Nagaland’s Amazing Amurs and Mishmi Hills

Amur Falcon Roost

This special tour experiences one of the birding wonders of the entire world. For just a few weeks at the end of October and early November in Nagaland, in India’s Northeast, phenomenal numbers of the beautiful Amur Falcon gather together to feed and roost during their remarkable migration from eastern Russia and China to southern Africa.

Just as remarkable is the turnaround from a horrific story of large-scale hunting to a local community conservation success: read more about the Amur massacre from Conservation India. In this tour we will stay in local homestays near Doyang Reservoir and understand more about the Naga communities in this area, whilst enjoying what very probably will be the most amazing birding experience you have ever had. To stand at dusk with hundreds of thousands of Amur Falcons swirling around above our heads, and in total silence except for their calls, is truly awe-inspiring.

Before we enjoy our Amur spectacle, we visit the world-famous Kaziranga National Park, the number one site for the endangered Indian Rhinoceros. This is also one of the best places to see Wild Water Buffalo and Asian Elephant, and there is a chance of seeing a Tiger, as well as several localised and endangered birds such as Swamp Francolin, Greater Adjutant, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Great Hornbill, Indian Grassbird, and Finn’s Weaver.

Later we ascend the Mishmi Hills, after a taster of the lowland wet forests of Assam in the Jeypore forest area of Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary. (Read our detailed article about birds and birding in Dehing Patkai.) Finding the rare Brown Hornbill would make this very worthwhile, but we could also be lucky with White-winged Duck, Grey Peacock Pheasant, Ruddy Kingfisher and Silver-breasted Broadbill.

The Mishmi Hills of northeastern Arunachal Pradesh has become popular in recent years as travel restrictions in the state have eased. The area covers a large altitudinal range over a relatively short ground distance which means bird diversity is excellent. With many species being altitudinal migrants according to weather conditions it is also quite difficult to predict! The highlight species is the highly localised Mishmi, or Rusty-throated, Wren-babbler which, after being described from one specimen collected in 1947, was not seen again until 2004. As with most Wren-babblers it can be skulking and difficult to see, but with perseverance we should get good views. Other superb birds in this area include Blyth’s Tragopan, Sclater’s Monal, Himalayan Owl, Chevron-breasted Babbler (Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler), Rusty-bellied and Gould’s Shortwing, Dusky Thrush, Purple and Green Cochoa.

We will spend time at different elevations of the Mishmi Hills in order to see a variety of birds, including a stay at the bizarre Mayodia Coffee House where we can guarantee that you certainly won’t get good coffee, and even a cup of instant would be remarkable!

