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When is the Best Time to Take a Bhutan Birding Tour?

For Bhutan bird watching at its peak, it is best to come to the kingdom in September to May, when the migrating birds descend on the country from the north to spend the winter in their typical feeding grounds. Every year in September and October, the migratory birds fly south from northern Tibet and Mongolia to spend the winter in Bhutan. By February and March, they start their migrations north once more to their summer feeding grounds.

Bhutan is the ultimate paradise for ornithologists and bird watchers. With around 72% of the land area covered with dense vegetation, these rich reservoirs of forestry are home to a wide diversity of avifauna.

Go bird watching on clear daysGo bird watching on clear days

Unlike any of the other countries in Asia, Bhutan has a major conservation project for the protection of its landscape, scenery, and wildlife, and is listed as one of the top ten biodiversity hotspots in the world. While there are certain seasons in Bhutan that are better for bird watching than others, it is still possible to travel all year round and see plenty of birds in the kingdom. With almost 700 species of indigenous birds in Bhutan, there is something to see all year round.

When is the best time for bird watching in Bhutan?

One of the most confusing things for bird watchers wanting to spend time in Bhutan for the birds is when the best time to come is. Bhutan has a very varied climate and topography, and this affects which birds you can see where and at what time of the year. This variation in weather in the same season can affect where you can see certain types of birds in Bhutan, and the geographical differences across the country have an impact on which birds can be seen where.

Usually, most of the birds that are native to Bhutan can be seen all year round in their normal habitats. However, even some of the indigenous species can only be seen at certain times of the year in certain spots, such as the white-bellied herons, which are more prevalent around the riverbanks and the shores of the larger lakes from March to June and September to November.

Black-necked craneBlack-necked crane can only be seen in winter by the riversides and lake shores

The rest of the time, they tend to spend their time in areas that are less accessible. And for some of the endangered species that can be found in Bhutan, like the black-necked crane, it can only be found in the winter months from December to February in Punakha, where they have their winter feeding grounds.

>> Further reading about Bhutan weather and climate in different months

Is it possible to take a birding tour in Bhutan’s monsoon season?

The monsoon season in Bhutan normally runs from late June to middle September and is heavier in the lowland southern areas of the kingdom than in the northern mountainous areas. The main part of the monsoon season usually comes in July and August, when the rains are at their heaviest, tailing off once September comes. Many of the places that are the best for bird watching are in the lower areas below the high mountains, which means that the monsoon season makes it too wet to go bird watching in much of the country.

However, even in the monsoon season, you can get in some good bird watching in Bhutan, as long as you know where to go. While many of the birds that are available in summer are in the wetlands and marshes or the sub-tropical forests, there are also plenty of birds that reside permanently in the higher areas of the country.

As you head north, the sub-tropical forests give way to cooler deciduous and broad-leaved forests, which are abundant with wildlife and can be good places to see some of the higher-altitude birds. Further north, there are some areas in the highlands and foothills where you can see birds in the monsoon season, but these are few and far between.

 Lovely Bhutan birdLovely Bhutan bird stands still on tree branches hang with dewdrops after the rain in monsoon season.

Ideally, the monsoon season is not good for bird watching, due to the wet weather and rains that dominate the weather systems across the entire country. Even the highlands can see a lot of rain in the heavier months of July and August.

If you are not able to come in the spring and autumn seasons for bird watching, then you can get a tour of the higher areas with no problems, but you should be prepared for some wet weather and pack accordingly.

Where are the Major Places and Areas for Bird Watching in Bhutan?

The land area of Bhutan is mostly covered with forests or terraced fields, which make a great environment for the resident species of birds in the kingdom. However, different species of birds have a preference for where they reside, and the environment, climate, and ecosystems are major factors in where the different birds can be seen. The Bhutan Ornithological Society has classified the main areas where around 95 percent of Bhutan's birds can be found, with different species flocking to the different areas.

Phobjikha ValleyA splendid sunny day to go bird watching in Phobjikha Valley

The main area for seeing the most variety of birds in Bhutan is around the wetlands and marshes of the Phobjikha Valley and other wetter parts of central and western Bhutan. These wetland areas and rivers or lakes are popular nestings and feeding spots for cranes, herons, storks, kingfishers, ducks, and the two indigenous species of fish-eagles.

The forested areas are also popular locations for bird watching, with many species of woodland birds residing there. While they are a little harder to spot in the dense forests of Bhutan, you can often see finches, thrushes, the Eurasian Jay, a local variety of flycatcher, and several species of exotic wood pigeons. If you are lucky, you may even see a Chestnut-breasted Partridge or a Wood snipe in the undergrowth in the dense forests.

