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 comfortable access to destinations in the 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, Koklass 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 the 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 shorebirds in large numbers.

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

Expeditions are usually carried on foot but another option like a 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 the banks of the Chambal River Sanctuary. The MPTDC or Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation organizes boating on the river. About two hours of boating will lead to the 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 the 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 mountains and shorebirds. 

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 than 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 places fortified with sumptuous meals and wonderful sleep every day.Crested Kingfisher

Winters are harsh here and vitiate whence there is snowfall. 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 in 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 a 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, lammergeier, peregrine falcon, Himalayan griffon, and on the way down we saw the Koklass pheasant. We stopped at woodpecker point to sight some of the enchanting species before reaching Jungle Lore Lodge. This was one of the finest birding trips 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 on 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 is available at Ramnagar and Sattal. Better carry your own.
  • Market closes early
  • Few Lodges at Pangot
  • An 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, but the local guides are also a great help getting around in new places. On long journeys make most of the stops in between in order to enhance your checklist and experience as well.   



North India

Updated: 07/13/2021, pateluday
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pateluday on 06/25/2021

Bird above Himalayan Mountain is blue capped rock thrush
In Sat Tal Section they are
Koklass Pheasant
Great Kingfisher
Cheer Pheasant

In Pangot Section
Grey Faced Woodpecker

DerdriuMarriner on 06/24/2021

pateluday, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
Bird colors are not only attractive but also clever, as in that of your last bird image where the body blends so well with the bark.
I believe that the image above your heading Pangot is that of a cheer pheasant. But apart that and the sarus crane, I don't know what the birds are in the images next to the article title, above the heading Himalayan Mountains and under the headings Sat Tal and Pangot

pateluday on 09/20/2016

Thanks blackspanielgallery

blackspanielgallery on 09/19/2016

excellent images of birds not likely to be seen elsewhere.

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