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A Report from

Northern West Bengal and South Sikkim April-May 2004,

Jonathan Taylor


Birds recorded during a trip to Northern West Bengal and South Sikkim from Apr 19th to May 13th.

This is another update to this quite popular region (though I did not meet any foreign birders, which is a shame, especially when you see the list below and it's a fraction of the cost of visiting some other NE Indian Hill States.



Darjeeling - 5 days spent here though not all birding. (Bellevue 550R) Area behind and beyond the zoo (though mainly within the zoo walls) is quite productive. Though most species here more common at Lava and Tiger Hill.

Tiger Hill - Apr 21st.  Key Species - Broad-billed Warbler, Slender billed scimitar babbler.

Megma - Apr 25th-26th. Key Species - Rufous fronted Tit. Only good forest left is 1-2 km before and mostly below village (if short on time probably best not to stay here and move on to Gairibans)

Gairibans - Apr 26th-27th and 29th-30th. Key Species - Satyr Tragopan, Slender Billed Scimitar Babbler, Black-headed shrike-babbler, Red Panda (one lodge 100R. was full on return so may need to book, had to stay in Nepal in a locals house cum lodge) Birded the "old jeep track" running East mainly towards Kalipokhari, good either way. Red Panda seen 4km along at 07:00hrs feeding on bamboo before climbing up to bed.

Sandakphu - Apr 27th-29th. Key species - Blood pheasant, Fulvous Parrotbill, White-browed Bush Robin White-winged and Collared Grosbeak, Blanfords, Dark-Rumped and White-browed Rosefinch. (Sherpa Lodge - 100R) trek up to here from Kalipokhari is quite tough! Area around village very good for rosefinchs. Spend as much time here as poss, first ridge (also path to Rimbik) has more species and v.close views of Blood Pheasant, ridge to north has thick bamboo as you descend allowing very close views of Brown and Great Parrotbill.

Kitam (Sikkim, south of Namchi) - May 3rd-8th. Key species - Pallas's Fish Eagle, Yellow vented Warbler. Main purpose of visiting was a bird survey for Forestry Dept (Habitat is hill Sal forest running into moist riverine forest beside river Rangit. Own Transport necessary here, worth checking if plenty of time but not a brilliant birding destination.

Lava - (see Map) May 9th-13th. Key Species - Purple Cochoa, Rusty bellied Shortwing, Spotted and Rufous throated Wren babbler's, Yellow throated Fulvetta, Cutia, Pygmy blue, Ferruginous, White-Gorgetted, Snowy-browed, Dark-sided and Sapphire Flycatchers, Grey-cheeked warbler, Blue-winged Laughing thrush+ many others! Hotel PP Lodge (250R) (32hrs in field) Quite a few hours lost to heavy mist, a feature of this site. Leeches abundant in moist forest areas. As reported by other observers the forest is very degraded around Lava. The understorey at Km4 gully is being grazed out so only canopy species present here. On the Lower Jeep Track the Wren babblers and Lesser shortwing were using "gardened areas" that had been fenced off and had good herb growth. The Logging track is mostly secondary scrub or less. The Rusty b Shortwing and Slender b s babbler using scrub with no bamboo. Algarah Rd produced new birds on each visit. Neora NP not visited because 5 days aint long enough to do Lava properly even! I was told it is closed during May, not 100% sure about this though.

Phil and Charlotte Benstead  - report Apr-May 2003 available on Track names at Lava follow their map.
Birdwatchers Guide to India -as usual an essential reference.
Sound Recordings by S.Connop - Birdsongs of Nepal and Himalayas available from

Thanks to Sujan Chatterjee ( for company at Sandakphu and pointing out the male Collared Grosbeak hopping around his accommodation! and in Calcutta.

