Although Nepal covers only a fraction of 1 per cent of the earth’s land mass, it contains over 800 species of birds, about a tenth of the world’s known birds, and of these more than half are found within the national park. The reasons for Nepal’s great wealth of birds are mainly topographical. First, the country has a huge variation in altitude within a short lateral distance, so that conditions range from tropical to arctic in a distance of less than 100 miles; and second, Nepal lies in the region of the overlap between the Palaearctic realm to the north and the Oriental to the south.
Chitwan, with its dense forests, grasslands, rivers, swamps and lakes, provides a multitude of habitats for birds. Each provides a different type of food and shelter. Even within the same habitat, different birds feed selectively, minimizing competition for food. The Park is a paradise for birds and birdwatchers alike.
Many birds are regarded as residents because they live in the Park all year round; others visit only in summer, often to breed. Another group are the winter visitors which descend from mountainous regions to spend the cold months in a more hospitable climate. Migratory birds also use the Park during spring and autumn when resting on their journeys to northern breeding grounds or southern wintering areas.
Possibly the most spectacular of all Chitwan’s birds is the common peacock. His brilliant plumage and magnificent tail, particularly when it is erected into a great circular fan during courtship displays, are an impressive sight. In spite of his long, trailing tail, the peacock often flies into tall trees, announcing his presence with a loud, trumpeting call. Groups of the comparatively drab, gray-brown females are often disturbed in grassy areas near forest edges as they search for insects, small snakes and geckos, fruits or green shoots.
Its seems remarkable that well over half of the birds listed for Nepal should be found here, the reason is that the park’s heterogeneous environment provides a multitude of ecological niches for birds to exploit. For instance, the river systems and associated bodies of water contain a wide assortment of aquatic fauna and flora, while the forest and grasslands provide flowers, nectar, fruits and seeds, as well as the ubiquitous insects.
Chitwan supports a poor population of fishing raptors. All the same, ospreys, cormorants, darters, fishing eagles, mergansers, fish owls and white-tailed sea eagles hunt medium-to-large fish, and gulls, terns and kingfishers take smaller ones. Besides fish, the rivers, marshes and lakes support a wide array of crustaceans, mollusks, frogs, tadpoles, worms, aquatic insects and so on, which are preyed upon by herons and storks (both also take fish), bitterns, waders and crakes. Moorhens, cranes, ducks and geese feed on the same things, but are also vegetarians to a greater or lesser extent, eating roots, tubers and seeds of aquatic plants. The greylag and barheaded geese, teals, pintails, spotbills and garganey are largely plant-feeders and partial to cultivated fields, as are the common and demoiselle cranes. On the other hand, the hand goldeneye and the tufted duck are believed to be more depended on animal food.
Birds of prey (including owls) hunt small mammals, birds, eggs and nestling, besides reptiles and insects. Vultures maintain sanitation in nature by scavenging. Green pigeons are fruit-eaters, and their smaller relatives, the doves, are grain and seed-eaters. Parakeets, which are a bit of both, do much damage to crops and orchards. Sparrows, munias, buntings and weavers feed on grass seeds, and sunbirds live on the nectar of flowers.
Hornbills, barbets, orioles, mynas and bulbuls subsist mainly on fruit, but supplement their diet with insects. The reverse may be true for many of the remaining birds. Insects are hawked in the air by bee-eaters, swifts, swallows, martins and drongos; woodpeckers and nuthatches search for them on tree trunks, and wall creepers on vertical cliffs.
Pittas scan through leaf litter, forktails hunt forest streams, and wagtails prey upon insects along the stream and river beds. Bush chats, babblers, shrikes and prinias control insects in the grasslands, together with the rare rubythroat and the bluethroat, prefer to stay on the ground. Others such as minivets and allies, flycatchers, leaf warblers and cuckoos hunt insects in the forest canopies.
Elephant Safari in Chitwan National Park
Seated high on the back of a trained elephant exploring the grasslands and core area of the park, you become an intergral part of the life of the Chitwan National Park. The elephant safari, though not the most comfortable rides, is an amazing experience. And it doesn't take long to spot at least a rhino in these forests.
Elephant Breeding Centre
Of all the animals, elephants are probably the most graceful. Our naturalists will take you to the Hattisar to domonstrate how elephants' meals are prepared and how they eat in the Elephant Breeding Centre. They will explain the nature and habits of elephants. The unique Centre was established in 1985 for the captive breeeding of domestricated elephants trapping for domestication.