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  • Photograph of Himalayan Monal

    A rare image of a rare and beautiful Himalayan Monal at Sela Pass by Ian Merrill.

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    Best Birds and other wildlife in Northeast India


    Northeast India Endemics 7
    Manipur Bush-quail, Black-breasted Parrotbill, Rusty-throated Wren-babbler (Mishmi Hills), Naga (Long-tailed) Wren-babbler (Nagaland and North Manipur), Tawny-breasted Wren-babbler (Khasi Hills), Swamp Grass-babbler and Bugun Liocichla (Eaglenest area).

    Grey Peacock-pheasant, Swamp Francolin, Snow Partridge, Himalayan Monal, Blyth’s Tragopan, Blood Pheasant, Spot-billed Pelican, Pallas's Fish-eagle, Bengal Florican, Ibisbill (mostly Nov-Mar), Snow Pigeon, Ward’s Trogon, Crested Kingfisher, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Blue-rumped Pitta, Green Cochoa, Grandala, Marsh Babbler, Bhutan, Brown-capped, Chestnut-backed, Striped and Yellow-throated Laughingthrushes, Brown-throated (Ludlow’s) Fulvetta, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Blackish-breasted (Wedge-billed Wren-babbler), Chevron-breasted (Wedge-billed Wren-babbler) and Jerdon's Babblers, Bar-winged Wren-babbler, Spotted Elachura (formerly a Wren Babbler, now in a family of its own), Wallcreeper, Beautiful Nuthatch and Gold-naped Finch.

    (Additional specialities at Meghalaya and Namdapha National Park in eastern Arunachal Pradesh include White-bellied Heron, White-winged Duck, White-cheeked Partridge, Dark-rumped Swift, Snowy-throated Babbler, and Assam and Rufous-vented Laughingthrushes.)

    Kalij Pheasant, Red Junglefowl, Bar-headed Goose (mostly Nov-Mar), Ruddy Shelduck (mostly Nov-Mar), Oriental Darter, Black (mostly Nov-Mar) and Black-necked Storks, Lesser and Greater Adjutants, vultures, Grey-headed Fish-eagle, Pied Harrier (mostly Nov-Mar), Black, Greater Spotted (mostly Nov-Mar) and Rufous-bellied Eagles, Collared Falconet, Grey-headed and River Lapwings, Bronze-winged Jacana, Small Pratincole, Great Black-headed (Pallas's) Gull (mostly Nov-Mar), River Tern, Vernal Hanging-parrot, parakeets, Green-billed Malkoha, owls including Dusky Eagle-owl and Brown Fish-owl, Crested Treeswift, White-throated Needletail (mostly Apr-Sep), Red-headed Trogon, Pied, Stork-billed and White-breasted (Smyrna) Kingfishers, Blue-bearded, Blue-tailed and Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters, Indochinese Roller, Great and Oriental Pied Hornbills, barbets, woodpeckers including Great Slaty, Long-tailed and Silver-breasted Broadbills, Ashy Woodswallow, Common Iora, minivets, Maroon Oriole, drongos including Greater Racquet-tailed, Common Green Magpie, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Southern Nutcracker, Sultan and Yellow-cheeked Tits, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, bulbuls, leaf warblers, Chestnut-headed Tesia, tailorbirds, niltavas, Chinese and Siberian Rubythroats (both mostly Nov-Mar), Indian Blue Robin (mostly May-Sep), bush-robins, White-rumped Shama, redstarts, forktails, Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush, thrushes, laughingthrushes including White-crested, scimitar, shrike and wren babblers, Himalayan Cutia, Silver-eared Mesia, Red-billed Leiothrix, minlas including Red-tailed, fulvettas, sibias, yuhinas, parrotbills, starlings such as Spot-winged, mynas, Asian Fairy-bluebird, leafbirds, flowerpeckers, Fire-tailed, Gould's and Green-tailed Sunbirds, Streaked Spiderhunter, accentors, rosefinches, bullfinches and Scarlet Finch.

    Also a chance of Sclater's Monal, Satyr and Temminck's Tragopans, Baikal, Falcated and White-winged Ducks, Baer's Pochard, Black-tailed Crake, Long-billed Plover, Hodgson's Frogmouth, Brown Hornbill, Blue-naped Pitta, Collared Treepie, Purple Cochoa, Orange-headed Thrush and Maroon-backed Accentor.

    Indian Rhinoceros, Asian Elephant, Hoolock Gibbon, Ganges River Dolphin, Asian Water Buffalo, Capped and Golden Langurs, Assamese/Rhesus Macaques, Red Giant Flying Squirrel, Black Giant Squirrel and Sambar. Also a chance of Tiger and Gaur, and an outside chance of Red Panda.

    The amazing flora of the eastern Himalayas includes a great variety of rhododendrons, cobra-lilies and epiphytic orchids (although these are perhaps at their most diverse in the nearby Indian state of Sikkim, notably in Kangchenjunga NP).

    Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in Northeast India

    Photograph of Greater Adjutants

    Greater Adjutants at the dump by Jon Hornbuckle.

    Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in Northeast India

    The best time to visit the lowlands is between mid-November and March, especially mid-February to the end of March, when the numbers of wintering birds from the north and high Himalayas usually reach their peak. Kaziranga NP in the lowlands does not usually open to visitors before mid-November because it is usually flooded during the monsoon, from May to October. High altitude areas, notably Sela Pass, may not be accessible until April at the earliest hence mid-April to May is arguably the best time to look for the many mountain birds, although a few wintering species and some species which pass through the mountains during the northern spring may have already left by early April at the latest.

    Recommended Bird Books etc. for Northeast India

    Birds of Northern India by R Grimmett and T Inskipp. Helm, 2003.

    Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by R Grimmett et al. Helm, 2012.

    A Field Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by K Kazmierczak. Helm, 2008.

    Pocket Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by R Grimmett et al. Helm, 1999.

    Field Guide to the Birds of Nepal by R Grimmett et al. Helm, 2016 (Second Edition).

    Birds of Bhutan and the Eastern Himalayas by R Grimmett et al. Helm, 2019 (Third Edition).

    Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide Volumes 1 and 2 by P C Rasmussen and J C Anderton. Lynx Edicions and Smithsonian Institution, 2012.

    Indian Mammals: A Field Guide by V Menon. Hachette, 2014.

    Field Guide to the Mammals of the Indian Subcontinent by K K Gurung and R Singh. Helm, 1998.

    Apps etc.

    eGuide to Birds of the Indian Subcontinent.

    Where to watch birds in Asia by N Wheatley. Helm, 1996.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Asia? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for Northeast India

    Many trip reports, some for Northeastern India, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Northeastern India. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Northeastern India' below.

    Local bird and wildlife guides in Northeast India

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation for birders in Northeast India

    Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to Northeast India

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Northeastern India include the following.