Bird watching in Putao, Kachin State
(text compiled by Paul Bates, Harrison Institute)
Putao, Kachin State
Putao, in Kachin State, is the most northerly town of significant size in Myanmar. It is situated at an altitude of 440 metres in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas and is well known as the starting point for trekking (further information), including to Mount Hkakabo Razi, which at 5,881 metres is Myanmar’s/Southeast Asia’s highest mountain.
With beautiful scenery and wonderful wildlife, Kachin State is an exceptional place for those interested in nature. Its extensive forests are home to beautiful butterflies, numerous orchid species, rare mammals and a richly diverse bird fauna - apparently, bird watchers might expect to see between 325 and 375 species on a well led tour (further information). Kachin is also the source of Myanmar’s longest river, the Ayeyarwady, which is fed by the melt waters of the Himalayan streams.
For tourists, the only way to reach Putao is by plane. Once there, travelling is usually by a combination of car, bus, 4x4 and trekking. In Putao, there is range of guesthouses as well as one up-market resort, the Malikha Lodge. In the more remote areas, camping is the norm. The climate can be very cool, especially at higher altitudes. It is impossible to travel in the rainy season as most facilities for tourists are closed and the dirt roads are impassable.
It should be noted that all international tourists must apply at least two months in advance for permission to travel to Putao and the surrounding areas. At times permission is refused owing to adverse security conditions. Unless you are an experienced visitor, it is recommended that you consult a reputable Myanmar-based travel agent to arrange your tour well in advance.
Bird species include*: Phasianidae: Hill Partridge, Rufous-throated Partridge, White-cheeked Partridge, Bar-backed Partridge, Mountain Bamboo-partridge, Blood Pheasant, Blyth’s Tragopan, Temminck’s Tragopan, Himalayan Monal, Sclater’s Monal, Red Junglefowl, Kalij Pheasant. Anatidae: Eurasian Teal, Ferruginous Pochard. Ardeidae: White-bellied Heron. Anhingidae: Oriental Darter. Falconidae: Oriental Hobby, Black Baza, Grey-headed Fish-eagle, Crested Serpent-eagle, Crested Goshawk, Shikra, Chinese Sparrowhawk, Japanese Sparrowhawk, Besra, Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk-eagle, Changeable Hawk-eagle. Rallidae: White-breasted Waterhen, Black-tailed Crake. Ibidorhynchidae: Ibisbill. Vanellidae: River Lapwing, Red-wattled Lapwing. Scolopacidae: Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper. Columbidae: Oriental Turtle-dove, Orange-breasted Green-pigeon, Pin-tailed Green-pigeon, Wedge-tailed Green-pigeon, Green Imperial-pigeon, Mountain Imperial-pigeon. Psittacidae: Vernal Hanging-Parrot, Long-tailed Parakeet. Cuculidae: Large Hawk-cuckoo, Indian Cuckoo, Eurasian Cuckoo, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Plaintive Cuckoo, Drongo Cuckoo, Green-billed Malkoha, Greater Coucal. Strigidae: Mountain Scops-Owl, Tawny Fish-owl, Collared Owlet, Asian Barred Owlet. Podargidae: Hodgson’s Frogmouth. Apodidae: Himalayan Swiftlet, Brown-backed Needletail, Dark-rumped Swift, House Swift. Trogonidae: Orange-breasted Trogon, Red-headed Trogon, Ward’s Trogon. Coraciidae: Dollarbird. Alcedinidae: Stork-billed Kingfisher, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Blyth’s Kingfisher, Crested Kingfisher. Meropidae: Red-bearded Bee-eater. Bucerotidae: Oriental Pied Hornbill, Great Hornbill, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill. Ramphastidae: Great Barbet, Golden-throated Barbet, Blue-throated Barbet. Picidae: Speckled Piculet, White-browed Piculet, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Greater Yellownape, Lesser Yellownape, Himalayan Flameback, Bamboo Woodpecker, Bay Woodpecker, Common Flameback. Eurylaimidae: Long-tailed Broadbill, Silver-breasted Broadbill. Pittidae: Hooded Pitta, Blue-winged Pitta. Vireonidae: Black-headed Shrike-babbler, White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Green Shrike-babbler, Black-eared Shrike-babbler, White-bellied Erpornis. Campephagidae: Large Cuckooshrike, Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Grey-chinned Minivet, Long-tailed Minivet, Short-billed Minivet, Scarlet Minivet. Oriolidae: Maroon Oriole. Artamidae: Ashy Woodswallow. Family?: Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike. Rhipiduridae: Yellow-bellied Fantail, White-throated Fantail, Ashy Drongo, Crow-billed Drongo, Bronzed Drongo, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Hair-crested Drongo. Monarchidae: Black-naped Monarch, Asian Paradise-Flycatcher. Corvidae: Large-billed Crow, Spotted Nutcracker, Common Green Magpie, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Rufous Treepie, Grey Treepie, Collared Treepie. Laniidae: Long-tailed Shrike, Grey-backed Shrike.
