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India's ecology


What is special about India from an ecological perspective?




India is one of the richest bird areas in the world, with over 1301 species (Clements, 5th ed.), around 14% of the world's birds and more than half the birds of the Oriental region.  With a fortunate position at the junction of three biogeographic zones - Indo-Malayan, Palaearctic, and Afro-Tropical, India's astonishing avian richness can be attributed to the diversity in climatic zones, topography, and habitats, from the Great Himalaya, through the steamy montane forests of the northeast and broadleaved woodland of the terai, through deserts, mangroves and scrub forests to the tropical rainforests of the south.  India can be broadly divided into the Himalaya, the Indo-Gangetic Plains, and the southern Peninsula; latitude throughout the country is mainly tropical yet the influence of altitudinal variation means that almost all climatic conditions exist within India's boundaries, and the resultant montage of habitats is home to a rich faunal assemblage. 


New species continue to be discovered, especially from the ornithologically little-known northeast - such as the Bugun Liocichla found in Arunachal Pradesh in 2006, while others, including the enigmatic Jerdon's Courser, have been rediscovered, and others are being elevated from subspecies to full species status with ongoing taxonomic study.  India is home to 42 endemics, concentrated in twelve Endemic Bird Areas.  These include the Andaman Islands, Assam Plains, Eastern Himalayam Western Himalaya, and the Western Ghats, and the global biodiversity hotspots of which these EBA's are a part form the focus of our tours. 


Birding in the Indian region is exhilarating, particularly in forests whose characteristic mixed-species feeding flocks, co-operative groups that congregate on Ficus and other fruiting plants, present birders with an exciting challenge.  Habitat type changes rapidly enough that a day spent in such forests can be followed the next in a desert environment or coastal wetland that presents an entirely new combination of species.  During the winter months wetlands and forests are alive with birds as resident species are augmented by Palaearctic migrants.  Ascending into India’s higher hills the inherent variation in weather conditions makes for exciting birding as species move up or down the altitudinal range to escape inclement conditions.  Many of our tours combine a variety of habitats, that while focusing on regional endemics, rarities and other sought-after specialities, create the chance of an exceptional trip list.


Mammals & more...


The geographical position and variation in habitat responsible for diversity in birdlife is also responsible for an amazingly wide variety of other fauna.  India is one of the world’s 17 mega-diverse countries that together are home to 60-70% of the world’s mammal diversity.  India itself accounts for 8% of the world’s mammals, among which are some of the most recognisable species on earth. 


Seeing mammals in Asia can be more challenging that in the plains of Africa, but with 60% of the world’s Tigers, the entire remaining population of Asiatic Lion, 80% of the world’s Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, 50% of all Asian Elephants and 15 species of primate, the prospect is alluring and the challenge only adds to the excitement.  All this in some of Asia’s most thrilling wildlife destinations against a backdrop of the Great Himalaya, steamy montane rainforest and Rhododendron, and the land that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s epic ‘Jungle Book’ and its tales of Shere Khan. 


India is home to 6% of the world’s reptiles and amphibians, almost 50% of which almost half are endemic.  Also found here are 1800 species of butterfly, 15-20% of which are found solely in the Indian region, concentrated in hotspots of biodiversity.  The co-operation of species within the Indian jungles, and close co-existence of predator and prey make wildlife watching in India fascinating.  In places the sheer abundance of mega fauna is astounding, in others the need to scour the forest for rarities adds to the anticipation.  Our combination bird and wildlife tours place equal emphasis on birding and other aspects of India's diverse fauna, devoting time to butterflies, mammals, and repltiles as well as birds, combining the well known with the less explored to produce an all round appreciation of India's natural history.