In a recent analysis, it became apparent how startlingly bird-diverse the northern parts of India are, despite the fact that this part of the country is just outside the tropics. In a part of India roughly the same size as Colombia, which is the country boasting the planet’s highest bird count (about 1900 species), India was found to have almost 1200 species in an incredible 104 families (compared to Colombia’s relatively low count of 87 families). The significance of this cannot be overemphasized – northern India could well be the richest temperate region on earth for birds, based on this finding. Part of the deep-level diversity (not only species, but also families) can likely be explained by the fact that Gondwana and Oriental bird faunas were combined when India collided with Asia, eons ago, after separating from Madagascar and the rest of the great southern continent of Gondwanaland and drifting into the Orient. Of course, the mega-diversity of habitats that India throws at the birder, also helps immensely when trying to explain the high bird diversity of this spectacular part of the world. Habitats range from the humungous coastal mangroves of the Sunderbans (the largest expanse of mangroves on earth, and where there is still a high density of albeit elusive Bengal Tigers) to the world’s highest mountain range, the mighty Himalayas – and every habitat imaginable between those two.
India includes some famous endemic bird areas such as the Western Ghats, the Assam Plains, the Central Himalayas and last but not least the Nicobar/Andaman Islands where there are, among a good number of others, three endemic serpent-eagles, an impressive endemic woodpecker and an endemic hornbill!
A lot of travelers have a love-hate relationship with India. It’s a country of wonderful people, some of the world’s best food, and a mega-diversity not only of birds but of all wildlife (e.g. lions, tigers, bears and so much more). But visiting this huge country is not for the faint-hearted as you will also see some of the world’s worst poverty, overcrowding and filth. Contributor: Chris Lotz/Birding Ecotours.