Bird watching in Mount Popa National Park
(text compiled by Paul Bates, Harrison Institute)
Mount Popa National Park
Mount Popa is a forested, extinct volcano in the central dry zone of Myanmar. The caldera rises spectacularly from the surrounding wooded plain. Called Taung Ma-gyi (mother hill), it is 1,518 metres high, 610 metres wide and 914 metres deep and provides commanding views towards the Ayeyarwady River and Rakhine Yoma hills to the west and the Shan Plateau to the east. Next to the main caldera, on a small volcanic plug, is the very picturesque Taung Kalat Monastery.
The national park has an area of 129 km2 and comprises a variety of habitats. These include: Than-Dahat forest, low indaing forest, upper mixed deciduous forest, hill evergreen forest, pine forest, and hill grassland. These are home to numerous butterflies and about 140 bird species. In the foothills, the forest is surrounded by rich agricultural land, which is famous for its fruit orchards.
It is an easy drive of approximately 55 km from Bagan to Mount Popa. This takes about 90 minutes by car, depending on the number of times you stop to admire the scenery or observe the birds. The road is in good condition and is rural and picturesque for most of the way.
It is possible to stay at Mount Popa but there is a limited choice of accommodation. In consequence, most people visit for the day. Meanwhile, the lucky ones can stay at the up-market Mount Popa Resort, which has great views of the Taung Kalat Monastery and beyond.
On the mountain, there are tracks leading through the forest. It takes about three hours to hike to the summit, depending on your level of fitness (further details).
Bird species include*: Phasianidae: Red Jungle Fowl. Columbidae: Emerald Dove, Thick-billed Green-pigeon, Yellow-footed Green-pigeon, Wedge-tailed Green-pigeon, Green Imperial Pigeon. Cuculidae: Green-billed Malkoha. Ramphastidae: Blue-throated Barbet. Pittidae: Blue-winged Pitta. Oriolidae: Black-hooded Oriole. Rhipiduridae: White-throated Fantail. Corvidae: Black-billed Magpie, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Rufous Treepie, Grey Treepie. Fringillidae: Common Rosefinch. Emberizidae: Chestnut Bunting. Muscicapidae: White-browed Shortwing, Daurian Redstart, Verditer Flycatcher. Timaliidae: Chestnut-flanked White-eye, Oriental White-eye, Chestnut-capped Babbler, Puff-throated Babbler, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, and Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush.
*list compiled from various sources published online; the list is not complete and is for indicative purposes only.
Recently, there have been moves to promote Mount Popa as a UNESCO Global Geopark (further details). This would be an excellent way to ensure that the environment is regularly monitored and any detrimental activities are reported.