Target Species

  • Swamp Francolin 
  • Blyth’s Tragopan
  • Sclater’s Monal 
  • Grey Peacock-Pheasant
  • White-winged Duck
  • Falcated Duck
  • Baer’s Pochard
  • Bengal Florican
  • Lesser Coucal
  • Green-billed Malkoha
  • Plaintive Cuckoo
  • Speckled Wood Pigeon
  • Pale-capped Pigeon
  • Black-necked Stork
  • Lesser Adjutant
  • Greater Adjutant
  • Spot-billed Pelican
  • Jerdon’s Baza
  • White-rumped Vulture
  • Slender-billed Vulture
  • Rufous-bellied Eagle
  • Pied Harrier
  • Pallas’s Fish Eagle
  • Grey-headed Fish Eagle
  • Oriental Bay Owl
  • Himalayan Owl
  • Red-headed Trogon
  • Ward’s Trogon
  • Great Hornbill
  • Oriental Pied Hornbill
  • Austen’s Brown Hornbill
  • Indochinese Roller
  • Ruddy Kingfisher
  • Blue-eared Kingfisher
  • Golden-throated Barbet
  • Crimson-breasted Woodpecker
  • Darjeeling Woodpecker
  • Bay Woodpecker
  • Pied Falconet
  • Amur Falcon
  • Blossom-headed Parakeet
  • Silver-breasted Broadbill
  • Blue-naped Pitta
  • Grey-chinned Minivet
  • Black-headed Shrike-babbler
  • Green Shrike-babbler
  • Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo
  • Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
  • Yellow-billed Blue Magpie
  • Yellow-browed Tit
  • Sultan Tit
  • Bengal Bush Lark 
  • Striated Bulbul
  • Nepal House Martin
  • Striated Swallow
  • Pygmy Cupwing
  • Mountain Tailorbird
  • Broad-billed Warbler
  • Grey-bellied Tesia
  • Chestnut-crowned Bush Warbler
  • Grey-sided Bush Warbler
  • Dusky Warbler
  • Grey-cheeked Warbler
  • Blyth’s Leaf Warbler
  • Striated Grassbird
  • Large Scimitar Babbler
  • White-browed Scimitar Babbler
  • Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler
  • Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler
  • Mishmi Wren-Babbler 
  • Bar-winged Wren-Babbler
  • Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler 
  • Golden Babbler
  • Swamp Grass Babbler 
  • Yellow-throated Fulvetta
  • Rufous-winged Fulvetta
  • Streaked Wren-Babbler
  • White-hooded Babbler
  • Indian Grassbird 
  • Marsh Babbler 
  • Himalayan Cutia
  • Black-faced Laughingthrush
  • Rusty-fronted Barwing
  • Streak-throated Barwing
  • Silver-eared Mesia
  • Beautiful Sibia
  • Striated Babbler 
  • White-crested Laughingthrush
  • Spotted Laughingthrush
  • Rufous-necked Laughingthrush
  • Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush
  • Golden-breasted Fulvetta
  • Brown-throated Fulvetta 
  • Manipur Fulvetta
  • Jerdon’s Babbler 
  • Black-throated Parrotbill
  • Grey-headed Parrotbill
  • Black-breasted Parrotbill 
  • Striated Yuhina
  • White-naped Yuhina
  • Rufous-vented Yuhina
  • Beautiful Nuthatch
  • Spot-winged Starling 
  • Great Myna
  • Dusky Thrush
  • Purple Cochoa
  • Green Cochoa
  • White-gorgeted Flycatcher
  • Pale Blue Flycatcher
  • Gould’s Shortwing
  • Rusty-bellied Shortwing 
  • Himalayan Shortwing
  • Chinese Rubythroat
  • Siberian Rubythroat
  • White-tailed Robin
  • Black-backed Forktail
  • Blue-fronted Robin
  • Jerdon’s Bush Chat
  • Blue-winged Leafbird
  • Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
  • Ruby-cheeked Sunbird
  • Fire-tailed Sunbird
  • Streaked Spiderhunter
  • Black-breasted Weaver 
  • Finn’s Weaver 
  • Maroon-backed Accentor
  • Grey-headed Bullfinch
  • Golden-naped Finch
  • Dark-breasted Rosefinch
  • Dark-rumped Rosefinch
  • Crimson-browed Finch
  •   Endemic
  •   Near Endemic

Itinerary

Day 0: Arrive in Delhi

After your international flight, the night will be spent in a comfortable airport hotel ready for the morning flight to Assam tomorrow.

Day 1: Delhi to Guwahati and Kaziranga National Park

After a flight from Delhi to Guwahati, we drive to Kaziranga National Park, where we will spend the next two days. If time permits, we may start our birding in the delightful surroundings of the Guwahati Garbage Dump: the best site in the world for the endangered Greater Adjutant!

Days 2 – 3: Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park extends over 480 sq km with the great Brahmaputra River as its northern boundary and the Karbi Hills fringing the southern. The name Kaziranga means means ‘where the mountain goat drinks water’ in the language of the Karbi tribe. It used to be an inaccessible swampy land covered with tall elephant grass and jheels (water bodies). Now a National Park, it is famous for its 1,000-strong population of Indian Rhinoceros, Wild Water Buffalo and Asian Elephant.

Kaziranga is divided into three ranges. The central range is usually the best to see Indian Rhinoceros, Wild Water Buffalo and Asian Elephant in the water. The eastern range offers some of the most exciting and varied wildlife watching, with a possibility of seeing Otters and, with luck, a Tiger. A great variety of waterfowl should be present at Sohola Bheel, where we also hope to see Greater Adjutant Stork, Pallas’s and Grey-headed Fishing Eagles and Spot-billed Pelican. Overall an impressive list of species could also include Falcated Duck, Ferruginous Duck, Swamp Francolin, Bengal Florican, Lesser Coucal, Plaintive Cuckoo, Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Great and Oriental Pied Hornbills, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Blossom-headed Parakeet, Blue-naped Pitta, Chestnut-capped Babbler, Great Myna, Pale-chinned Blue Flycatcher, Crimson Sunbird and Finn’s Weaver.

