Lying below the Himalayas on the route of migratory birds, and being so varied in terrain, vegetation, insect life and aquatic prey, Corbett Park has always been exceptionally rich in its avifauna, with some 500 species residing or sojourning in it. In recent years, with the formation of a large freshwater lake beneath the dam, there has been a notable and sudden influx of water birds and waterside birds, and nearly 600 species are listed in the survey conducted by the Zoological Survey of India team.
The Rare Aves
Both migrants coming in mainly as winter visitors and resident species are among the water birds of the reserve, and in both these broad classes some are common and some quite rare, and only time can determine whether or not the species now known as "Rara Aves" at the lake and watersides will become much less uncommon, or even common, in a few years. For example, only a very few White or Rosy Pelicans have so far been seen here, but since elsewhere they arrive in numbers during the cold weather, they may well become regular winter visitors here also.
The Migratory Lot
Among the migrants that may be seen at the lake or along the streams should be mentioned the Great Crested Grebe, a few White-Fronted and Greylag Geese, and Bar-headed Geese in numbers, 15 or more kinds of Ducks, an occasional white stork and more commonly the black stork, a variety of plovers, sandpipers, snipe and similar birds, the Brown-headed Gull and more commonly the Great Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and a number of wagtails.
Common Residential Attractions
The following are common water birds that are not migratory but resident: all 3 kinds of cormorants such as large and little Cormorant and the Indian Shag, the Darter, the Grey Heron, the Pond Heron, all 3 kinds of Egrets - the large, the medium and the little Egret, the Cattle Egret, the white-necked and black-necked storks, the Spotbill, the large Pied Wagtail and occasionally a white-capped Redstart or River Chat - the Spur-winged Lapwing is quite a feature of the reaches of the Ramganga.
Migratory birds of prey come into India during the cold weather and some, such as the Osprey, may stay on right into April. Some of them come in the wake of the migratory Waterfowl, the Peregrine Falcon, for instance, which is also called the "Duck Hawk" in North America. Of course there are also quite a few resident waterside birds of prey, and other raptorial birds. These are the main hunters of the Chuars and woodland clearings; the black-winged Kite, the Indian Shikra (both resident), the Booted Hawk Eagle and the Steppe Eagle as uncommon winter visitors and along the wooded watersides the Crested Serpent Eagle, which is common, Pallas's (Ringtailed) Fishing Eagle and the Himalayan Grey-headed Fishing Eagle, and occasionally the lesser and greater Spotted Eagles (all more or less resident), and near the lake the Osprey as a winter visitor. Hawk eagles are to be found though not commonly, in the forests, as also the Crested Honey Buzzard and the Black Eagle. Harriers and Buzzards are birds of the open scrub. The vultures of the reserve include the impressively big Indian and Himalayan Griffon Vultures (the latter a rare winter visitor), the Himalayan long-billed Vulture, which nests in tall trees, such as the red silk cotton and the Indian white-backed vulture (these two are the common vultures of the reserve) the usually solitary Black Vulture and occasionally a Lesser White Scavenger Vulture.
The night hunters are the owls, the Nightjars and the
Thick-Knees. No less than 18 kinds of owls are listed as occurring in the
reserve, but except for the Spotted Owlet, none of them seems common; in
riverside forests, Fish Owls may be seen, active even by day when it is
not too sunny, and at night the yelping, regularly spaced calls of Scops
Owls maybe heard.
Summer is the time of the Nightjars, and they are best told apart by their individualistic, reiterated calls, heard at nightfall and right through moonlit nights- the monotonous runs of 'chucks' of the jungle Nightjar and the unmistakable whiplash 'Sweesh' of Frankline's Nightjar, the last call is not regularly repeated and most often heard in the hour before dawn.
The Stone Curlew Haunts the riverside pebbly scrub, and so does its much larger cousin, the Great Stone Plover, the representatives of the thick knees here, birds with enormous eyes and dagger bills that lie low all day and come out by dim light and darkness to hunt insects, crustaceans, and other small fry.
The varied tree forests, mixed Deciduous, stands of lofty
Sal and stands of young Sheesham along the river, and the rich shrub
growth on the forest floor provide a congenial setting for many woodland
birds, Such As Green Pigeons, Parakeets, Cuckoos, Hornbills, Barbets And
Woodpeckers, Orioles, Drongos, Pies, Babblers and Thrushes. Summer is the
best season to look for these.
The Rose-ringed and Blossom-headed parakeets in regular flocks and the Alexandrine or Large Indian Parakeet in smaller parties are fairly common - there are less common Parakeets. There are a number of Cuckoos, but the common species are the seasonal common Hawk Cuckoo or the 'Papiha' whose frenzied, reiterated calls are heard in summer.
