Birding Bhutan

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Bhutan is a landlocked country in the eastern Himalayas of south Asia. It is a peaceful country with little corruption, but still undeveloped. The country’s landscape ranges from lush subtropical plains in the south to the sub-alpine Himalayan mountains in the north, where there are peaks in excess of 7,000 metres (23,000 ft)Gangkhar Puensum is the highest peak in Bhutan, and it may also be the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. The wildlife of Bhutan is notable for its diversity. There are 680 species of birds, only two of which have been introduced (red Junglefowl and Rose-ringed Parakeet). This number, in a country slightly larger than the state of Maryland at 14,000 square miles, is pretty amazing. If we stretch things a bit and count everything, North America has 993 species of birds in 9.5 million square miles. If we do some silly math here, that’s one species of bird in North America for every 9566 square miles while Bhutan adds one species for every 20 square miles! That’s not how it works, of course, but it tells you the enormous diversity of birds in this small country.

According to the Convention of Biological Diversity, “Bhutan is located in the Eastern Himalayas which have been identified as a global biodiversity hotspot, and counted among the 234 globally outstanding eco-regions of the world in a comprehensive analysis of global biodiversity undertaken by the World Wildlife Fund (1995-1997). Bhutan has six major agro-ecological zones corresponding with certain altitudinal ranges and climatic conditions (e.g. alpine, cool temperate, warm temperate, dry subtropical, humid subtropical, wet subtropical). The country is endowed with vast forest cover, comprising 70.46% of the total land area, that is relatively well-preserved, as well as tremendous inland water resources, consisting of an extensive network of rivers, rivulets and streams arising from a high level of precipitation, glaciers and glacial lakes. Bhutan is also characterized by strong species diversity and density, with about 5,603 flowering plant species, under 220 families and 1,415 genera, close to 200 species of mammals (which is extraordinary for a country which is one of the smallest nations in the Asian region), 800 to 900 species of butterfly and 50 freshwater fish species (with overall fish fauna not yet properly assessed in the country). Also, according to herpetological survey training conducted in the Royal Manas National Park in 1999, 23 species of reptiles and amphibians exist in the country. In particular, the country is enormously rich in bird and crop diversity, with 678 bird species recorded, 78% of which are resident and breeding, 7% migratory and 8% winter visitors. Crop species is quite impressive, with about 80 species of crops known to occur in the country, including cereals such as rice, maize, barley, millet, wheat, and buckwheat (pseudo cereal); fruits such as apple, orange, and pear; vegetables such as potato, bean and cabbage; and spices such as chili, cardamom, garlic and ginger. ”

Im writing about Bhutan not because I went there but because some friends of mine did. The photo of the Blood Pheasant is theirs. They saw 241 bird species, 215 of which were life birds. One more trip on my bucket list.

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