Day 4: Kaziranga to Pangti

We have time for a final morning’s birding outside the National Park, possibly targeting Blue-naped Pitta, before our drive to Nagaland, and the village of Pangti, arriving in time to see streams of falcons coming to roost.

Days 5 – 6: Pangti and Doyang Reservoir

We will spend two full days in this area, which allows us flexibility in case the main Amur Falcon roost sites have moved, which can happen from year to year. Almost all our time will be devoted to one of the world’s most amazing bird spectacles, the Amur Falcons that use the Doyang Reservoir as a staging post on their migration from eastern Russia and China to southern Africa. Expect to see at least tens, and probably hundreds, of thousands of these beautiful small falcons, and test your counting skills–some estimates suggest a million or more are present each autumn! This is truly an awe-inspiring and unforgettable sight–and sound.

The scale of this migration has only been known in the last ten or so years, when it was also discovered that birds were being hunted in alarming numbers: it was estimated that as many as 140,000 birds were slaughtered every autumn. Thankfully a remarkable and rapid conservation success story means that hunting has been stopped completely, and the locals now provide protection for ‘their’ falcons. We will be able to enjoy the privilege of their hospitality and find out more about this fantastic effort, and the culture of these tribal communities.

Amur Falcons are by far the key species here, but we also have a chance to see the difficult, restricted range, Yellow-throated Laughingthrush, with Green-billed Malkoha, Black-throated Prinia, Buff-chested Babbler, White-tailed Robin, Crested Finchbill and Flavescent Bulbul all possible.

Day 7: Pangti to Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary

We leave early this morning to head north and into Assam, where we have some time for afternoon birding in the Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary. Most of the semi-evergreen forest in this area has long been converted to tea plantations, but this small sanctuary provides a remnant patch with excellent low elevation birding. We have a chance of seeing Green-billed Malkoha, Red-headed Trogon, Great and Oriental Pied Hornbills, Large Niltava, Beautiful and Long-tailed Sibias, Sultan Tit, Collared Treepie, Mountain Tailorbird, both Greater and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes, Pale-chinned Flycatcher, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and Ruby-cheeked Sunbird.

As you’d expect from its name, the sanctuary is also an excellent place to see India’s only species of ape, the Western Hoolock Gibbon (there are unsubstantiated records of the Eastern Hoolock Gibbon from eastern Assam and Arunachal Pradesh). There are also six other species of primates that occur here: Capped Langur, Pig-tailed, Stump-tailed, Assamese and Rhesus Macaques, and Bengal Slow Loris.

We will spend the night in a nearby heritage tea estate bungalow, convenient for a further short birding session for our final morning.

Day 8: Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary to Tinsukia

After a brief morning’s birding at Hoollongapar, we head northeast to Tinsukia. We will have time in the afternoon to bird the grassland periphery of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and the wetland of Maguri Beel in particular. Some difficult to see resident babblers—Marsh and Jerdon’s—and wintering bush warblers—Baikal and Spotted—are our key targets. Swamp Grass-Babbler is possible here, although our visit to Dibru-Saikhowa later in the tour has a better chance, and Bristled Grassbird has been seen in recent springs.

Day 9: Tinsukia to Roing

Assam’s lowland wet forests provide excellent birdwatching and we will enjoy a brief taste of this on our journey to the Mishmi Hills. There are various options here which we will decide on at the time. We may spend our morning in the Jeypore or Soraipong areas of Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary where some key targets include White-winged Duck, Austen’s Brown Hornbill and Pale-capped Pigeon. Alternatively, and subject to permissions, we can bird inside the Digboi Oilfields complex where the excellent lowland forest hosts the localised Chestnut-backed Laughingthrush, as well as Collared Treepie, another bird difficult to find elsewhere. Other possibilities include White-cheeked Partridge, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, and Blue-throated and Pale-chinned Blue Flycatchers.

After our morning here we drive north-east, across the Brahmaputra on the new Dhola–Sadiya Bridge, the longest bridge in India, to the town of Roing at the base of the Mishmi Hills.

