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Guide to Birding in Jim Corbett National Park

Long tailed Broadbill Jim Corbett

Jim Corbett National Park: A Paradise for Nature Praiser in India

Jim Corbett tiger reserve is situated in the foothills of outer Himalayas in the North and Shivalik in the South. The reserve include Corbett national Park which is one of the oldest national park of India. It was created in 1936 and named Hailey national park, after Mr. Malcom Hailey, who was the governor of United Province, where this park is situated. Later it was named Ramganga national park after the river which flows through it, the name changed again and named after Jim Corbett, the hunter conservationist.

In April 1973 the world’s largest conservation project, Project Tiger was launched from Corbett national park and it was among the first nine tiger reserves selected at the time of its start.

Corbett tiger reserve is the stronghold of tiger and elephants in Northern India. The reserve is called the land of ‘Trumpet, Roar and Song’, which means it is not only for tigers and elephants but famous for birds too. It has more than 650 species of birds, which is the highest from any reserve in India.

Project tiger was launched from Corbett and it is one of the first nine tiger reserves created at that time. The reserve includes Corbett national park, which is India’s first national park.

Also read: Tiger Safari in Jim corbett Latest Travel Guide


Birding in Jim Corbett National Park


Birding in India – Brief history & Importance of birds

India is very rich in terms of bird diversity, 10 different biogeographic zones, four biodiversity hotspots and 16 different forest types makes it a perfect habitat for birds of various ecological region of the world. The altitudinal variation from sea level to high Himalayas and climatic zones like from hot and dry desert to warm and humid tropical region, everything contributes to the species richness.

The major reason for so much diversity is its geographical position in a region of overlap between three biogeographic provinces- the Indo-malayan (South and South East Asia), Palearctic (Europe and Northern Asia), and Afro-tropical (Africa) realms.

The history of birdwatching in India is very old. It is evident from ancient and medieval sources of history that not only king and royal families but common man also enjoy bird watching and they keep some of the birds as pets. Mughal kings known to keep falcon and other birds of prey as pet to hunt game birds. Mughal art especially during the time of Jehangir have depicted many birds and other animals with accurate species characteristics. Rock paintings of different ages in various rock shelters have also shown the pet as well as wild birds.

The credit to start modern and more scientific birding in India goes to Mr. Allan Octavian Hume (The founder of Indian National Congress). In the year 1885 Bombay natural History Society (BNHS) was formed to study birds and their natural history. Later ornithologist like Dr. Salim Ali did a great work on bird species identification and listed 1200 species in his book ‘Book of Indian birds’. Because of his work, birdwatching in India becomes an interesting and very common hobby and birdwatchers from all corners of the world started coming to India. A work by Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp and Tim inskipp published in 2011 was well recognized by trained and experienced naturalists of 21st century and it becomes the most common field guide for an amateur and expert birdwatchers both.

Considering the importance of birds for the protection of various ecosystems, the Indian government have started various breeding and conservation projects on birds like, Great Indian Bustard, Vultures, Amur Falcon, Sarus Crane, Bengal Florican etc. Many sanctuaries & national parks like Bharatpur, Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Thattekad, Sultanpur, Nawabagnaj, Chilika Lake, Nal Sarovar and Okhla are created to conserve the bird species in their natural environment.


Himalayan flameback woodpecker on top of the tree


Exploring Jim Corbett National Park: Birdwatching Haven

Jim Corbett National Park is a birders paradise. The reserve is located in south Patlidun area of the Himalayan foothills. The altitudinal range within the reserve is from 400 m to 1210 m. it includes the foothills of the outer Himalayas in the north and Shivaliks in the south. The Ramganga river valley, which is the largest in the reserve lies in between the outer Himalaya and Shivaliks.

Different types of vegetation are found on varied topography, comprises hills, riverine areas, marshy depressions, plateaux and ravines. There are 110 species of trees, 51 species of shrubs, and more than 33 species of bamboo and other grass are found in the reserve. The reserve is known for its high and pure strands of Sal in the flat valleys and hilly ridges.
The reserve stands at the junction of Himalayan and Gangetic plain biogeographic zone, this unique position gives it an advantage of having elements of both the zones that is why it is so diverse in terms of biodiversity.


Long tailed Broadbill Jim Corbett


Avian Delights: Birdwatching in Jim Corbett

Corbett tiger reserve and surrounding landscape is teemed with the song and chirping of birds. According to IBA (important bird and Biodiversity Areas in India) the reserve also represent Biome 8 (Sino-Himalayan Sub tropical forests), Biome 5 (Eurasian high mountain-Alpine and Tibetan) and biome 7 (Sino Himalayan temperate forests). The interesting species are Ibisbill which lives in cold streams and shingle beds of the Himalaya, Brown dipper which is seen in winter, collared falconet which is the smallest bird of prey.

Corbett National park is one of the best place to see Pallas’s fish eagle which is a vulnerable species globally. In India total 69 species of diurnal raptors has been reported out of which 51 are found in Corbett. 26 species of woodpeckers in India, 15 are reported from Corbett. In terms of critically endangered species Corbett have white-rumped vulture, slender-billed vulture and red headed vulture. Black-bellied tern which is highly endangered species is also found here.

There are three species of Hornbills are found in this landscape, Indian grey hornbill is the smallest and most common among them. Great hornbill, the largest species of hornbill mostly found near forested areas. Oriental pied hornbill is another species which is found in the reserve.


