icon/64x64/nature Nature

Best of 2019: Photo feature — Nepal’s bird paradise

The Jagdishpur Lake in Nepal is the country’s largest bird habitat, hosting rare and fascinating species from the country and migratory birds travelling from China, Central Asia, and Russia

Jagdishpur lake, full of birds, is the largest water body hosting different species in Nepal [image by: Manoj Paudel]

Bar-headed geese traveling at heights of up to 9,350 metres arrived at Jagdishpur Lake in mid-September, followed by the common teal, and after two weeks the common coot. They were joined by the green sandpiper, common greenshank and the Temminck’s stint. These migratory birds travel thousands of kilometres from Mongolia, Russia, China, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan to reach the lake during the winter months, said the ornithologist Dinesh Giri.

Ruddy shelduck in flight at Jagdishpur Lake
Ruddy shelduck in flight at Jagdishpur Lake [image by: Manoj Paudel]
They have stayed until now at this lovely habitat, earning it the title of “Bird’s Paradise”. Jagdishpur Lake hosts the highest number of migratory birds arriving in Nepal, according to senior ornithologist Hem Sagar Baral. This makes it a mandatory place to visit for bird watchers in the country. The small movements, actions and sound of birds around the lake make it an enchanting spectacle. Some of the arriving birds complete their gestation cycle here, nestling, laying eggs and then flying back to their homes with their offspring.

A group of red-crested pochard at the lake [image by: Manoj Paudel]
The air distance travelled by the migratory birds varies from about 4.5 thousand to 7.5 thousand kilometres. Some fly directly, like the duck species, which fly day and night to arrive; others arrive in a more leisurely fashion taking between a week and ten days to get to the lake, with 65 species of migratory birds arriving in the winter.

A great white Pelican perched imperiously at Jagdishpur Lake [image by: Manoj Paudel]
Jagdishpur Lake is the only water body in Nepal large enough to host more than 20,000 birds. The lake is actually a manmade reservoir, the largest in Nepal, constructed in the 1970s. It has a surface area of 2.25 square kilometres and is fed by a canal from Banganga River. The number and diversity of birds is why it was listed as a Ramsar Conversation site in 2003, one of ten in the country.

The beautiful black headed ibis [image by: Manoj Paudel]
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), among the 887 species of birds in Nepal more than 167 species of birds are found at this lake. Eleven of the world’s rare species can be easily spotted, according to the Bird’s Conservation Association.

Two mallards at Jagdishpur Lake [image by: Manoj Paudel]
Unfortunately the lake has not been studied in great detail, and there are concerns that even common species – marked as of “least concern” by IUCN seem to be dwindling. Of these, the cotton pygmy goose, garganey, black headed ibis, pheasant-tailed jacana and red-crested pochard can be seen in large numbers, but the northern shoveler, spot billed duck and falcated duck are decreasing in number, said Baral. If Nepal is to preserve this rare paradise for birds and birdwatchers alike, it needs to seriously work on a sustainability plan for the lake.

A bronze winged jacana hunts for a meal [image by: Manoj Paudel]
This piece was first published in March 2019