There are certain sites across the country that are popular for bird watching tours, such as the Wangdue Phodrang Valley, the forests of the Black Mountains, the Bumthang Valley, the lush forest areas around Sengor, and the most sought-after area for birding in Bhutan at Namling.

Is there any birding tour we can take in Bhutan?

As one of the best tour operators for Birding in Bhutan, we have a range of tours that can give you the best opportunities to see the amazing and wide ranges of birds in Bhutan. Our bird watching tours in Bhutan provide you with a professional local bird watching expert guide, who will take you to see the gorgeous birds that can be seen across Bhutan. We have a wide range of tours that extend from 15 days to 19 days, where you can get the best of the major bird watching sites in the kingdom.

Our 15 Days Bhutan Classic Bird Watching Tour takes you from the west to the east of Bhutan. In the spring and summer seasons, birding in Bhutan is best done at altitudes below around 3,100 meters, and across the center of the country, you can travel from Paro in the west to Trashingang in the east, stopping at any place you like that looks like it may have birds in residence.

Bhutan is one Asian country where you do not have to find a nature reserve or park for birding, and any patch of farmland or riverbank can have some exciting birds around. The rich forests of the central areas of Bhutan are excellent areas for bird watching, and this amazing tour takes you across the entire central region of the kingdom, stopping where you choose to get out and catch some of the hundreds of local species of birds.

Our awesome 19 Days Bhutan East Birding Tour is one of the most popular tours of its kind in Bhutan and takes you across the country to the eastern regions, where you can get in touch with Bhutan's unique landscapes and amazing bird watching spots. The tour starts in the west of the kingdom and heads east along the main road that connects east to west, to take you to the major bird watching sites of Bhutan. The tour, while focusing on the eastern region, does stop at Paro, Punakha, and Gasa for the local birds, before heading out through Phobjikha and Trongsa to the eastern Dzongkhags for the rare birds and their unique habitats.

The tour also takes you to some of the higher altitude sites for some of the indigenous species that reside in high altitudes below the high mountains. And there is also an opportunity to stop and camp near some of the best birding sites for a few days to get some of the best longtime observations in for the rare birds that can be found in Bhutan, such as at Tingtibi in Zhemgang District and the Bumthang Valley areas.

Flowing the trace of the rarely seen birds to TingtibiFlowing the trace of the rarely seen birds to Tingtibi and explore the birding paradise in Bhutan

As a major tour operator for Bhutan, we can offer our clients a wide range of tours and have experience in providing the best bird watching tours possible. Our customers choose our tours for the competitive prices, often not getting higher than the Daily Minimum Package price for Bhutan; and our excellent professional bird watching guides, all of whom are professional and respected experts in the local varieties of avifauna in Bhutan.

We can also offer you the personal service and a personalized adviser contact for the duration of your tour, from your first inquiry to the time you get home and beyond. We can make all the arrangements for you, from your tour and visa to hotels, meals, camping equipment, etc.

Conclusion

You can take a Bhutan bird watching tour during the entire year, for not all Bhutan birds are flying back to their nests or feeding grounds. However, if your time is available, it is recommended to come to Bhutan for birding from September to next May, for during this period, you are much more possible to spot different kinds of endangered species and meet more beautiful ones.

Bird watching in Bhutan is a unique experience that few get to achieve. This stunning kingdom on the southern edge of the Himalayas not only has a huge number of avian species that are indigenous to the country alone but also has a good number of rare birds that you cannot see anywhere else in the world. And with an environment and ecosystem that is constantly being preserved and protected in every part of the country, there is no need to travel to specific nature parks to see the natural avian inhabitants of Bhutan, since they can be found all over the country, in places you would not expect to see them.

Master Kungga Dundruk

About the Author - Master Kungga Dundruk

The Lhasa-born prodigy used to study business overseas, and got his Bachelor of Business in Nepal and India before moving back to his homeland.With pure passion for life and unlimited love for Tibet, Kunga started his guide career as early as 1997.

Responsible, considerate and humorous, he devoted his entire life guiding and serving international tourists travelling in Tibet.As a legendary Tibetan travel guru with 20-year pro guide experience , he once had an exclusive interview with the US media. Currently he is working in Tibet Vista as the Tour Operating Director. Whenever our clients run into troubles, he is your first call and will offer prompt support.

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