Irrawaddy plains

Country/Territory Myanmar
Area 160,000 km2
Altitude 0 - 1000 m
Priority high
Habitat loss major
Knowledge incomplete

General characteristics

The plains of the Irrawaddy and upper Sittang rivers in central Myanmar have a dry and seasonal climate, as they lie in the rain-shadow of mountain ranges which run from north to south through the western part of the country. The natural habitats of this region are known as 'indaing': tropical dry deciduous monsoon forest dominated by species of Dipterocarpus; there is also a small area of tropical thorn forest in the driest central part (Champion and Seth 1968, Collins et al. 1991). The restricted-range birds of the EBA are confined to this dry zone, at altitudes below 1,000 m, and this contour, together with the records of these birds, have been used to define an approximate boundary for the EBA.

Restricted-range species

The EBA's two restricted-range bird species are found in dry forest and scrub. Turdoides gularis has adapted to man-modified habitats, and is common and widespread within the EBA (Smythies 1986). Crypsirina cucullata was also common in the past, but it appears to require more extensive areas of forest or scrub and there had been few records in recent years until it was found in 1995 to be locally common (K. D. Bishop in litt. 1993, C. R. Robson verbally 1995). Two other taxa which are confined to this EBA, Mirafra (assamica) microptera and Pericrocotus (erythropygius) albifrons, may warrant full species status (Alström in prep., P. Alström in litt. 1996).

Species IUCN Red List category
Hooded Treepie (Crypsirina cucullata) NT
White-throated Babbler (Argya gularis) LC

Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs)
Country IBA Name IBA Book Code
Myanmar Alaungdaw Kathapa MM017
Myanmar Chatthin MM018
Myanmar Gyobin MM044
Myanmar Shinmataung MM040
Myanmar Shwesettaw MM042

Threat and conservation

The Irrawaddy plains are now almost entirely cleared for agriculture (Collins et al. 1991). Crypsirina cucullata is classified as threatened because it appeared that it had been seriously affected by this loss of natural habitat, although more recent information suggests that its position is unlikely to be serious (C. R. Robson verbally 1995). More widespread threatened species which occur in this EBA (or formerly occurred here) include Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis (classified as Vulnerable), White-bellied Heron Ardea insignis (Endangered), Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus (Vulnerable), Greater Adjutant L. dubius (Endangered), Pallas's Sea-eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus (Vulnerable) and Jerdon’s Babbler Chrysomma altirostre (Vulnerable); these are all wetland birds, with different habitat requirements from the restricted-range species.

There are several gazetted and proposed protected areas in central Myanmar, such as Shwesettaw, Minwun Taung and Maymyo Game Sanctuaries (Collins et al. 1991, MacKinnon in press), but it is not known whether they contain areas of habitat representative of the EBA. There is therefore a need for ornithological surveys and possibly a review of the boundaries of these protected areas.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Irrawaddy plains. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/eba/factsheet/136 on 02/10/2023.