Western Himalayas

Country/Territory Afghanistan; India; Nepal; Pakistan
Area 130,000 km2
Altitude 1500 - 3600 m
Priority critical
Habitat loss moderate
Knowledge good

General characteristics

The Western Himalayas EBA extends along the mountain chain from western Nepal (west of the Kali Gandaki valley) through Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir in north-west India and northern Pakistan, and then south-west along the mountains in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The restricted-range birds breed in west Himalayan temperate forest (see Champion and Seth 1968 for definition), including coniferous, broadleaf and mixed broadleaf–coniferous, and some of them range into adjacent montane grassland and subalpine forest. There is a small geographical overlap in Nepal between this EBA and the Central Himalayas (EBA 129).

Restricted-range species

The EBA's restricted-range birds include two endemic genera, Ophrysia and Callacanthis. The breeding-habitat requirements and distributions of most species are relatively well known (Paludan 1959, Ali and Ripley 1987, Roberts 1991, 1992): six of them-Tragopan melanocephalus, Phylloscopus tytleri, Ficedula subrubra, Aegithalos niveogularis, Callacanthis burtoni and Pyrrhula aurantiaca-are found in temperate zone forest between eastern Afghanistan and western Nepal, although A. niveogularis is the only one known definitely to breed in Nepal (Inskipp and Inskipp 1991). F. subrubra has a particularly restricted distribution in Kashmir and the Pir Panjal range.

Phylloscopus subviridis and Aegithalos leucogenys appear particularly associated with relatively dry temperate forests in the western part of the EBA, in northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. Aegithalos leucogenys and Sitta cashmirensis are the only species which range into the mountains of northern Baluchistan, where they occur in juniper Juniperus forest. Two species are associated with open habitats adjacent to forest: Catreus wallichi, which ranges from northern Pakistan to western Nepal, and Ophrysia superciliosa, which is only known from northern Uttar Pradesh in north-west India where it was last recorded about 1889.

Species IUCN Red List category
Himalayan Quail (Ophrysia superciliosa) CR
Western Tragopan (Tragopan melanocephalus) VU
Cheer Pheasant (Catreus wallichii) VU
Brooks's Leaf-warbler (Phylloscopus subviridis) LC
Tytler's Leaf-warbler (Phylloscopus tytleri) LC
White-cheeked Tit (Aegithalos leucogenys) LC
White-throated Tit (Aegithalos niveogularis) LC
Kashmir Nuthatch (Sitta cashmirensis) LC
Kashmir Flycatcher (Ficedula subrubra) VU
Orange Bullfinch (Pyrrhula aurantiaca) LC
Spectacled Finch (Callacanthis burtoni) LC

Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs)
Country IBA Name IBA Book Code
Afghanistan Pech and Waygal valleys AF007
Afghanistan Safed Koh AF012
India Askot Wildlife Sanctuary and Goriganga Basin IN099
India Bandli Wildlife Sanctuary IN022
India Binog Sanctuary - Bhadraj - Jharipani IN100
India Chail Wildlife Sanctuary IN023
India Dachigam National Park IN002
India Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary IN025
India Dehra Gali (DKG) forest IN003
India Dhauludhar Wildlife Sanctuary and McLeod Gunj IN026
India Gamgul Siahbehi Wildlife Sanctuary IN027
India Gangotri National Park IN111
India Govind National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, Sandra, Kotinad and Singtur ranges (Tons forest division) IN103
India Great Himalayan National Park IN029
India Gulmarg Wildlife Sanctuary IN004
India Inderkilla National Park
India Kais Wildlife Sanctuary IN030
India Kalatop Khajjiar Wildlife Sanctuary IN031
India Kanawar Wildlife Sanctuary IN032
India Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary and surrounding Reserve Forests IN104
India Khirganga National Park
India Kistwar National Park IN010
India Kugti Wildlife Sanctuary IN034
India Lachipora Wildlife Sanctuary IN011
India Lambri Forest (Banjar Forest Division)
India Limbar Valley Wildlife Sanctuary IN012
India Majathal Wildlife Sanctuary IN036
India Manali Wildlife Sanctuary IN037
India Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve IN105
India Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary IN014
India Rupi Bhaba Wildlife Sanctuary IN041
India Sangla (Raksham Chitkul) Wildlife Sanctuary IN042
India Sechu Tuan Nala Wildlife Sanctuary IN044
India Shikari Devi Wildlife Sanctuary IN045
India Shimla Water Catchment Wildlife Sanctuary IN046
India Talra Wildlife Sanctuary IN047
India Tirthan Wildlife Sanctuary IN048
India Upper Pindar Catchment in East Almora Forest Division IN109
Nepal Annapurna Conservation Area NP001
Nepal Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve NP007
Nepal Khaptad National Park NP011
Nepal Rara National Park NP021
Nepal Shey-Phoksundo National Park NP023
Pakistan Ayubia National Park and Kao valley, Dunga Gali PK013
Pakistan Duber valley PK007
Pakistan Juniper Wildlife Sanctuary Zialat PK031
Pakistan Kargah Wildlife Sanctuary PK005
Pakistan Kayal valley PK008
Pakistan Machiara National Park PK017
Pakistan Naltar Wildlife Sanctuary PK004
Pakistan Naran Reserved Forest to Saif-ul-Maluk lake PK010
Pakistan Palas valley PK009
Pakistan Qadir Gali area PK012
Pakistan Salkala Wildlife Sanctuary PK018
Pakistan Sharan Reserve Forest PK011
Pakistan Torghar Nature Sanctuary and the Shingar range PK030

Threat and conservation

The principal threat is loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitat. In the Himalayan region of Afghanistan, most forest has been destroyed for fuelwood and timber, and little now remains (IUCN 1993, Evans 1994). In northern Pakistan, there has been extensive forest loss in the past, and, although reafforestation schemes have increased overall forest cover considerably (IUCN 1993), many Himalayan forests are under constant threat from timber extraction (T. J. Roberts in litt. 1993). In north-west India, forest cover remains extensive and relatively stable in most states, although destruction of the understorey through overgrazing by livestock is a major problem (IUCN 1993), and habitat is being lost at important sites because of development projects such as roads and dams (V. Sharma in litt. 1993). In Nepal, the area of forest in the temperate zone seems to have been stable in recent years, but there has been rapid degradation by uncontrolled cutting for fuelwood and animal fodder, livestock grazing and burning (Inskipp 1989).

Four of the restricted-range species are classified as threatened through their particular vulnerability to habitat loss: Tragopan melanocephalus and Catreus wallichi have specialized habitat requirements and are both historically recorded from isolated pockets of suitable habitat (V. Sharma in litt. 1993), and their populations are now much reduced and fragmented; Ophrysia superciliosa and Ficedula subrubra have particularly restricted distributions in areas where extensive habitat loss has taken place, and O. superciliosa may already be extinct (King 1978-1979); C. wallichi is additionally subject to excessive hunting. Long-billed Bush-warbler Bradypterus major is a more widespread threatened species (classified as Vulnerable) which occurs in this EBA, where it is found at 2,400-3,600 m in low scrub and rank grass and bracken on open slopes, often near forest edge.

There are about 50 protected areas in the Western Himalayas which contain suitable habitats for the restricted-range species (IUCN 1993). These are spread through most parts of the EBA, although there are none in Afghanistan and few in Pakistan, and many of them are relatively small as well as being isolated. They are known to support numbers of all the restricted-range species except Ophrysia superciliosa, but only a few are likely to be large enough to hold viable populations of Tragopan melanocephalus or Catreus wallichi. The largest population now known of Tragopan melanocephalus is in the Palas valley in northern Pakistan, which also supports many other restricted-range bird species, and populations of many rare and endemic plants (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew 1995); the BirdLife Himalayan Jungle Project is working with the local communities there to conserve the remaining areas of pristine forest (Duke 1994). Dachigam National Park and Overa-Aru Sanctuary in Jammu and Kashmir are probably important for the conservation of Ficedula subrubra.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Western Himalayas. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/eba/factsheet/124 on 29/11/2023.