Bird watching in Indawgyi Wetland Wildlife Sanctuary
(text compiled by Paul Bates, Harrison Institute)
Indawgyi Wetland Wildlife Sanctuary
Indawgyi Wetland is situated in Moe Nyin Township in Kachin State, some 1,240 km north of Yangon. It is one of the biggest inland lakes in Southeast Asia and the largest in Myanmar. The wildlife sanctuary was established in 1999 (officially designated in 2004) and covers 736 km2. The lake, which drains to the north, has an area of 120 km2 and lies at an elevation of 169 m above sea level. Half of the sanctuary is forest and one-third is wetlands. Elsewhere, rice is cultivated in some areas adjacent to the lake. Mixed deciduous forest, riverine evergreen forest, and hill pine forest cover the uplands (further information).
In February, 2016, the wildlife sanctuary was added to a Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance (further information) and every year migratory birds from as far north as Siberia follow the East Asian-Australasian flyway and flock to Indawgyi Lake to rest and feed during the winter season. They start arriving in November and stay until the end of March. Bird surveys over recent years regularly record more than 20,000 wintering water birds with up to 100 species, including those that are globally threatened. There are also endemic fish and turtles.
The birds can be observed in a variety of habitats. These include the open lake, floating vegetation mats along the lakes edge, seasonally flooded grasslands and the surrounding paddy fields (further information).
The lake is a relatively difficult place to visit (further information). According to Fauna and Flora International, there are two ways of getting there, depending on current travel advice and security issues (further information).
Option 1: Fly to Myitkyina; travel from Myitkyina to Hopin by train and then from Hopin to Lonton village (Indawgyi lake) by car/ public bus.
Option 2: Travel from Mandaly to Hopin by train and then from Hopin to Lonton village (Indawgyi lake) by car or by public bus.
Indawgyi Mahar Guesthouse in Lonton Village has basic accommodation (bed, blanket and shared bathroom) (further information).
This area was previously known to be the home of the Pink-headed duck (now thought to be extinct). It is still home to a rich diversity of bird species, many of whom are rare, including the following*: Phasianidae: Red Junglefowl, Green Peafowl. Anatidae: Greylag Goose, Bar-headed Goose, Common Shelduck, Ruddy Shelduck, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Mallard, Falcated Duck, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, White-winged Duck, Lesser Whistling-duck, Tufted Duck, Ferruginous Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Common Merganser. Ciconiidae: Asian Openbill, Black Stork, Woolly-necked Stork, Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant. Ardeidae: Cinnamon Bittern, Grey Heron, White-bellied Heron, Purple Heron, Indian Pond-heron, Great Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret. Pelecanidae: Spot-billed Pelican. Phalacrocoracidae: Great Cormorant, Little Cormorant. Anhingidae: Oriental Darter. Falconidae: White-rumped Pygmy-falconet, Collared Falconet, Common Kestrel, Oriental Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, Black-shouldered Kite, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Pallas’s Fish-eagle, Lesser Fish-eagle, White-rumped Vulture, Slender-billed Vulture, Himalayan Griffon Vulture, Crested Serpent-eagle, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Western Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Pied Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Rufous-winged Buzzard, Besra, Black Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Oriental Honey-buzzard. Rallidae: Eastern Water Rail, White-breasted Waterhen, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Grey-headed Swamphen, Common Moorhen. Heliornithidae: Masked Finfoot. Gruidae: Sarus Crane, Common Crane. Burhinidae: Eurasian Thick-knee, Great Thick-knee. Recurvirostridae: Black-winged Stilt. Vanellidae: Northern Lapwing, River Lapwing, Grey-headed Lapwing. Charadriidae: Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover. Jacanidae: Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Bronzed-winged Jacana. Scolopacidae: Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Greenshank. Glareolidae: Small Pratincole. Laridae: Black-headed Gull, Brown-headed Gull. Columbidae: Ashy wood-Pigeon, Green Imperial-pigeon, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Yellow-footed Green-pigeon, Thick-billed Green-pigeon, Spotted Dove. Psittacidae: Red-breasted Parakeet. Cuculidae: Plaintive Cuckoo, Greater Coucal, Lesser Coucal, Green-billed Malkoha. Apodidae: Himalayan Swiftlet, Silver-rumped Needletail, Himalayan Swift, Dark-rumped Swift, Asian Palm-swift, Crested Tree-swift. Trogonidae: Ward's Trogon. Coraciidae: Dollarbird. Alcedinidae: Stork-billed Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher. Meropidae: Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Green Bee-eater. Upupidae: Common Hoopoe. Bucerotidae: Great Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill. Ramphastidae: Lineated Barbet, Blue-throated Barbet. Picidae: Speckled Piculet, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Greater Yellownape, Lesser Yellownape, Himalayan Flameback, Greater Flameback. Campephagidae: Long-tailed Minivet, Short-billed Minivet. Oriolidae: Black-hooded Oriole, Maroon Oriole. Artamidae: Ashy Woodswallow. Rhipiduridae: White-throated Fantail. Dicruridae: Ashy Drongo, Bronzed Drongo, Hair-crested Drongo, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. Corvidae: Large-billed Crow, Common Green Magpie, Grey Treepie, Rufous Treepie. Lanidae: Long-tailed Shrike, Grey-backed Shrike. Nectariniidae: Crimson Sunbird, Black-throated Sunbird, Purple Sunbird, Streaked Spiderhunter. Dicaeidae: Yellow-vented Flowerpecker. Chloropseidae: Golden-fronted Leafbird, Orange-bellied Leafbird. Ploceidae: Baya Weaver. Estrildidae: Scaly-breasted Munia. Passeridae: Eurasian Tree Sparrow. Motacillidae: Rosy Pipit, Paddyfield Pipit, Olive-backed Pipit, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail. Fringillidae: Common Rosefinch, Yellow-breasted Bunting. Sittidae: Velvet-fronted Nuthatch. Sturnidae: Common Myna, White-vented Myna, Collared Myna, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Vinous-breasted Starling, Asian Pied Starling, Common Starling. Muscicapidae: Blue Rock Thrush, Hodgson's Redstart, Jerdon's Bushchat, Pied Bushchat. Paridae: Grey-crested Tit, Sultan Tit. Stonestiridae: Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher. Pycnonotidae: Red-whiskered Bulbul, Red-vented Bulbul, Brown-breasted Bulbul, White-throated Bulbul. Hirundinidae: Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Wire-tailed Swallow. Cettiidae: Pale-footed Bush-warbler, Rufous-faced Warbler. Phylloscopidae: Grey-cheeked Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Dusky Warbler, White-spectacled Warbler, Blyth's Leaf-warbler. Timaliidae: Chestnut-capped Babbler, Rufous-throated Fulvetta, Pin-striped Tit-babbler, White-crested Laughingthrush, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Rufous-necked Laughingthursh. Cisticolidae: Yellow-bellied Prinia, Striated Grassbird, and Common Tailorbird.
*list compiled from various sources published online; the list is not complete and is for indicative purposes only.
Although the lake was recently designated as a Ramsar Site and much of the area still looks serene, it is under considerable threat. The primary threats are illegal logging and gold mining in streams in the watershed. Together these are causing habitat loss, sedimentation and pollution in the southern part of the lake (further information).
Tours to Indawgyi Wetland Wildlife Sanctuary (including, in some cases, Myitkyina and Tanaing)
FFI Tour 1
SST Tour 1, Tour 2, Tour 3
Travel Expert Tour 1, Tour 2
Myanmar City Star Travel and Tours Tour 1, Tour 2
Shan Yoma Travel and Tours Co. Ltd Tour 1