Redstart bird feeding young ones in Corbett


Popular Bird Species found in Jim Corbett National Park

Bird Species Identification Nest Type Size Diet Best Time to See in Corbett
Indian Peafowl Brilliant blue and green Ground scrape Large Seeds, insects Throughout the year
Himalayan Swiftlet Small, dark swift Caves/Cliffs Small Insects Throughout the year
Red Junglefowl Reddish-brown with spots Ground scrape Medium Seeds, insects Throughout the year
Crested Serpent Eagle Brown with crest Treetop Medium-Large Reptiles, birds Year-round, more in winter
Oriental Honey Buzzard Brown with distinctive head Treetop Medium-Large Insects, honey, fruits Winter
Changeable Hawk-Eagle Dark brown with crest Treetop Large Birds, small mammals Year-round, more in winter
Grey-headed Fishing Eagle Grey head and white body Near water bodies Large Fish, water birds Year-round
Black Kite Brown with forked tail Treetop/nest on cliffs Medium-Large Scavenger, opportunistic Throughout the year
White-rumped Vulture White with black wingtips Cliffs/Trees Large Carrion Year-round
Pallas’s Fish Eagle Brown with white head Near water bodies Large Fish, water birds Winter
Osprey White head, dark eye mask Near water bodies Medium-Large Fish, occasionally small mammals Winter
Black-winged Kite Black patches on wings Treetop/nest on trees Small-Medium Insects, small mammals, reptiles Throughout the year
Greater Spotted Eagle Dark brown with white spots Treetop Large Small mammals, birds Winter
Green Bee-eater Bright green with long bill Burrows/nest on banks Small-Medium Insects, especially bees and wasps Throughout the year
Blue-throated Barbet Green with blue throat Tree holes Small-Medium Fruits, insects Throughout the year
Great Hornbill Large, colorful bill Tree holes Large Fruits, insects, small animals Winter
Indian Grey Hornbill Grey with large bill Tree holes Medium Fruits, insects Throughout the year
Common Kingfisher Bright blue and orange Burrows/nest in banks Small Fish, aquatic insects Throughout the year
Pied Kingfisher Black and white with crest Burrows/nest in banks Small-Medium Fish, aquatic insects Throughout the year
Jungle Owlet Small, brown with spots Tree holes Small Insects, small mammals Throughout the year
Himalayan Flameback Red and black with crest Tree holes Small-Medium Insects, tree sap Throughout the year
Black-rumped Flameback Red and black Tree holes Small-Medium Insects, tree sap Throughout the year
Greater Flameback Red and black with crest Tree holes Medium Insects, tree sap Throughout the year
Himalayan Woodpecker Black and white Tree holes Small-Medium Insects, tree sap Throughout the year
Grey-capped Woodpecker Grey head and back Tree holes Small-Medium Insects, tree sap Throughout the year
Brown-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Brown with cap Tree holes Small Insects, tree sap Throughout the year
Himalayan Bulbul Brown with crest Trees/bushes Small-Medium Fruits, insects Throughout the year
Red-vented Bulbul Brown with red vent Trees/bushes Small-Medium Fruits, insects Throughout the year
Blue Whistling Thrush Blue with melodious call Nests on cliffs Medium Insects, fruits Throughout the year
Oriental Magpie Robin Black and white Trees/bushes Small Insects, fruits Throughout the year


Best Times for Birdwatching in Jim Corbett

Though winter is the best season when birdwatchers can spot many migratory as well as resident birds but all other seasons are equally good in Corbett. Even during summer one can spot birds who come from all the way from south, also during monsoon transition period the chances are good to spot passage migrant.


Birdwatching Techniques and Tips

Birdwatching is a learning process, the deep you go, the more you learn.

When you go for birdwatching keep these things following:

  1. Carry a good binocular

Spotting a bird sitting on a faraway tree branch is tough and even if you spot it without binocular, the identification is not easy. The details on plumage and other features can only be easy through binocular. You can select from a vast range of binocular in your budget. Bushnell, Nikon, or Celestron are affordable options.

  1. Carry a good field guide

Field guides a very useful tool, carrying it is a must on your birdwatching trips. A good field guide about the birds of Indian subcontinent is a must for every birdwatchers going for birding in Indian birdwatching destinations like Corbett.

  1. Nature Guide

Good birdwatcher nature guide will be an asset for your birding trip. These nature guides are well trained and expert in spotting your desired birds. Their knowledge about the reserve and enthusiasm while showing an interesting bird makes your trip more enjoyable and a great learning.

  1. Download the apps for bird identification on the Play Store & App Store

These apps are very handy and very easy to use and install in your smart phone and a great tool for bird identification in the field.

  1. Safari Clothing

Always check about the temperature and weather conditions before going to your trip, this will help you to pack your clothing appropriately. Whatever you wear keep in mind it should be a dull colour well camouflage cloths. Animals and birds notice bright colors and get scared so always wear dull color comfortable cloths. Also keep shades and a cap in case of bright sunlight. Face mask you also can carry because many times a passing safari jeep will throw dust in the air.


Sunbird in Jim corbett national aprk


Notable Birdwatching Locations within Jim Corbett

Corbett national park is a mosaic of various kind of habitats and each habitat have their respective flora and fauna. There are water birds, forest birds and grassland birds. Grasslands and water is comparatively easier places to spot the birds. Dhikala Grassland in Corbett is a place which offers everything, from tigers, elephants to birds so a trip to this place will always be useful for your birdwatching expedition. Another place you can consider is Ramganga River and Kalagrah reservoir, here you can spot water birds and birds of prey who feeds mostly on fishes. Feel free to explore other best birding destinations in India.

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