Classic North India Birds & Wildlife

Ibisbill

Is there a better introduction to India, its scenery, wildlife and birds, than this classic tour from Delhi? For the first-time visitor it is perfect, and the enormous variety of birds throughout means it is always a thrill, even for the regular birder.

Starting from Delhi we will have time for some local birding at for example Sultanpur National Park before continuing on to Jaipur, and an afternoon safari at Jhalana where we have a very good chance of seeing Asian Leopard. From there it is on to Ranthambore National Park. Once the hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur and the British, it was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1955 and a National Park in 1980. Tigers here have been reputed to be fearless of human presence and are often seen during the daytime, so it is one of the best places to see wild tigers anywhere in the world.

Keoladeo National Park, better known as Bharatpur, also has a history of large-scale hunting, but became a World Heritage Site in 1985. One of the most outstanding wetland reserves in Asia, it attracts large numbers of wildfowl, herons, storks, cranes, waders, owls and raptors. Our stay here will also include a visit to the Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary where a boat trip on the river should give us superb views of Indian Skimmers and Black-bellied Terns, with both Marsh Mugger crocodiles and the fish-eating Gharial and, if we’re lucky, a Gangetic River Dolphin.

Even though we’re concentrating on the birds, a trip to this part of India would seem incomplete without a visit to one of the most iconic manmade structures in the world, the Taj Mahal, which we shall do on our route back through Delhi and on to one of the most scenic reserves in India, Corbett National Park. Yet another hunting-turned-conservation story, Corbett has a bird species list approximately the same as Britain and Ireland! Some of the more interesting species include Pallas’s and Lesser Fish Eagle, Cinereous Vulture, Tawny Fish Owl, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Ibisbill, Wallcreeper, Hodgson’s Bushchat, Bright-headed Cisticola, Rosy Minivet and Himalayan Rubythroat.

Just three hours’ drive away and the habitat, and birdlife, changes drastically as we get our first views of the mighty Himalayas. Pangot is a small hamlet in Uttarakhand near Nainital, and we will stay at Jungle Lore, India’s first and foremost birding lodge. The oak, pine and rhododendron forests here have excellent birding, including such desirable targets as Cheer and Koklass Pheasants, Bearded Vulture, Upland Pipit and Grey-crowned Prinia. Commoner birds here, and at nearby Sattal where we will spend one night, include Red-billed Blue Magpie, Himalayan and Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Himalayan Bluetail, Blue-capped Redstart, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Blue-winged Minla, Green-tailed Sunbird, and White-throated and White-crested Laughingthrushes.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Delhi

You will be met and transferred to the hotel. Depending on your arrival time, we can arrange some birding in the Delhi area.

Day 2: Delhi to Jaipur

We will leave for early morning birding at Sultanpur National Park, or another nearby site depending on bird sightings recently. Then we continue on our way to Jaipur, arriving in time for an afternoon jeep safari in Jhalana Safari Park. This small park on the edge of the city is remarkable for its relatively large numbers of Asian Leopard, and we have a good chance of seeing one on our drive.

Day 3: Jaipur to Ranthambore National Park

Leaving Jaipur after breakfast we will drive to Ranthambore, via a short exploratory en route stop for birding. We arrive in Ranthambore in time for an afternoon jeep safari drive, where, with luck, we could be seeing our second big cat species in 24 hours!

Day 4: Ranthambore National Park

Ranthambore was once the hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur and the British, before being declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1955 and a National Park in 1980. Tigers here have been reputed to be fearless of human presence and are often seen during the daytime, so it is one of the best places to see wild tigers anywhere in the world. We will certainly see Spotted Deer and Sambar, and can hope for Leopard, Sloth Bear, Jungle Cat and even Caracal.

Today we will do both morning and afternoon jeep safaris in the park, where we should also manage a good selection of birds. These could include Painted Spurfowl, Painted Sandgrouse, Red-headed Vulture, Indian Scops Owl, Orange-headed Thrush and White-capped Bunting.

Day 5: Ranthambore to Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur

After some early morning birding outside the park, we will drive to Bharatpur where we will spend the afternoon enjoying the large numbers of waterfowl and other birds, and possibly experiencing your first ever cycle-rickshaw birding! The route from Ranthambore will take us close to a colony of Indian Vultures and we will stop there for a while and should get fantastic views at close range, with the chance of ‘Shaheen’, the Indian resident race of Peregrine, also.

Day 6: Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur

Keoladeo National Park, better known as Bharatpur, like Ranthambore also has a history of large-scale hunting, but became a World Heritage Site in 1985. One of the most outstanding wetland reserves in Asia, it attracts large numbers of wildfowl, herons, storks, cranes, waders, owls and raptors, after the monsoon has refilled the shallow ‘jheels’. A full day birding in the park could well produce 150 species of birds. There is so much to see that we won’t leave for lunch, but will get a hot lunch delivered directly to us to enjoy the best of food and birding combined!

Day 7: National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary

We will head south from Bharatpur for the day to visit Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary, with its unique wildlife. A boat trip on the river should give us superb views of Indian Skimmers and Black-bellied Terns, with both Marsh Mugger crocodiles and the fish-eating Gharial and, if we’re lucky, a Gangetic River Dolphin.

