a birding paradise
by Brenda Davidson-Shaddox
For variety, Myanmar is one of the best birding destinations
in the world.
Stretching from the Chinese border in the north to the Andaman Sea in the south, Thailand and Laos to the east, and India, Bangladesh and the Indian Ocean to the west, habitats run the gamut of mountains, forests, plains, dry zones, streams, lakes, jungles, coastal lands, and river deltas.
While impossible to comment on all of the outstanding birding locations in Myanmar individually, the following are some areas that offer a sampling of habitats where different species of birds may be viewed.
Inle Lake has been developed and promoted as a tourist destination, but it also offers excellent birding opportunities for the traveller not interested in shops and crowds. The shallow waters attract herons, egrets, ibis, storks, cormorants, moorhens, ducks, terns, geese. limpkin, plovers, sandpipers, gulls, and a host of other water birds. In the bush along the shore-line shrikes, wagtails, kingfishers, and a variety of passerines occupy the trees and shrubs.
Inya Lake at Yangon offers similar water-fowl sightings, and Moeyungyi Reservoir north of Bago is, likewise, known for its water birds,especially during migration. Falconets and spot-billed pelicans are frequently seen in this area.
The Moeyungyi Resort offers comfort to the visitor to Moeyungyi Reservoir. Several accommodations, ranging from the modest to the luxurious, are available at Inle Lake and Yangon.
A real treat for the birder is Alaungtaw Kathapa National Park. Located approximately 100 miles west of Mandalay, Alaungtaw Kathapa is not easy to reach, but it is worth the effort of getting there. To date, the official bird list kept at park headquarters at Yin Mar Bin lists over 100 different species sighted. These include, but are by no means limited to, hornbills, minervets,scarletfinches,wagtails,parakeets,woodpeckers, hawks, magpies, owls, bulbuls, fly-catchers, and babblers.
Approaching the park in the lower plains various water birds frequent paddies lining the road. Hawks, bee-eaters, sparrows, drongos, and pigeons are but a few of the possible sightings along the road leading to the mountains.
Rustic, but adequate, accommodation is available at Alaungtaw Kathapa and families of the park staff can be requested to prepare meals. To visit the park, advance reservations and permission are necessary.
While a different variety of birds from those in the jungled park area, the Delta Region has as much to offer. Indian rollers, several species of kingfishers, kites, hawks, herons, rails, terns, skimmers, and birds ranging from sparrows to eagles number in the thousands.
With an early start, a day trip to the Delta from Yangon is possible. For overnight stays, Maubin or Pathein offer guest houses and hotels for tourists.
Along the coastline even more water birds are to be found.
Lapwings, turnstones, curlews, phalaropes, sunbirds, and numerous gulls are but a few of the feathered beauties that grace the shore.
Ngapali Beach or Letkhokkon Beach are two considerations for viewing shore birds.
Letkhokkon has the advantage of accessibility since it is only a 3 hour-drive fromYangon. Letkhohokkon is, however, a Delta beach that has mud flats at low tide - excellent conditions for birding but not the best situation for enjoying beach activity.
Ngapali, on the other hand, has beautiful, white-sand beaches regardless of the tide. It has the added advantage of a water reservoir in the hills above the town where a variety of fresh-water birds can be viewed. Ngapali is, however, a 300 mile drive from Yangon or you can fly with Air Mandalay direct which takes 45 minutes - a much better option.
First-rate hotels are available at both locations.
In the dry zone, around Pyay and Bagan, cuckoos, thrushes, quail, hoopoes, chats, robins, crows, mynahs, and all manner of brush-loving birds, many of which overlap into the hill and lake areas, are readily visible.
Both cities have a variety of interesting payas, ruins, and other attractions to visit between birding forays. Travellers have a wide range of good hotels and restaurants to choose from in Bagan and one or two in Pyay.
In the hill country, around Pyin Oo Lwin, doves, parakeets, parrots, redstarts, wrens, tits, creepers, and other birds preferring the hilly forests are plentiful. There is good accommodation available including the 100-year old Candacraig Hotel which was once a chummery.
Four species endemic to Myanmar are the hooded treepie (Crypsirina cuculiata), the white-browed nuthatch (Sitta victoriae), the white-throated babbler (Turdoidesgularis) and the rusty-capped fulvetta (Alcippe dubia).
Road to Mandalay Ltd, UK, in conjunction with our sister company Golden Pagoda Travel Ltd, Myanmar, will be pleased to arrange your visit to Myanmar, including obtaining the necessary permits for travel to out-of-the-way areas. They keep in touch with the local Forestry department offices to ensure that their information as to species location and accessibility is up-to-date
With thanks to the Myanmar Forestry Journal and Brenda Davidson-Shaddox, a writer/photographer naturalist who visits Myanmar each year. Her articles and photography have formerly appeared in the Myanmar Forestry Journal, Myanmar Perspective, and other international magazines. She is also widely published in the US. Her book, "Off the Beaten Path Guide to Myanmar Shrines & Monuments: A Guide to Lesser-Known Shrines and Monuments and Out-Of-The-Way Places in Myanmar" is available from amazon.com.
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