Birdwatching, or birding, is a form of wildlife observation in which the observation of birds is a recreational activity. It can be done with the naked eye, through a visual enhancement device like binoculars and telescopes, or by listening for bird sounds.

The hill state of Uttarakhand has terrific avifaunal diversity. Uttarakhand may be one- sixtieth the size of India, but according to the State Forest Department it is home to about 687 bird species which is more than half of the 1303 bird species recorded in the country. Of these, about 39 species are listed as globally threatened according to the IUCN Red List. While it is important to celebrate this wealth, it is crucial to protect it as well, for which reason, the Eco-Tourism wing of the Uttarakhand Forest held a series of bird-watching camps in different destinations spread across the state, where forest staff, local community members, tour guides and others were taught the basics of birding.

In order to boost ecotourism via bird watching, the State Government organised its first ‘Uttarakhand Spring Bird Festival’ at the Asan Conservation Reserve from 5th
to 9th Feb. 2014. It was such a success, the organisers immediately decided to make it an annual affair!

The festival includes guided bird watching, bird photography and sound recording workshops, lectures, film shows, and exhibitions. Thousands of participants from different states and foreigners along with neighbouring school students also participated in the activities.

A commendable initiative to promote birding by the State Forest Department in collaboration with other groups like the Titli Trust, Kalpavriksh and Himal Prakriti, these series of bird watching camps and festivals has provided an impetus to birdwatching in the state. The Uttarakhand Forest Department’s endeavours to engage people from all walks of life in this important sustainable tourism initiative which will help to conserve Nature, while providing livelihood opportunities to communities.

Uttarakhand has 14 important bird areas as listed by Indian bird conversation network, Bombay Natural History Society and Bird Life International that are Uttarakhand is home to 14 important bird areas as listed by Indian bird conversation network, Bombay Natural History Society and Bird Life International that are important and priority sites for conversation.

The recently released “Uttarakhand: A Birdwatching Heaven”, edited by Sanjay Sondhi and produced by the State Forest Department and Titli Trust lists 20 hotspots of birding, and gives a brief glimpse of their location, features, key birds likely to be seen, and local contacts. Not all of these are official protected areas. Indeed, great birding can be done outside them too, including in areas conserved by communities such as Van Panchayats and forests protected right from the days of the Chipko movement

Birding sites in Kumaon

  • Maheshkhan (Nainital) is a little-known and off-the-beaten-track destination located about 22 km from Bhowali, between Nainital and Ramgarh in Kumaon. The steep and rugged terrain here is cloaked in a variety of habitat types ranging from chir pines to oak- rhododendron, broad leaved forest to deodar forest. This diversity of habitat gives rise to an exceptionally rich bird fauna in a relatively small area. There are numerous birding trails that emanate from here, some leading uphill towards the top of the ridge overlooking the FRH, while others lead downhill towards mixed broad-leaved hill forest along a perennial mountain stream. The dirt-track that leads to the FRH from the highway is also a good trail for birds. Hill Partridge, Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Himalayan Woodpecker, Collared Owlet, White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Spotted Forktail, Black-faced Warbler, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Mountain Bulbul, Rusty-talled Flycatcher, Blue-winged Minla, White-cheeked Nuthatch are the main species found here.
  • Marchula-Mohan-Kumeria (Ramnagar)
  • Munsiyari-Askot (Pithoragarh)
  • Pangot-Sattal-Nainital (Nainital) is a small quiet Himalayan village located about 15 kilometers from Nainital, home to more than 200 bird species have been recorded at Pangot and the surrounding areas. In Pangot, many birding trails named such as woodpecker point (2 km), Timla Pani area (9 km) and Vinayak Cheer Pheasant point (11 km ) are worth a visit. The drive to Pangot as well passes through the forested area of Cheena Peak Range via Snow View Point and Kilbury, which are hot spots for birding.At an altitude of 2194 mts. and 10 Kms. from the Nainital, Kilbury too is a rich birding route.
  • Binsar-Jageshwar (Almora)
  • Kaladhungi-Baur (Nainital)
  • Nandhaur (Nainital, Champawat)
  • Powalgarh-Kotabagh-Sitabani (Nainital)
  • Corbett: Dhikala-Gairal (Ramnagar)
  • Corbett: Jhirna-Tumeria-Phanto (Nainital and Pauri Garhwal)

Following photos of birds are shot at Soulitude by Vinish Wazir