Bird List

D = Darjeeling,
G = Gairibans,
K= Kitam,
L = Lava,
M = Megma,
S = Sandakphu ,
TH = Tiger Hill,
C = Calcutta

Oriental Honey Buzzard       D - single on 22/4
Northern Goshawk G - single female  29/4
Eurasian Sparrowhawk         S, K (race nisosimilis, very like shikra except for srong barring on upper tail)
Mountain Hawk-Eagle         K - Daily
Pallas's Fish Eagle Single adult roosting in woods besides river Rangit, Kitam, May 4th-5th.
Eurasian Griffon    
M - 14, single at Lava
Crested Serpent Eagle         
K and Lava "lower Jeep track".
Eurasian Hobby    
L - 2 on May 12th.
Amur falcon           
L - single on May 12th appeared with 2 Hobbies ahead of a storm front
Common Kestrel    
D, S
Hill partridge          
TH, G -heard only
Rufous-throated Partridge  
L - a female with brood beside road  Km4-5 and heard along "Jeep track"
Blood Pheasant      S - 2males and a female on Apr 28th-29th along ridge immediately east of village
Satyr Tragopan      G - 3 calling males on Apr 27th and 30th.
Red Junglefowl       K - regularly heard, Female with brood here.
Indian Peafowl        K - up to five males displaying from "peacock point"
Barred Cuckoo-Dove            L - Common
Oriental Turtle Dove             TH, M
Large Hawk Cuckoo             D, TH, K, M, L - Commonly heard, only seen at Kitam.
Common Hawk Cuckoo        Single heard Kalimpong
Indian Cuckoo        D, TH, M, G - only heard
Eurasian Cuckoo    D, L
Oriental Cuckoo     D, TH, S, K, L. Only seen at Lava in mid-May at Km4
Lesser Cuckoo        L - common, especially towards Neora. K.
Banded Bay Cuckoo             D - single north of zoo and down the hill!
Green-billed Malkoha           K
Asian Barred Owlet              D, K, L
Brown Hawk Owl  2-3 heard at Kitam
Himalayan Swiftlet L
White-throated Needletail   D - single, L -single, M - 3,  S - 2.
Fork tailed swift      D
House swift            
Palm swift C
Chestnut headed bee-eater  Kitam, by river Rangit
Indian Roller           K
Dollarbird K - several pairs, some spectacular display
Great Barbet            D, TH, S, K, L -common all over!
Golden-throated Barbet       L -lower Jeep track
Blue-throated Barbet            K - very common
Eurasian Wryneck single Megma
Speckled Piculet     K
Grey-headed Woodpecker  K, L
Greater Yellownape               K - common, L - "lower Jeep Track"
Himalayan Flameback           K
Rufous-bellied Woodpecker              S - several
Darjeeling Woodpecker       Sandakphu trek, singles 2km before Megma and female near Gairibans
Crimson-breasted woodpecker          G - 2 pairs.
Grey-capped pygmy woodpecker     K - common
Bay Woodpecker  
L - regularly heard, very tricky to spot for me!
Barn Swallow         
D, K
Red-rumped swallow           
Grey-backed Shrike              
Single Gairibans in forest during heavy rain!
Long-tailed shrike 
couple of roadside birds
Black Drongo        
lowland areas during transit
Ashy Drongo         D, S, L
Spangled Drongo   K - common
Asian Pied Starling               C
Common Myna     
Common Hill Myna               K - fairly common
Common Green Magpie       L - pair Lower Jeep track at east end.
Yellow-billed Blue Magpie TH, S
Grey Treepie           D
Nutcracker               M, S
House Crow           
Large billed crow   
Bar-winged flycatcher-shrike             K
Large Woodshrike K
Large Cuckooshrike              K
Black-winged Cuckooshrike               L - easiest along Lower Jeep Track
Scarlet minivet        K
Short-billed Minivet             S, L
Long-tailed Minivet              D, S
Golden-fronted Leafbird      K
Black-Crested Bulbul            K
Himalayan Bulbul  K
Red-Vented Bulbul
Striated Bulbul        L
Black Bulbul            K