Day 10: Mishmi Hills: Roing to 12th Mile

The Brahmaputra branches near where we crossed yesterday, and the northern tributary, the Dibang river, provides access to extensive swampy grasslands. We will spend some time birding these areas, probably near Jia or Nijamgarh, in particular looking for Bengal Florican. Always difficult to find due to their secretive habits, our best chance is often for a bird flying over the grassland or, with luck, from a small watchtower constructed by enterprising locals. Lesser Coucal, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Spotted Bush Warbler, Jerdon’s, Chestnut-capped, Marsh and Striated Babblers, and Black-breasted Parrotbill, are all key birds to look for here.

The rest of the day will be spent birding the lower elevations of the Mishmi Hills, such as at Sally Lake and further up the Mishmi Hills road as far as Baramile ‘12th mile’. This area, which includes the Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary, may produce species such as White-browed Piculet, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Red-headed Trogon, Long-tailed Broadbill, White-throated Bulbul, Slaty-backed Forktail, Spot-throated Babbler, Beautiful and Long-tailed Sibias, Hill Blue Flycatcher, Sultan Tit, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Red-faced Liocichla and Silver-eared Mesia.

Day 11: Mishmi Hills: Roing to Tiwari Gaon to Mayodia

Today we head up in altitude, concentrating our birding on the middle elevations, particularly around the small hamlet of Tiwari Gaon. Birdlife varies considerably with altitude, and here we may see Blyth’s Shrike-Babbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Grey-bellied Tesia, Mountain Tailorbird, Chevron-breasted Babbler, Long-billed Wren-Babbler, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Beautiful Nuthatch, both Purple and Green Cochoas, White-gorgeted Flycatcher, Large Niltava and White-tailed Robin.

We will continue up to our overnight halt for the next three nights, the bizarre Mayodia Coffee House!

Days 12 – 13: Mishmi Hills: Mayodia Pass

The Mayodia Pass at 2,666 m is the highest point on the road in this part of eastern Arunachal Pradesh. Sclater’s Monal is a very rarely encountered species in India, with the few records usually coming from near the Mayodia Pass. Other good species here include Blyth’s Tragopan, Himalayan Owl, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Ward’s Trogon, Grey-sided and Spotted Laughingthrushes, Gould’s and Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Fire-tailed Myzornis and, of course, Rusty-throated or Mishmi Wren-Babbler. This was known from just a single specimen collected in the 1940s until it’s rediscovery in 2004. It appears to be locally common although, as with all wren-babblers, we might need some luck to get clear views.

We have two full days to explore the higher elevations of the Mishmi Hills.

Day 14: Mishmi Hills to Tinsukia

Our day to leave Mishmi Hills and our birding plan will largely depend on what we have and haven’t managed to see over the past few days. We may spend more time at Mayodia Pass (maybe for a final attempt at Sclater’s Monal!) and will undoubtedly stop for a while at middle or low elevations. We can again try one of the grassland areas near Roing, or make progress to our base at Tinsukia to spend time at Maguri Beel or nearby.

Day 15: Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

Our final full day’s birding has some flexibility in the plan, but we will probably explore the alluvial flood plains of the Brahmaputra, in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park. The landscape consists of wetland, grassland and small patches of forest, but it is likely to be the grassland we concentrate on, visiting by boat and on foot. A major target here, seldom seen elsewhere in India, is the declining Jerdon’s Bushchat. We’ll also be looking for the rare Swamp Grass-Babbler, previously treated as a subspecies of Rufous-vented Prinia, now split with both forms being recategorised much more appropriately. Baer’s Pochard is occasionally found on the wetlands here, whilst we may also find Black-breasted Parrotbill and Indian Grassbird.

Alternatively, we could head inland to the lowland forests of Dehing-Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, which we definitely did not do justice to a few days earlier!

Day 16: Depart from Dibrugarh

This morning we will make our way to Dibrugarh airport and on to Delhi.

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 quoted are per person, assuming a group of 4 or more people.
  • International flights are excluded.
  • All travellers will require a valid Indian visa. For applications from the UK, please visit VFS Global.
  • We may change the itinerary described due to various reasons such as latest birding information, availability of accommodation, state of the roads, and other unexpected factors that, this being India, do pop up from time to time!
  • The price includes most meals, except typically where there are options at different prices and it makes sense for guests to decide for themselves at the time. See Asian Adventures for details.
  • The final price and itinerary will be confirmed before booking and depending on your expected arrival and departure plans.

See Asian Adventures for full tour details, including accommodation, meal plans, what's included, other exclusions, prices for different group sizes, single room supplements, cancellation policy, and booking process.

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