A Bird-Watcher’s Guide to Myanmar
By June Franco
Being a country strongly dedicated to preserving its natural habitat, Myanmar is blessed with a bird population rarely seen anywhere else in the world. In other words, Myanmar is a bird-watcher’s paradise. If you are looking for a birding holiday, Myanmar is the place to be.
Myanmar is home to many endemic birds and endangered species. There are 350 bird species in Myanmar. Myanmar is also a stop for migratory birds, which can be seen between December and March. Several places of Myanmar are destinations for bird-watchers.
Birds of Myanmar
Out of all the species of birds seen in Myanmar, 6 are endemic, found nowhere else in the world. Interestingly, 2 species of birds have been introduced by humans in the sense that they were brought from other places in the world. Fifty-one species are globally threatened.
Some of the birds found in Myanmar are grebes, austral storm petrels, northern storm petrels, tropicbirds, cormorants and darters. The grey peacock pheasant is the national bird of Myanmar.
Bird-Watching Destinations in Myanmar
There are several places in Myanmar that are popular bird-watching destinations. From day trips to long trips, bird-watchers can opt for anything. Here are a few good places to visit.
Inle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary
Inle Lake in the Shan Hills is an ideal destination to enjoy a few days of bird watching. The wildlife sanctuary located on the banks of Inle Lake is rich in species both common and rare such as the sarus crane, collared myna, Jeerdon’s bush chat, purple swamphen, glossy ibis and bronze-winged jacana.
You can hike through the forest or take a boat ride on the lake to immerse in some bird-watching pleasure. For a magical experience, head to Inle Lake at dawn. As the day breaks and the mist rises from the lake, the environment is filled with the sound of birds chirping – an unforgettable experience to cherish for a lifetime.
Inle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary is home to many endemic and endangered bird species.
Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary
Designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the forest around Myanmar’s largest lake is a heaven for bird watching. Indawgyi Lake not only has 10 globally threatened bird species, but it is also an important destination to watch migratory birds from December to March.
UNESCO considers the sanctuary to be an invaluable place for the conservation of migratory birds. You can see the white-rumped vulture and slender-billed vulture here – two endangered species rarely seen anywhere else in the world. The forest also contains Burmese peacock softshell turtles, an endemic species of Myanmar.
The Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary is a birdwatcher’s paradise.
Hlawga Wildlife Park
Located only 35 kilometres from Yangon, Hlawga National Park is ideal for spending a day bird watching. The journey from Yangon takes only about an hour. This 623-hectare park includes a wildlife park, a mini zoo and a buffer zone. It was established in 1982 as an environmental education centre. Today, it is a popular destination for ecotourists.
The park is home to several endemic species and migratory birds including the jungle fowls, red-vented bulbuls, lesser whistling ducks, black-crowned night herons, white-throated babblers and Asian openbill storks.
Moeyungyi Wetland Wildlife Sanctuary
Located in Bago town, this sanctuary is great for a day trip. Established in 1896 as a reservoir, this wetland has automatically been converted into a bird paradise. You can see about 42 waterbird species and 33 shorebird species.
Between October and March, more than 20,000 migratory waterbirds take refuge in this sanctuary. This is the ideal time to head to this place. Avoid visiting between May and October, when the wetland gets flooded.
Nat Ma Taung National Park
This ASEAN Heritage Park has been identified as having Outstanding Universal Value by UNESCO due to its diversity. The national park surrounds Nat Ma Taung, the third highest peak of Myanmar. It is a great place for ornithologists since the area is enriched with endemic and endangered bird species.
There are about 280 species of birds here including the endangered white-browed nuthatch. Nat Ma Taung National Park is about an 8-hour drive from Bagan.
Hponkan Razi Wildlife Sanctuary
Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas in the extreme north of the country, this wildlife sanctuary is as wild as it can get. You have to trek here to view birds. There are about 310 species of birds including mountain birds and waterfowls. Exotic bird species found here include the ibisbill, Blyth’s kingfisher, Blyth’s tragopan, greater rufous-headed parrotbill, alpine accentor and plain mountain finch.
You’ll have to travel to Putao to visit this wildlife sanctuary. Putao can be reached by flight from Yangon, Mandalay and other domestic airports in the country.
Myanmar will surprise you with its bird population. The best time to plan a birding trip to Myanmar is between October and March when the weather is dry and the sanctuaries are beaming with migratory birds.