Bird & Butterfly Watching

Bird & Butterfly Watching in Sikkim

Bird & Butterfly WatchingWhere Khangchendzonga the third highest peak in the world dominates the horizon, within such a small size and land area of 7096 sq. kms. bio-diversity in Sikkim can undoubtedly be one of humense interest to ecologist and environmentalists, earth scientist and nature lovers, botanist and biologists in equal measures. Sikkim epitomises the pithy saying : Small is beautiful.

There is a great variety and numerical abundance of the resident birdlife with an overall 550 species which would account as much as 80% of the aggregate bird species found in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

From the pheasants and tragopans, thrushes and Magpies, to hawk-eagles and kingfishers, the variety and richness is breathtaking.

Of the 1400 species of Butterfly fauna found inn Indian subcontinent as many as 700 species occur is Sikkim. Of the diversified butterfly fauna, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, Thus said : "By far the most striking feature consisted in the amazing quantity of superb butterflies, large tropical sallow-tails, black with scarlet or yellow eyes on their wings. They are seen every where majestically through the still hot air, or fluttering from one scorching rocks to another and specially loving to settle on the damp sand of the river edge, where they sat by thousands with erect wings, balancing themselves with a rocking motion as there heavy sails inclined them to one side or the other, resembling a crowded fleet of yachts on a calm day. "Such an entomological display cannot be surpassed."

The forests are very diverse, and non-forested areas such as cliffs, high alpine meadows, cascading streams and places all provides places for birds to feed, rest and raise their young. A wide variety of residential and non-residential birds can be seen along the trail at different elevations and in different seasons. 

About 180 big and small lakes spreads over Sikkim's folds and faults are the habitat of an umpteen number of resident and migratory waterfowl and for Brahminly ducks principally, they are the permanent breeding habitats. Recent study has reveled results of about 47 species of waterfowl ranging from Black-necked Grebe and large lovomovant to Egret and Brown-headed Gull. Also found to occur are the Herons, Lapwing, Crake, Moorhen and Snipes.

Spanning the boundaries of two major zoogeographical regions, the Oriental and the Palaearctic, Sikkim’s avifaunal diversity is representative of both regions, a major factor accounting for the great variety.

The climatic range is extreme, varying from tropical heat in the valleys to the alpine cold of the snowy regions. The prolific vegetation, which ranges from tropical, sub-tropical, temperate to alpine (depending on altitude), is enriched by the abundance in rainfall. This portion of the eastern Himalayas receives an annual average rainfall of 325 mm (12.8 in.), which peaks at 660 mm (26 in.) in the month of July making it extremely humid.

There is also extreme deviation in altitudes within very short distances resulting in distinct climatic zones inside a compressed space barely a hundred kilometers north to south, and sixty kilometers east to west – a factor favouring rapid seasonal migration of the species round the year including their abundance and variety.

Of the 1,300 avifaunal species found in the Indian subcontinent, 527 were recorded for the region by noted ornithologists Salim Ali and S Dillon Ripley.

Sites for Bird Watching :

One of the best ways to birding in Sikkim and the Darjeeling District is to get oneself off the beaten tracks (of vehicular roads and urban settlements).

Trekking is another good option, and this may not necessarily be an arduous high altitude excursion such as the Dzongri trek but easier and gentler hikes in the middle hills such as the trail between Varsey-Dentam, Pelling-Yuksam, and several such similar ones ranging from one to three days.

Alternatively, driving over to secluded forested areas such as Pemayangtse, Khechiperi, Yuksam, Damthang, Lingzhya, Hee-Gyathang and many such places can yield equally interesting finds.

Avid birders are assured ample opportunities to add more feathers to their checklist on sampling the hills and valleys inside Sikkim.

Sikkim Bird and Butterfly Watching

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Birdwatching Areas in North Bengal & Sikkim

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