Day 8: Bharatpur to Delhi via Agra and Taj Mahal

Rather than entering the park again today we will spend some time in the morning birding in the mostly agricultural areas around. Even though we’re concentrating on the birds, a trip to this part of India would seem incomplete without a visit to one of the most iconic manmade structures in the world, the Taj Mahal, which we shall do on our route back through Delhi.

Day 9: Delhi to Pangot, Nainital

It is a long drive to Pangot, but we will break the journey with one or two short birding stops, and then have plenty of time to explore this area of Himalayan foothills, where the birdlife is dramatically different from that we have enjoyed over the past week.

Days 10-11: Pangot

Pangot is a small hamlet in Uttarakhand near Nainital, and we will stay at Jungle Lore, India’s first and foremost birding lodge. The oak, pine and rhododendron forests here have excellent birding, including such desirable targets as Cheer and Koklass Pheasants, Upland Pipit and Grey-crowned Prinia, with a fine supporting cast including Bearded Vulture, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Himalayan and Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers, Siberian Rubythroat, Himalayan Bluetail, Blue-capped Redstart, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Blue-winged Minla, White-throated and White-crested Laughingthrushes etc.

Day 12: Pangot to Sattal

Nearby Sattal is bounded by lush green hills and freshwater lakes, with similar bird life and excellent photographic opportunities. Expect to see Green-tailed Sunbird, Eurasian Griffon, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Lesser Yellownape, Blue-throated and Golden-throated Barbets, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Red-billed Leothrix, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush and Golden Bush Robin for example.

Day 13: Sattal to Corbett National Park

After another morning’s birding at Sattal we head back down to one of the most scenic reserves in India, Corbett National Park. On arrival, and after a late lunch, we will bird along the Kosi River, often a haunt of Ibisbill and Wallcreeper.

Days 14-15: Corbett National Park, including Dhikala

Yet another hunting-turned-conservation story, Corbett National Park has a bird species list approximately the same as Britain and Ireland! Some of the more interesting species include Pallas’s and Lesser Fish Eagle, Cinereous Vulture, Tawny Fish Owl, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Ibisbill, Wallcreeper, Hodgson’s Bushchat, Bright-headed Cisticola, Rosy Minivet and Himalayan Rubythroat. We have two full days to explore, and will spend one night at the heart of the park at the Dhikala Forest Lodge. Birding outside the compound is by jeep only due to the serious threat of coming across tigers – it is near here that the famous British birder, David Hunt, was attacked and killed by a tiger in 1985. However, our slow drives through the forest will produce lots of birds, and we will keep a keen eye out for the sadly declining Hodgson’s Bushchat and, as dusk falls, we can even hope to be lucky with a Grass Owl quartering the grasslands.

Day 16: Corbett to Delhi (or full day Corbett if continuing with Chopta extension)

The outskirts of Corbett National Park have excellent birding, and we will spend the morning looking for birds that we didn’t manage to catch up with inside. A Collared Falconet, or Tawny Fish Owl perhaps. Unfortunately, it is then time for the long drive back to Delhi.

However, if all this has not been enough, an intrepid extension to the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary would make for a birding holiday that you will never forget, and leave you wanting more of what India has to offer! Those doing this extension can also enjoy an exploratory afternoon’s birding at a different forested area outside the park, before our journey to Kedarnath the following day.

Target Species

  • Painted Spurfowl 
  • Koklass Pheasant
  • Cheer Pheasant 
  • Bearded Vulture
  • Indian Vulture 
  • Griffon Vulture
  • Red-headed Vulture
  • Cinereous Vulture
  • Mountain Hawk-Eagle
  • Pallas's Fish Eagle
  • Lesser Fish Eagle
  • Ibisbill
  • Indian Skimmer
  • Black-bellied Tern
  • Painted Sandgrouse 
  • Eastern Grass Owl
  • Indian Scops Owl 
  • Tawny Fish Owl
  • Golden-throated Barbet
  • Blue-throated Barbet
  • Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
  • Rufous-bellied Woodpecker
  • Himalayan Woodpecker 
  • Lesser Yellownape
  • Great Slaty Woodpecker
  • Collared Falconet
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Slaty-headed Parakeet 
  • Rosy Minivet
  • Red-billed Blue Magpie
  • Golden-headed Cisticola
  • Grey-crowned Prinia 
  • Blue-winged Minla
  • Red-billed Leiothrix
  • White-crested Laughingthrush
  • Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush
  • White-throated Laughingthrush
  • Wallcreeper
  • Orange-headed Thrush
  • Rufous-bellied Niltava
  • Himalayan Rubythroat
  • Siberian Rubythroat
  • Himalayan Bluetail
  • Golden Bush Robin
  • Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher
  • Blue-capped Redstart
  • White-throated Bush Chat
  • Green-tailed Sunbird
  • Upland Pipit
  • White-capped Bunting
  •   Endemic
  •   Near Endemic

Species Checklist

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Important information

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As with all Bubo Birding tours, your booking is handled by Asian Adventures. This tour is guided by Mike Prince, plus local birding guides.

Prices are per person, assuming a total group size of between 4 and 8 people, and exclude international flights. They are approximate and will be confirmed before booking and depending on your expected arrival and departure plans. See Asian Adventures for full tour details, including accommodation, what's included, other exclusions, prices for smaller groups, single room supplements, and booking details.

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