Western Himalayas

Country/Territory Afghanistan,India,Nepal,Pakistan
Area 130,000 km2
Altitude 1500 - 3600m
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 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 Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
Inderkilla National Park India
Khirganga National Park India
Lambri Forest (Banjar Forest Division) India
AF007 Pech and Waygal valleys Afghanistan
AF012 Safed Koh Afghanistan
IN002 Dachigam National Park India
IN003 Dehra Gali (DKG) forest India
IN004 Gulmarg Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN010 Kistwar National Park India
IN011 Lachipora Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN012 Limbar Valley Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN014 Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN022 Bandli Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN023 Chail Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN025 Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN026 Dhauludhar Wildlife Sanctuary and McLeod Gunj India
IN027 Gamgul Siahbehi Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN029 Great Himalayan National Park India
IN030 Kais Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN031 Kalatop Khajjiar Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN032 Kanawar Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN034 Kugti Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN036 Majathal Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN037 Manali Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN041 Rupi Bhaba Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN042 Sangla (Raksham Chitkul) Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN044 Sechu Tuan Nala Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN045 Shikari Devi Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN046 Shimla Water Catchment Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN047 Talra Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN048 Tirthan Wildlife Sanctuary India
IN049 Harike Lake Bird Sanctuary India
IN099 Askot Wildlife Sanctuary and Goriganga Basin India
IN100 Binog Sanctuary - Bhadraj - Jharipani India
IN103 Govind National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, Sandra, Kotinad and Singtur ranges (Tons forest division) India
IN104 Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary and surrounding Reserve Forests India
IN105 Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve India
IN109 Upper Pindar Catchment in East Almora Forest Division India
IN111 Gangotri National Park India
NP001 Annapurna Conservation Area Nepal
NP007 Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve Nepal
NP011 Khaptad National Park Nepal
NP021 Rara National Park Nepal
NP023 Shey-Phoksundo National Park Nepal
PK004 Naltar Wildlife Sanctuary Pakistan
PK005 Kargah Wildlife Sanctuary Pakistan
PK007 Duber valley Pakistan
PK008 Kayal valley Pakistan
PK009 Palas valley Pakistan
PK010 Naran Reserved Forest to Saif-ul-Maluk lake Pakistan
PK011 Sharan Reserve Forest Pakistan
PK012 Qadir Gali area Pakistan
PK013 Ayubia National Park and Kao valley, Dunga Gali Pakistan
PK017 Machiara National Park Pakistan
PK018 Salkala Wildlife Sanctuary Pakistan
PK030 Torghar Nature Sanctuary and the Shingar range Pakistan
PK031 Juniper Wildlife Sanctuary Zialat Pakistan

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 (2022) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Western Himalayas. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/10/2022.