Regulidae: Goldcrest. Nectariniidae: Van Hasselt’s Sunbird, Crimson Sunbird, Mrs Gould’s Sunbird, Black-throated Sunbird, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Streaked Spiderhunter, Little Spiderhunter. Dicaeidae: Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker. Chloropseidae: Blue-winged Leafbird, Orange-bellied Leafbird. Irenidae: Asian Fairy-bluebird. Estrildidae: White-rumped Munia. Passeridae: Eurasian Tree-sparrow. Motacillidae: Rosy Pipit, Olive-backed Pipit, White Wagtail, Eastern Yellow Wagtail. Fringillidae: Tibetan Serin, Red Crossbill, Black-headed Greenfinch, Common Rosefinch, Scarlet Finch, Grey-headed Bullfinch, Brown Bullfinch, Chestnut-eared Bunting, Little Bunting, Chestnut Bunting. Certhiidae: Rusty-flanked Treecreeper. Sittidae: Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Beautiful Nuthatch, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, White-tailed Nuthatch. Troglodytidae: Winter Wren. Cinclidae: White-throated Dipper, Brown Dipper. Sturnidae: Collared Myna, Vinuous-breasted Myna, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Common Hill-myna. Turdidae: Long-tailed Thrush, Chinese Blackbird, Black-breasted Thrush, Chestnut Thrush, Black-throated Thrush, Red-throated Thrush, Dusky Thrush, Eyebrowed Thrush, Rufous-tailed Rockthrush. Muscicapidae: Rusty-bellied Shortwing, Lesser Shortwing, White-browed Shortwing, Plumbeous Water-redstart, White-capped Water-redstart, Hodgson’s Redstart, Daurian Redstart, Blue-fronted Redstart, Blue Rock-thrush, Grey Bushchat, Eastern Stonechat, Rufous-breasted Bush-robin, Himalayan Bluetail, Red-flanked Bluetail, Golden Bush-robin, Little Forktail, Slaty-backed Forktail, Spotted Forktail, Blue Whistling-thrush, Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Pale Blue Flycatcher, Hill Blue Flycatcher, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Blue-throated Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Large Niltava, Small Niltava, White-gorgeted Flycatcher, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Little Pied Flycatcher, Ultramine Flycatcher, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Asian Brown Flycatcher. Paridae: Coal Tit, Rufous-vented Tit, Grey Tit, Green-backed Tit, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Sultan Tit, Yellow-browed Tit. Stenostiridae: Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher. Pycnonotidae: Black-crested Bulbul, Red-whiskered Bulbul, White-throated Bulbul, Puff-throated Bulbul, Ashy Bulbul, Mountain Bulbul, Himalayan Black Bulbul. Hirundinidae: Pale Sand-martin, Red-rumped Swallow. Cettiidae: Yellow-bellied Warbler, Rufous-faced Warbler, Black-faced Warbler, Mountain Tailorbird, Broad-billed Warbler, Hume’s Bush Warbler, Grey-sided Bush-Warbler, Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler, Aberrant Bush-Warbler, Pale-footed Bush-Warbler, Grey-bellied Tesia, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Chestnut-headed Tesia. Aegithalidae: Black-throated Tit. Phylloscopidae: White-spectacled Warbler, Grey-cheeked Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Yellow-vented Warbler, White-tailed Leaf-Warbler, Grey-hooded Warbler, Ashy-throated Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Tickell’s Leaf-Warbler. Timaliidae: Grey-headed Parrotbill, Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Buff-breasted Parrotbill, Black-eared Parrotbill, White-browed Fulvetta, Ludlow’s Fulvetta, Streak-throated Fulvetta, Oriental White-eye, Japanese White-eye, Black-chinned Yuhina, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Rufous-vented Yuhina, White-naped Yuhina, Whiskered Yuhina, Striated Yuhina, Chestnut-collared Yuhina, Nepal Fulvetta, Brown Fulvetta, Rufous-throated Fulvetta, Rusty-capped Fulvetta, Snowy-throated Babbler,
Grey-throated Babbler, Sickle-billed Scimitar-babbler, Orange-billed Scimitar-babbler, Coral-billed Scimitar-babbler, Cachar Wedge-billed Wren-babbler, Spotted Wren-babbler, Scaly-breasted Wren-Babbler, Pygmy Wren-babbler, Golden Babbler, Rufous-capped Babbler, Pin-striped Tit-babbler, Buff-breasted Babbler, Puff-throated Babbler, Streaked Wren-babbler, Eyebrowed Wren-babbler, Long-billed Wren-babbler, White-hooded Babbler, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Himalayan Cutia, Chestnut-backed Laughingthrush, Rufous-vented Laughingthrush, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush, Rufous-cheeked Laughingthrush, White-crested Laughingthrush, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Striated Laughingthrush, Spotbreasted Laughingthrush, Rufous-breasted Laughingthrush, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Assam Laughingthrush, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Crimson-faced Liocichla, Scarlet-faced Liocichla, Bar-throated Minla, Red-tailed Minla, Blue-winged Siva, Silver-eared Mesia, Red-billed Leiothrix, Long-billed Sibia, Grey Sibia, Black-headed Sibia, Beautiful Sibia, Rufous-backed Sibia, Streak-browed Barwing, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Fire-tailed Myzornis. Acrocephalidae: Blyth’s Reed-warbler, Thick-billed Warbler. Megaluridae: Rusty-rumped Warbler, Spot Bush-warbler, Russet Bush-warbler, Striated Grassbird. Cisticolidae: Zitting Cisticola, Bright-headed Cisticola, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Common Tailorbird, Rufescent Prinia, Grey-breasted Prinia, Plain Prinia, Striated Prinia, Hill Prinia.
*list compiled from various sources published online; the list is not complete and is for indicative purposes only.
Sadly, the once pristine environment of Kachin is now suffering. Although there are still wonderful forests, spectacular scenery, diverse nature, and wonderful friendly local communities, there are also areas where there is indiscriminate mining for gold and jade, deforestation, and pollution.
Although we were unable to find recent independent visitor reports on bird watching in the Putao area, we did find one from the past that gives an insight into some of the excitements of birding in Kachin’s eastern Himalayas – see Nicolas Cornet and Eric Alibert's Journey through the last untouched forests of Myanmar. This report, which is already 15 years old, is based on an expedition conducted in November-December, 2002 (pages 2-6 in The Babbler, March, 2005) (further information). It is also possible to find recent species lists on ebird (further information).