Birds Of Bhutan

Bhutan is considered one of the top birding spots in the world.

The whistling blue thrush can be found in Bhutan. (Source: Ihtisham Kabir)


By Ihtisham Kabir | Bhutan Times

The year is 2013 and Bangladesh Bird Club is hosting a group of Bhutanese birders. I accompany them on their tour of bird-rich Tanguar Haor in Sunamganj.

Afterwards, I ask them about the most interesting bird they saw here.

"Purple swamphen", they reply without hesitation. Our common kalem pakhi is exciting to Bhutanese eyes.

When I arrive in Paro, Bhutan – my first trip here - this encounter is on my mind. Which bird common to Bhutanese eyes would capture my heart?

This Himalayan nation is known for its pristine mountainous beauty and Gross National Happiness, but for me the main attraction is its birds. Indeed, Bhutan is considered one of the top birding spots in the world.

Two weeks are needed to delve into Bhutan's birds, but I try to make the most of my short stay.

After checking-in, I walk to the bank of the fast-flowing Paro river. A loud titi-titi-titi call sounds familiar. After some searching I find the source of the noise: a river lapwing camouflaged among the rocks.

Seeing me, it tries to hide in a small depression among the stones, takes tentative steps toward the water then flies off.

Where to go for birding sites in Bhutan

The next day, I am off to Thimphu where I will have one full day to look for birds. From the web, I find a birding guide who can accompany me. Where to go? Some famous birding sites, such as Phobjikha, are a long drive from Thimphu.

Nearby, our choices are the Cheri Monastery with a national park, the river near Babesa (a Thimphu neighbourhood), and Chelela Pass near Paro. We can cover two in a day and I ditch Chelela Pass due to distance.

The guide arrives early morning and we head out. On the outskirts of Thimphu, we spot a beautiful dark blue bird – a whistling blue thrush, very common in Bhutan.

The road winds through miles and miles of pristine forests of pine, cypress, oak and other large trees. Admiration comes with a touch of jealousy: they have conserved well. But then, they have only 700,000 mouths to feed.

My guide is an excellent spotter, and we stop repeatedly as he sees yellow-billed blue magpie, white-throated laughing thrush, European jay, and rufous sibia.

My driver and guide stop for breakfast at a village shop. I wander over to a single-lane bailey bridge over a fast-moving mountain stream. Its guard rail is lined with prayer flags, a common sight.

Below, a dark bird with a red tail flits from boulder to boulder, catching insects. A larger bird, a brown dipper, takes a bath and proceeds to vertically climb a boulder. A blue thrush joins momentarily and disappears. I am immersed in the scene until my entourage returns from breakfast.

Spotting birds at Jigme Dorji National Park

At the end of the road is Jigme Dorji National Park, named after Bhutan’s third monarch.

Climbing up the park’s trail, we see colourful forest birds including Mrs Gould’s sunbird and fire-capped tit.

In the afternoon we drive to Babesa. On a park near the river, several men are playing archery, a popular sport. Their arrows fly silently several hundred feet to the bull's eye at the other end.

On the river we search for an unusual bird called ibisbill.

After a long, tedious walk along the river, my guide spots one sitting on an island, blended in with the boulders – a satisfactory conclusion to my day.

At the end of it all I wonder about the whistling blue thrush. Just like our kalem had enthralled my Bhutanese friends, their common bird had cast its spell on me.


Ihtisham Kabir is a bird photographer. His works can be found on or on Instagram as @ihtishamkabir.

Tag Cloud

Related Posts

Heading To Haa, Bhutan For The Summer Festival? Here Are Some...

Savour the most delectable cuisine from the province of Haa in Bhutan.

Jul 13, 2018 14:54

Rare Masked Dances - One Of The Unique Features Of The Kholong...

“Other dances like the Pha-dong chham, Sangling Ngachham, and Terchham among others are not performed in any part of the...

Jul 03, 2018 14:44

Six Senses Bhutan Preparing For October 2018 Opening

Three of the five Six Senses luxury lodges are now taking reservations for travel starting on Nov 3, 2018.

Jun 21, 2018 10:01

Heat Maps Illustrate the Sacred Routes of Buddhist Pilgrims

In Strava’s heat maps, the devotional movements of tired pilgrims become blazing symbols of sacred geography.

Jun 18, 2018 09:32

Man Who Bagpipes Around The World Makes Bhutan The 82nd Country...

The wandering piper says Bhutan is the only place a “Scottish man feels right at home”, where people don’t question why...

Jun 12, 2018 12:50

Traditional Art Of Making Wooden Bowls (Dhapas) Thrives In...

There is a strong demand for Trashiyangtse's dhapas and dzas both locally and internationally.

May 30, 2018 18:13



Drukair Orders New Aircraft That's Equipped With Latest Visual Technology

The new ClearVision technology on the aircraft allows pilots to get a clear picture of the runway while landing the aircraft.

Jul 19, 2018 12:47

After 9 Years, The Amochhu Bridge In Bhutan Finally Opened On 14 July 2018

The driving distance between Phuentsholing and Samtse is now reduced to 57km from 81.2km

Jul 18, 2018 14:57


Bhutan's climb to medicines safety

Pharmacovigilance is the science and activities relating to the detection, assessment, understanding and prevention of adverse drug...

Jul 17, 2018 14:31

11th Golden Youth Award Camp Aims To Inspire Bhutanese Youth To Excel Holistically

The camp’s theme ‘Celebrating Unity for Excellence’, is a pledge by the youth to be advocators and agents of peace, harmony and...

Jul 12, 2018 16:14


Future Of Bhutan’s Women Football Depends On The Development Of Local Coaches

The football coach of the national women’s team, Sung Jea Lee said that there is a need to train local coaches.

Jul 08, 2018 18:16

Bhutan’s Two Young Representatives Shared Their Unforgettable Experiences At The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia

Bhutan was represented by two students, Rigzin Tenzin, 12, from Gelephu and Kinley Deki Yangzom, 12, from Lobesa Lower Secondary School,...

Jun 30, 2018 14:06


Cottage And Small Industry Which Saw 20% Growth Is A Pillar Of Bhutan’s Industry Sector

To date, the CSIs constitute more than 90 percent of Bhutan’s industry sector.

Jul 19, 2018 13:46

Royal Bhutan Helicopter Services Has Generated Profits And Served More Than 500 Tourists And Locals Since 2016

The RBHS was launched with the primary objective of providing services during medical emergencies and natural disasters and also for tourism...

Jul 14, 2018 14:23


Heading To Haa, Bhutan For The Summer Festival? Here Are Some Culinary Delights You Must Not Miss!

Savour the most delectable cuisine from the province of Haa in Bhutan.

Jul 13, 2018 14:54

Rare Masked Dances - One Of The Unique Features Of The Kholong Tshechu (Brawl Festival) In Bhutan

“Other dances like the Pha-dong chham, Sangling Ngachham, and Terchham among others are not performed in any part of the country,” said...

Jul 03, 2018 14:44


Suja – Bhutanese Butter Tea Infused With Happiness To Kickstart Your Day

Traditionally, Suja is made from tea leaves, water, salt and yak butter.

Jul 17, 2018 17:19

Bhutan Film Festival Held In Sikkim To Commemorate 50 Years Of Bhutan-India Friendship Ended With Colourful Traditional Dances

Bhutanese celebrities and Sikkim’s local artists performed various traditional and cultural performances at the festival.

Jul 15, 2018 14:32

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!