. A lot of this has to do with the destruction of the habitat of these birds as well as well as their hunting and illegal trade of their body parts. People are involved in illegal hunting of rare birds because they are prized for their meat and fetch a good price when sold.
Many organizations like Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) are committed to preserving the birds and their habitat in Nepal. Apart from conducting research and study on the birds of the country – to learn more about them – BCN also works to create awareness among people and encourages them to be actively involved in understanding birds, their behavior, their importance, and their relationship to humans.
BCN website: http://www.birdlifenepal.org/