Birding in North India at NainiTal in The Foothills of Himalaya

by pateluday

North India is rich in bird species due to diverse terrain and undulating Himalayan Ranges. Nainital is a birding hot spot visited by birders from across the globe.

New Delhi, the capital city is the focal point of inbound birders since it provides a comfortable access to destinations in NainiTal District in the State of Uttarkhand. But the in between hot spots are visited first as they are nearer and on the way.

The popular itinerary includes Bharatpur in Rajasthan State, Chambal River Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. The next destination is Corbett Tiger Reserve followed by a visit to Sat Tal and Pangot all in NainiTal.

The quest for quaint and exotic birds is never ending, and the trip yields in a large number of them being check listed. The targeted species are the Indian Skimmer, Ibisbill, Koklas Pheasant, Cheer Pheasant, Sarus Crane and many others. The degree of difficulty is high as one has to traverse mountain tracks on foot for long distance.

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

Sarus Crane
John Matthai
Sarus Crane Courting
Sarus Crane Courting


Marsh Lands
Bharatpur Habitat
Bharatpur Habitat

The Expedition Begins

The Journey

Wetland at BharatpurThe first stop is at Bharatpur in Rajasthan. After a long drive of two and half hours you reach the holy city of Mathura, Lord Krishna was born here. From here Bharatpur is seventy kilometers of rough drive. But it is all worth it.

The bird sanctuary is home to three hundred species many of which are winter migrants while few are rare visitors or vagrants. The destination is frequented by wetland and shore birds in large numbers.

The enthusiasts stay here for at least two nights in the hotels near to the entrance of the sanctuary.  The habitat comprises of large but shallow wetlands with marshy shores, meadows, scrub and thin strips of mixed forests.     

Expeditions are usually carried on foot but other option like rickshaw is available, A birding guide from the forest department accompanies the birders. Most of the guides are experienced and introduce  you to the species as sighted. A long walk around the park is exciting with many species to sight. A two day tour will yield more than 150 species including a few in the park neighborhood. 

From here the next visit is to Dholepur Town which is at a distance of fifty km. A short drive will take you to banks of Chambal River Sanctuary. The MPTDC or Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation organizes boating on  the river. About two hours boating will lead to sighting of many birds along with crocodiles, gharial and river dolphins.  

From here on a long drive awaits us as we proceed for Corbett National Park in NainiTal.

Corbett Tiger Reserve

Birding Hot Spot

Corbett TigerYes the tiger reserve is a birding hot spot and oh boy what a place. The journey is long and in the way stop for some meals and then over the bridge at Ganges for some birding. We are able to spot  a flock of bar headed geese, stints, black winged stilts, sandpipers and gulls.  

Finally we reach Ramnagar Town, and the panorama changes. We are greeted by spectacular mountains and snaking rivers sparkling with crystal clear water. Well this is going to be our place for rendezvous with mountain and shore birds. 

There is enough light to sight wall creeper and the elusive Ibisbill at Garjia Temple and we are lucky.  We snap down to sleep after a sumptuous curry dinner.

Corbett is a tiger reserve and a National Park. The Ramganga River home to mahseer, gharial, marsh crocodile and birds of prey is the lifeline of this ecosystem diverse to heel. Tiger rules here over the denizens which are in plenty especially the rare hog deer and goral. 

Blue Capped Rock Thrush

But more then 500 bird species can be spotted here. This richness is attributed to altitude migrants which come down to avoid harsh snow in the Himalayan Ranges.  We will also visit Laldang and Mohaan Forest in the outskirts to see the fork tails and many other species all around us. 

Three days at the reserve yields excellent bird sightings and the next day we leave early morning for SatTal via Nainital Township. The lake is overcrowded with honeymooners hence we continue with our ascent on the way spectacular view of the Himalayas sends us into a trance. 

Himalayan Mountains

North India
Hari Lama

Uttarakhand Videos



Lake Photo
Hari Lama

Photo Sattal

Hari Lamba

Sat Tal

A place of seven lakes

Koklass PheasantEnchanting is what I would like to describe this township in the cradle of Shivalik Hills.  At the height of fourteen thousand feet MSL the view is spectacular all around. The best places to sight avian species  are at the lake near Christian Ashram,  Kainchi Dham and Chafi.

We were occupied all the time with winged wonders at these place fortified with sumptuous meals and wonderful sleep every day.Crested Kingfisher

Winters are harsh here and vitiate whence there is snow fall. Sometimes the snow blocks your movement and creates an emergency situation. Anyway this did not happen and we sighted many laughing thrushes, warblers, blue winged minla, bulbuls, eagles, parakeets, woodpeckers, sunbirds the list will go on and on.       Chir Pheasant

The lakes are picturesque serene and absolutely still. I like to bird more is such surroundings. Birding over we checked out to leave for Pangot early in the morning.  

Road to Pangot

Hari Lama


Cold & Crazy

Yes Cold and Crazy.

Pangot at height of  2000 ft plus can be icy cold and damp with dark skies. But whence the sun shines it is a mind boggling spectacle to behold and the best moment for birding. We climbed up to Guggu Khan probably the highest point.  Grey Faced Woodpecker

This place is difficult for those not used to heights. The steep climb up to the mountain is full of extreme curves and accords a don't look down effect from the ever rising dizzy heights.

To sight the Cheer Pheasant one needs strong eyesight and patience. This is not the place to be shaky for one step could lead you down to a blood splattered end.       

We managed to sight the cheer pheasant, lammergier, peregrine falcon, Himalayan griffon and on the way down we saw the Koklass pheasant. We stopped at woodpecker point to sight some the enchanting species before reaching Jungle Lore Lodge. This was one of the finest birding trip in the North and we could checklist many enigmatic species.    

End of Expedition

Back to Home

Kanchi Dham Sattal Only a handful number of birds have been mentioned here. My idea was not to present a checklist here in order to be succinct.   There many places in NainiTal besides that which have been described in this page.

There are few things to note as follows:

  • Extreme weather in winters in Sattal & Pangot 
  • No Banking facilities except at Ramnagar
  • Warm clothing are available at Ramnagar and Sattal. Better carry your own.
  • Market closes early
  • Few Lodges at Pangot
  • Expert driver is required to scale those heights on wheels. 
  • No selfies at the mountain tops accidents have happened.
  • People with breathing difficulty can have problems at heights. 

One very important aspect of bird watching in India is the company of a guide. You must hire one before the tour begins through the tour organizer. Not only for birding, the local guides are a great help getting around in new places. On long journeys make most of stops in between in order to enhance your checklist and experience as well.   



North India

Updated: 04/12/2021, pateluday
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login
pateluday on 09/20/2016

Thanks blackspanielgallery

blackspanielgallery on 09/19/2016

excellent images of birds not likely to be seen elsewhere.

You might also like

In Search of the White Tiger

Tigers are most engimetic predators on Earth. Myths and threat perception has...

Chennai (Madras): Gateway to South India

Chennai (formerly Madras) is the fourth largest city in India and the capital...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...