Primary Himalayan forests unlimited! From foothill to 3200 meter. Combine it with the inner valleys and a snow-covered pass at 4200 meter and the low terai where the highlands meet the plains. Best birding road of the world?
As professional photographers our needs are many and specific, but your office staff, guides and drivers worked in concert to meet our constant demands.We appreciate your expertise and friendly customer service for making our trips to India so successful. Jami Tarris & Theo Allofs, Canada - 2007
Of the 8650 species of birds in the world, India is home to as many as 1200 (roughly 14%), out of which 141 are endemic to this region. What's even more astonishing is that of the 27 Orders and 155 Families that bird life has been classified into, India has 20 Orders and 77 Families. The reason for this richness of species is the region's highly varied climate, the diversity of vegetation as well as its wide altitudinal range, which extends from sea level to the Himalayas. Another unique factor is the subcontinent's geographical position that overlaps between three bio geographical provinces - the Indo-Malayan (South & Southeast Asia), Palearctic (Europe & Northern Asia) and Afro Tropical (Africa). Rediscovery of species thought to have been extinct - like the White winged wood duck, Jerdon's double-banded Courser and Spotted Jungle Owlet - only go to show that there are quite a few missing chapters in Indian ornithology waiting to be explored.
India's fascination with birds can perhaps be traced to Hindu mythology where birds are revered as vahanas or sacred mounts for the gods. The owl, peacock, eagle, swan and parakeet have found a prominent place in the Hindu pantheon. The Ramayana begins with King Dasrath of Ayodhya shooting down a Sarus crane. Its mate curses him of eternal separation from his loved ones and thus unfolds the 2000-year-old epic. More than anything else, it portrays a deep understanding of birds in ancient India, for today we know that most crane species pair for life. Till date Sarus is considered a sacred bird and freely roams the Indian countryside. Hindus revere the Ruddy Shelduck while the Monpa tribes of Arunachal and Buddhists in monasteries around Ladakh protect the Black-necked Crane. At Khichan in Rajasthan, a village co-operative collectively funds the feeding of thousands of Demoiselle Cranes each winter.
Intricate miniature paintings of the Mughal period were perhaps the first scientific detailing of birds and the prototype of modern-day plates. From Babur to Jehangir, the Mughal emperors were keen hunters and naturalists who drew artistic inspiration from a variety of Indian fauna. Akbar's court artist drew exotic animals as described in Babur's memoirs and during Jehangir's reign artists often traveled with the emperor to paint birds from actual observation. When the Mughal governor of Surat Muqarrab Khan found a rare turkey cock in Goa, Jehangir instructed his favourite artist Mansoor to draw a portrait of the bird, now preserved in the Victoria and Albert museum. Modern day ornithology took root when Salim Ali undertook systematic bird surveys of the princely states - Hyderabad, Cochin, Travancore, Gwalior, Indore and Bhopal - under the sponsorship of the respective rulers and was aided by noted English ornithologist Hugh Whistler in his surveys.
In a largely agrarian country like India, birds play a very important role in the cross-pollination of flowers, dispersal of seeds and keeping insect pests under control. Birds of prey also keep the rodent population at bay, with a single owl reputed to kill as many rats as 30 cats. Birds, especially the fish-eating aquatic species, also contribute to the ecosystem through guano, their rich droppings that are considered the best nitrogenous fertilizer in the world. Little wonder that aquatic birds at the Vedanthangal Sanctuary near Madras are protected more by the area's agriculturists than the conservationists. Today, thanks to the effort of ornithologists like Dr. Salim Ali, there are at least 35 protected areas in the country devoted primarily to bird conservation.
Prime birding areas like Corbett & Nainital, Rajasthan, Rann of Kutch, North East and South India (chiefly the Western Ghats) constitute a fair geographical representation of Indian avifauna. Corbett alone has about 650 species while Bharatpur, a mere 29 sq. km sanctuary deemed a World Heritage Site, is the finest Heronry in the world. Together, with oases like Ranganathittu, Sunderbans, Chilka, Andamans and less explored destinations like Goa, India is simply a birdwatcher's paradise.