Bird watching in Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park
(text compiled by Paul Bates, Harrison Institute)
Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park
Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park, in Sagaing Division, has an area of 1,605 km2 and is the largest national park in Myanmar. Established in 1893, enlarged in 1917, and upgraded to a wildlife sanctuary in 1941, it comprises two former forest reserves, Patolon and Taungdwin. It was officially recognised as a national park in 1984. Today, the park still has some of the best remaining stands of natural teak in Myanmar. It is also a centre of pilgrimage and each year some 30,000 Myanmar pilgrims visit the Buddhist shrine of Maha Kathapa.
The park includes the upper catchment basins of three rivers, the Petpa, Patolon and Taungdwin. The Patolon River drains the eastern parts of the park and Taungdwin Rivers the western areas. Both rivers flow northwards in steep-sided valleys, which are separated from each other and from adjacent valleys by long north-south parallel ridges that rise to elevations from 609 to over 1218 metres. These ridges have moderate slopes to the west and fairly steep escarpments to the east. In the rainy season, there are numerous small streams. Additionally, small waterfalls appear on the upper reaches of the Patolon and Petpa Rivers. By the end of the dry season, many of these streams disappear. However, there are a number of perennial springs that keep the major rivers flowing.
There are five principal forest types: (1) moist upper mixed deciduous forest; (2) dry upper mixed deciduous forest; (3) lower mixed deciduous forest; (4) Indaing forest and (5) Pine forest (further information).
The park is accessed by a dirt road, which becomes impassable during the rainy season (May to October). It takes at least 5 hours from Monywa and is only suitable for 4x4 vehicles, trucks, buses and some minibuses.
Numerous species of forest bird are found in the park including*: Phasianidae: Khalij Pheasant. Falconidae: White-rumped Pygmy Falcon, Collared Falconet, White-eyed Buzzard. Psittacidae: Alexandrine Parakeet, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Grey-headed Parakeet, Blossom-headed Parakeet, Red-breasted Parakeet. Strigidae: Asian Barred Owlet. Trogonidae: Red-headed Trogon. Meropidae: Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater. Bucerotidae: Oriental Pied Hornbill, Great Hornbill. Ramphastidae: Blue-eared Barbet. Picidae: Eurasian Wryneck, Speckled Piculet, White-browed Piculet, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, Rufous Woodpecker, White-bellied Woodpecker, Greater Yellownape, Lesser Yellownape, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Streak-breasted Woodpecker, Streak-throated Woodpecker, Himalayan Flameback, Common Flameback, Greater Flameback, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Bay Woodpecker, Grey Slaty Woodpecker. Vireonidae: White-bellied Erpornis. Tephrodornithidae: Large Woodshrike, Common Woodshrike. Rhipiduridae: White-browed Fantail. Corvidae: Red-billed Blue Magpie, Hooded Treepie. Sittidae: Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch. Sturnidae: Common Hill-myna. Muscicapidae: Black-backed Forktail. Alaudidae: Burmese Bushlark. Pycnonotidae: Olive Bulbul. Timaliidae: White-throated Babbler, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush
*list compiled from various sources published online; the list is not complete and is for indicative purposes only.
Formerly the park had a good population of Tigers but these are now thought to have been poached to extinction. However, there are still some wild Asian Elephants, possibly Eld’s Deer, Sambar, Gaur, Banteng, Munjac, and Wild Pig. Other elusive large mammals that may still live in the forest include Clouded Leopard, Civets, Jungle Cats, Himalayan Brown Bear, and Sun Bear.
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Kathapa National Park faces a range of threats. These include an ever-increasing human population, which puts huge pressure on the park’s natural resources. Despite the best efforts of Myanmar and international conservation groups, poaching for rare and endangered species continues as does hunting for bushmeat, firewood collection, the collection of wild orchids, and commercial (but illegal) timber extraction (further information). A systematic assessment of the bird fauna to determine its diversity and conservation status would be invaluable.
“[We took] a long trip by car to Alaungdawkassapa Nat. Park. Famous for its many woodpeckers, we´d barely come inside the park until we had seen three new spieces. Two full days walking in the park generated 14 different woodpeckers! And also green-billed malkoa, collared owlet, velvet-fronted nuthatch, mountain bulbul, black-winged cuckooshrike, ashy, rosy, swinhoe´s, scarlet, and long-tailed minivet, red-billed blue magpie, stork-billed kingfisher, collared falconet, 2,5m python, green imperial pigeon, golden-fronted leafbird, lesser necklaced laughingthrush, blue whistling thrush, red-headed trogon, white-bellied yuhina.”
Larre Hernander and Donald Rehn - report extracted from a field trip to various locations in Myanmar that took place from 2-28 December, 2013 (further information).