Puff-throated Babbler           K
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler       D, TH.
Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler          G - single "old jeep track" 4km east of village, L - pair "logging Track", also heard at M, S, TH.
Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler            S - 2 heard and seen along first ridge and one between the ridges.
Rufous-throated Wren Babbler         L - along Lower Jeep Track, (2 singing + one seen)
Spotted Wren Babbler         L- 2 along Lower Jeep Track (both singing, one seen)
Rufous-capped Babbler       D, TH, L
Golden Babbler       L - Logging Track
Grey-throated Babbler          K, L
Striped Tit Babbler K
Great Parrotbill        S - seen along both ridges, but not easy
Brown Parrotbill     S - single along northern ridge but a long way down!
Fulvous Parrotbill  S - pair along first ridge c2km down + heard from north ridge 
Black-throated Parrotbill      M, G, and L - pair "Logging Track"
White-throated Laughing-thrush      L- pair km4
Lesser Necklaced Laughing-thrush  K - 2 with a group of "Greaters"
Greater Neckaced Laughing-thrush     K -   several groups.
Striated Laughing-thrush    G, L
Rufous-chinned Laughing-thrush    D - single female on north side of zoo
Spotted Laughing-thrush    M, S.
Grey-sided Laughing-thrush              L - Lower jeep track and Logging track
Blue-winged Laughing-thrush           L -    "          "     "       "        "          "
Scaly Laughing-thrush        L - Logging track.
Black-faced Laughing-thrush            S
Chestnut-crowned Laughing-thrush,  
Silver-eared Mesia,   
L  1-2 along lower Jeep track
Red-billed Leiothrix 
          L, female lower jeep track, and heard along Algarah Rd and Lower trail
Black-headed Shrike Babbler             Heard Megma (3km before), 2 heard at Gairibans (one seen briefly)
White-browed Shrike-babbler            L - male, lower jeep track
Green Shrike-babbler            S - 4 from north ridge, also Gairibans and Lava (lower jeep track)
Black-eared Shrike-babbler D - single near zoo.
Rusty-fronted Barwing        L - frequent.
Hoary Barwing       G
Red-tailed Minla     }
Chestnut-tailed Minla          }    All common and widespread
Blue-winged Minla               }
Whiskered Yuhina }
Stripe-throated Yuhina         L
White-bellied Yuhina           K
Golden-breasted Fulvetta    TH, G - bamboo
Yellow-throated Fulvetta     L - Km4 and Lower Jeep Track
Rufous-winged Fulvetta      }
White-browed Fulvetta        }     All common and widespread
Rufous Sibia           }
Dark-sided Flycatcher          L - outskirts of village. Breeding
Asian Brown Flycatcher      K - 2
Ferruginous Flycatcher        L - single along "Upper Trail"
Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher              Common
White-gorgeted Flycatcher  Lava - Lower Jeep Track (breeding)
Snowy-browed Flycatcher  G, L
Little Pied Flycatcher            D, L
Slaty-blue Flycatcher           D
Sapphire Flycatcher              L - pair along Algarah Rd km3-4 and male "Upper Trail"
Rufous-bellied Niltava         D, G, L
Blue-throated Flycatcher     K - a few singing males.
Verditer Flycatcher               common
Pygmy Blue Flycatcher        L - single Km4 gully
Grey headed canary-Flycatcher        
Yellow-bellied fantail
White-throated fantail
Grey-bellied Tesia  L -common
Chestnut-headed Tesia        TH
Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler       D, L
Aberrant Bush Warbler       TH
Yellowish-bellied Bush Warbler        TH, S
Grey-sided Bush Warbler    TH, S
Russet Bush Warbler           D, L. very skulking Locustella like behaviour
Rufescent Prinia     K
Plain Prinia              C
