The hill state of Uttarakhand is home to some of the most diverse flora and fauna in India. Birdwatchers in particular flock here to capture some of the most beautiful birds that call the state home, or visit during the seasons. We spent some time in its grasslands, foothills and valleys tracking down these birds, and boy what a wonderful experience it was. Sharing a few images from the trip…
A Siberian Stonechat ( Saxicola maurus) rests on a blade of grass in the Bijrani grasslands of Corbett National Park. These tiny birds belong to the flycatcher family and are winter visitors to India.
Another grassland resident is the Black Winged Kite ( Elanus caeruleus), commonly known as the Black Shouldered Kite. These elegant hunters have a unique style, they scout prey from a high perch and uncommonly for a raptor, hover over a spot before diving to catch their favourite prey or rodents or small reptiles.
The Changeable Hawk-Eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus) is another common raptor in these parts. It gets its name from the various color morphs of its plumage. This one here is an immature in the dark morph. The sub-species found in north India, has a smaller crest – distinguishing it from the Crested Hawk Eagles found further south.
Seen here, is an adult Changeable Hawk Eagle scanning its territory from a high perch. This individual has a much paler plumage and represents perhaps the most common morph.
On the other end of raptor spectrum is this tiny Collared Falconet ( Microhierax caerulescens). Barely 18-20 cm long, these birds of prey nevertheless have a fearsome reputation. For they are able to take down prey much larger than themselves.
The plum tree! The fruit is in fact a flock of Plum Headed Parakeets (Psittacula cyanocephala). The species derives its name from the males, as the females in fact have grey heads.
A courting pair of Streak Throated Woodpeckers (Picus xanthopygaeus). These medium sized woodpeckers are mostly found in India and SE Asia. The sexes are distinguished by the red crown of the male as compared to the black of the female.
In comparison, the Black Naped Woodpecker ( Picus canus guerini) is much larger. A subspecies of the Grey Headed Woodpecker, this one is found mostly in the Himalayas and NE Pakistan.
A female Brown-Fronted Woodpecker (Dendrocoptes auriceps) on what is evidently, her favourite tree if one was the count the number of holes drilled in the trunk. The male of the species has red feathers at the back of the head.
Rounding off the woodpeckers was the beautiful Rufous Bellied Woodpecker (Dendrocopos hyperythrus). This species is also called the Sapsucker due to its habit of making a series of small pits on the bark of trees to reach the sap.
The Grey or the Himalayan Treepie (Dendrocitta formosae) is a commonly found bird along the length of the mountain range. Members of the crow family, they are omnivores and found close to human settlements.
A close relative of the treepie is the Black Headed Jay (Garrulus lanceolatus). It is often found in the same habitats as its cousin, and occasionally mixed flocks of the two species can be observed feeding together.
The Blue Throated Barbet ( Psilopogon asiaticus) is one of the most colourful birds found in these parts. Feeding mostly on fruits and trees, they tend to form small flocks, unlike the solitary barbets of the plains.
The Grey-Headed Canary-Flycatcher (Culicicapa ceylonensis) was once placed in the family of Old World flycatchers. But recent studies have found them to belong to a new family designated as the Stenostiridae or fairy flycatchers.
Plumbeous Water Redstarts (Rhyacornis fuliginosa) though are true Old World flycatchers and they live up to their name by feeding on insects and larvae along fast moving streams and pools. The male (left) is identified by the reddish ventral feathers, while the female has a scaly belly.
Found in the same feeding grounds is the White Capped Water Redstart ( Phoenicurus leucocephalus), and it is easy to see why it got its name. The two sexes are alike, apart from the fact that the male has a bigger white patch on the head.
Away from the water, we came across these beautiful Green Tailed Sunbirds (Aethopyga nipalensis). Distant relatives of the hummingbirds, this species too tends to feed mostly on nectar. The male has an irridescent blue head, while the female has much duller plumage.
Closing off with one of my most favorite birds – the Wall Creeper ( Tichodroma muraria). It is the only species of its genus and its widely distributed across Europe and Asia. While mostly hidden when folded, its crimson wings are a sight to behold when spread.
Acknowledgments – Many thanks to the wonderful staff and naturalists Sanjay and Vimal at
The Wild Heritage. And also to Rashi and Joydeep at The Back of Beyond for being such lovely hosts. Thanks for sharing your world and knowledge with us.
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