The less insistent, far pleasanter, cadenced 'broken-pekoe' of the Indian Cuckoo (Cuculus Micropterus) also enlivens the forests then; both birds are highly arboreal and an inconspicuous grey brown, so that they are seldom seen though so often heard. The Coucal or Crow Pheasant is common on the outskirts of the tree forests; it is a Nonparasitic Cuckoo.
Two very large arboreal birds Pied Black and White, the Indian and the Great Pied Hornbills, may be seen in the mixed forests; the latter is the larger and distinguished from the former, even in a fleeting overhead view, by its white neck and the black sub terminal band across its white tail; the Indian Pied Hornbill has the neck black and the lateral feathers of its tail black. The much smaller Indian Grey Hornbill also occurs here.
Only the Coppersmith or crimson-breasted Barbet and the much larger Green Barbet are common here; both are much given to their monotonous calls reiterated in long runs, the Coppersmith's 'tonk, tonk, tonk' and the Green Barbet's 'kotrrr, kotrrr'. No less than 17 species of woodpeckers have been are present in the park, those commonly seen are the Little Scaly-bellied Green Woodpecker, the Black-naped Green Woodpecker and the beautiful Golden-backed Woodpecker.
The Golden and black-headed Orioles, and a number of Drongos are typical woodland birds- the king crow or Black Drongo is oftener seen in the open clearings. Tree Pies, Minivets, Woodshrikes, Babblers and a variety of Thrushes are among the other familiar woodland birds. The Magpie Robin, the Himalayan Whistling Thrush and the Black-throated Thrush should be specially mentioned here. Conspicuous among the Flycatchers is the Paradise Flycatcher.
Among the ground birds are the peafowl (quite common, but very shy of men, unusually so, in the reserve), the red Junglefowl (The ancestor of all domestic strains of poultry) and the White-Crested Kalij Pheasant, which is common in the Undershrub of Sal forests.
A great many birds, typical of open country, can be seen in
the grassy clearings and Chuars. The resonant, challenging call of the
black partridge, which is specially common, marks the commencement and the
end of each day. Doves, Bee-eaters, Rollers, the Hoopoe, shrikes, larks,
mynas bulbuls, warblers, and finches belong here.
The Ring Dove and the Spotted Dove are to be seen in numbers, perched on bushes or feeding on the ground; the little brown dove and the Red Turtle Dove are also there, but are much less common. The beautiful Little Emerald Dove is a bird of woodland clearings, but often seen on the banks of streams.
Besides the familiar Small Green Bee-Eater, The Chestnut-headed and Blue-tailed Bee Eaters are features of the open terrain, as also the Roller and occasionally, the Hoopoe.
One would expect Larks in grasslands and there are a few here, but the only one that is common is the Indian Crested Lark. The common Shrike of these open scrubs is the Rufous-backed Shrike.
The Greyheaded and common mynas dominate all others of their clan, assembling in hundreds, even in thousands, in the evenings to roost-such assemblies may be seen in summer outside the Mota Sal forest.
Nine species of bulbuls are also found over here, but the two that are frequently seen are the White-Cheeked and the Red-vented Bulbuls, in bush covered open country; the latter is especially common, as in most parts of India.
Except for the well-known Tailor Bird, and perhaps also the Ashy Wren Warbler, the vast clan of the Warblers is hard to tell apart in bush and grass. Some 40 species inhabit the park, quite a few of them migratory.
Robins, Chats and Redstarts are notable features of these tracts. The Bush Chat is especially common, a fluffy little bird poised on top of a grass culm or a thin twig with a patch of white above the tail and a neat white line across its wings displayed in flight, that flits effortlessly about from one perch to another, the male black and the female earth brown.
The Finches and Bayas (Weaver-Birds), and the house sparrow, are naturally very much there in the scrub and grasslands. Four kinds of Weaver Birds including Bayas, the Red Munia or Amadavat and the Spotted Munia, and an unmistakable Brownish Finch with a perky crest which is the crested bunting, merit special mention.
Though Swifts are more aerial than Swallows and Martins, and
quite unrelated to them, since both these classes spend so much of their
time on the wing, they may be mentioned together. The Indian Alpine Swift
and the Himalayan White-rumped swift are features of the summer skies;
they are among the larger swifts and fly at a dizzying speed. The
white-rumped Spinetail and the house swift are also resident here and
fairly common. The deciduous forests are notable for the crested swift.
The Dusky Crag Martin and Striated or Redrumped Swallows are familiar sights of the reserve, perched in hundreds on the electric lines. The Indian Cliff Swallow and the Wire-Tailed Swallow are summer visitors.