Hill Prinia
Common Tailorbird
Hume's Warbler     S - 3 (late passage?)
Lemon-rumped Warbler     S, M
Ashy-throated Warbler       D, TH, G
Greenish Warbler   S
Blyth's Leaf Warbler            Common
Yellow-Vented Warbler        K - 7 birds seen inclu group of 4
Whistlers/ Golden S. Warbler            Common
Grey-hooded Warbler
Grey-cheeked Warbler         L - single Algarah Rd km 4-5 and Logging Track c4km along.
Chestnut-crowned Warbler Common
Black-faced Warbler             L
Broad-billed Warbler            TH, 14+singing males.
Indian Blue Robin  L - single singing male Algarah Rd at Junction to Lolaygaon.
Orange-flanked Bush-Robin              TH, single male
White-Browed Bush-Robin Sandakphu,  adult males and 1st summer males in song.
Golden Bush-Robin              S - common
Blue-Fronted Redstart          M
White-Tailed Robin              L - fairly common here- easiest along Lower Jeep track
White-Rumped Shama         K - one pair.
Oriental Magpie Robin
White-Capped Water-Redstart          Between kalipokhari and Gairibans
Plumbeous Water Redstart
Slaty-backed Forktail            K
Spotted Forktail      L - 1-2pairs lower Jeep Track
Grey Bushchat
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush           D, L (with fledged young)
Blue Whistling Thrush
Purple Cochoa        Lava, singing male on May 9th and 12th along Algarah rd, between Km 4 and 5 on its south side, on both occasions it was located singing from the top of the highest tree! Firstly down the km4 ravine and from the Road.
Plain-backed Thrush            G, S
Rusty-bellied Shortwing      L singing male seen down to 2mtrs, follow "Logging Track" 4-5km down then fork off to right through collapsed corral, 1km further (following D Sargeants directions) 2nd ravine from here.
White-browed Shortwing    TH, S, L
Lesser Shortwing   L - lower Jeep Track, 3 singing males, very hard to see though.
White-collared Blackbird     G
Grey-winged Blackbird
Green-backed Tit
Yellow-cheeked Tit              
L - Logging Track
Rufous-vented Tit S
Coal Tit
Grey-crested Tit     S
Black-throated Tit
Rufous-fronted Tit M, S
Yellow-browed Tit
Eurasian Treecreeper            S
Rusty-flanked Treecreeper  S
Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch  K
White-tailed Nuthatch
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch      K
Olive-backed Pipit
Paddyfield Pipit      C
Rosy Pipit
White-browed Wagtail        K
Grey Wagtail
Oriental White-eye               K
Ruby-cheeked Sunbird        K
Black-throated Sunbird
Green-tailed Sunbird
Mrs Gould's Sunbird
Fire-tailed Sunbird Sandakphu
Crimson Sunbird    K
Flowerpecker sp.    K
Scaly-breasted Munia          C
Tree sparrow
Altai Accentor        S - single
Rufous-breasted Accentor  S - several around village
Plain Mountain Finch           S - 20
Tibetan Siskin         S - 35
Scarlet Finch           L - "lower Jeep Track" 10+ Female/imm
Brown Bullfinch     G - 2 pairs, L - frequent.
Red-headed Bullfinch           S - along first ridge, vocal.
Gold-naped Finch  TH- single, S - 5, L - pair Algarah Rd km5. 
Collared Grosbeak  S - male beside FRH (a flock seen by Sujan at Kalipokhari)
White-winged Grosbeak      S - fairly easy just east of village
Common Rosefinch              S - male of nominate form. L - 4 female/imm
Dark-breasted Rosefinch     S
Blanford's Rosefinch           S - 2 male and female north of village then at v.close range beside FRH
White-browed Rosefinch    S - 3M, 2F just east of FRH (elusive - found during last few minutes of my stay here!)
Dark-rumped Rosefinch       S - several males and females, mostly just east of village.


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