Bhutan Birds — April, 2017 — Part 4

I am particularly fond of the Wood Warblers and Hummingbirds of North and South America.  They are, for the most part, small, quick, colorful and challenging to identify.  In Asia, the Sunbird family fills that niche.

Two beautiful and very similar Sunbird species are Mrs. Gould’s Sunbirds and Green-tailed Sunbirds.  Can you tell which is which?

(The first one above is Mrs. Gould’s, note the crimson mantle and back.  It is perched on one of the many rhododendron trees which were in full bloom.  The last two are Green-tailed)


Another colorful little bird is a member of the numerous Old World Flycatcher family.  Here is a Pygmy Blue Flycatcher.


More common, and as beautiful in their own right, were the Verditer Flycatchers.


The Ultramarine Flycatchers never seemed to show up in good light, but in good light, they were quite pleasing to the eye.


Many members of the Flycatcher family do not have a claim to pretty colors; they are often quite drab.  That makes identification even more of a challenge.

This Sultan Tit has a just claim to its name.


Whereas the Blood Pheasants won Bird of the Trip award, what might have been a contender were the more difficult to see Silver-eared Mesias.


The next installment of the Bhutan birds seen on our recent trip will feature a mixture of the more interesting birds that cooperated with the in-house photographer, and that do not clearly fit in the “big bird” or “very small bird” categories, but represent a cross-section.  Also included will be a few of the animals we saw.

Bhutan Birds — April, 2017 —- Part 3

One of the rarest species in the world is the White-bellied Heron.  It has been a few years since any of these have been seen on the Vent tour, but this year, with help from others in the Bird Guide fraternity, we found one feeding along the river not far from our campground.  Unfortunately, it was a long way off so the picture of this White-bellied Heron is not especially good, but I include it merely because of the rarity of the bird.


Hornbills, those amazing creatures, were fairly common.  The most numerous were the Rufous-necked Hornbills.  Odd looking and fun to see.


Common around our campground were Great Hornbills, but not quite as approachable as the Rufous-necked Hornbills.


This installment seems to focus on some of the large birds, so let’s continue with that theme.

This Himalayan Griffon appeared to be ill or injured in some way, although it did fly away.


When I published my pheasant blog, I overlooked a photo of a Kalij Pheasant so here it is now.    Not as colorful as the other pheasants seen on this trip.


Yellow-billed Blue Magpies were numerous.


Pin-tailed Green Pigeons enjoyed the fruits of one of the early fruiting mountain trees.  

The next Bhutan installment will feature a few of the more colorful small birds, including some stunning Sunbirds and an even more stunning Silver-eared Mesia.

Bhutan Bird Families – April 2017

One of the reasons we chose to go to Bhutan on a birding tour was that there are a few families of birds that can be found there that I had never seen.  These were: Ibisbill, Honeyguide, Cupwings (Wren-Babblers), and Fairy Bluebirds.   The Tour Company’s checklist from prior trips to the area included the possibility of finding at least one species in each of those.  We struck out on the Fairy Bluebird, but succeeded with the other three.

The first bird we saw after arriving at the Paro Airport was an Ibisbill.  This distinctly marked wader was easily observed along the rocky riverside near the Paro Airport.


There are over 15 or more species of Honeyguide, mostly in Africa, but with one or two in Bhutan.  We succeeded in finding at least 2 of these interesting honey fans.  Here is one of the Yellow-rumped Honeyguides that gave us some good views in what is apparently a frequently used perch near some cliff-dwelling bees.


The Cupwings were a challenge.  We spent quite a few hours on several days trying to spot one of these secretive and elusive little ground dwellers.  Barbara eventually spotted one on the opposite side of the road from where the rest of the group was searching vainly for the source of the song of a Scaly-breasted Cupwing.


A second species of the Cupwing family that has been seen on some prior Bhutan tours is the Pygmy Cupwing, but we neither heard nor saw one of those on this trip.

Woodshrikes and Flycatcher-shrikes of certain species, based on genetic analysis, have been moved into the Vanga family.  Vangas have, until recently, been thought to exist only in the Madagascar area.  We did see both a Large Woodshrike and a Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike.

It is hard to keep up with all the changes going on in the scientific classification of birds.  As genetic studies proliferate, I suspect there will be many more changes.  The most current list of bird families and species is the Clements Checklist Version 2016 published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  It can be found on-line in a downloadable spreadsheet version.

My next installment will feature some of the more spectacular birds we saw, including Hornbills, as well as a distant view of one of the rarest birds on earth, the White-bellied Heron.



Pheasants in Bhutan

On April 6, 2017 Barbara and I left Des Moines as we boarded the first leg of our flight to Delhi, India.  A day or two of rest in Delhi then preceded our flight on April 9 to Paro, Bhutan, with the other 3 participants in the 2017 Victor Emanual Birding Tour of Bhutan.

From the plane we could see the beautiful Himalayan Mountains before landing at the ornate Paro airport.














My prior blogs detailing our birding out of the U.S. usually approached the subject in chronological order.  This time I am going to do it differently.  I have chosen as the first installment to cover the most striking family of birds that we saw in Bhutan, the Pheasants, or Phasianidae. All 40 or so species of this family are native to Asia.  The Chinese Ringneck Pheasant has been introduced as a game bird in North America and around the world, and has adapted well.

Let’s start with what our group voted the bird of the trip, Blood Pheasants.  They were plentiful in the high altitudes, i.e. 10,000 to 14,000 feet above sea level.  As is common among the Phasianidae, the males are far more colorful than the hens.  Here are some of the many Blood Pheasant photos Barbara took. [Third down is a female].





Behind the Blood Pheasants both in number and in favor among the 5 of us, were the Tragopans and Himalayan Monals (far fewer seen, shy and difficult to photograph).  The Monals are most often found well above 10,000 feet.  While downloading photos from the camera, something happened that erased about 60 photos from that time period, including the ones of the Monals.

It is hard to believe that a bird as beautiful as the Tragopan only rated a second place among the pheasants.  Here are photos of the male and female of this not so shy bird.



At the lower altitudes we encountered a few Kalij Pheasants, which lack the brilliant coloration of their brethren shown above, but nevertheless are striking birds.

Two other pheasants shown in the Field Guide to the Birds of Bhutan were Grey Peacock Pheasants (quite plain, reportedly common, but not seen by our group) and Blyth’s Tragopan, (rare and not seen by our group).

Stay tuned for the next installment, which will feature the birds I saw which are representatives of families of birds that were new to me in Bhutan.   (There are about 240 families of birds world-wide, with over 10,000 species spread among them.  Some families have several hundred species, others with but one specie).