Dhauludhar Wildlife Sanctuary and McLeod Gunj

Country/territory: India

IBA criteria met: A1, A2 (2004)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 94,398 ha

Bombay Natural History Society
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2003 not assessed high not assessed
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (2004 baseline)
The Dhauladhar Wildlife Sanctuary is an area of high altitude forests, not yet exactly defined, but to be demarcated between Nurpur and Jogindernagar, in Himachal Pradesh. The Sanctuary and the surrounding Reserved Forests have been identified as an IBA. The forested region at the foot of the Dhauladhar between 700 and 1,400 m, around Sarah below Dharamshala should also be included in this IBA as many species from the higher zones winter in these forests. Thus a contiguous area from the base to the higher altitudes in Dhauladhar Range could be considered as an IBA. Oak and Rhododendron forests are interspersed with grassy slopes and meadows in this IBA. Above the tree line alpine meadows and rocky mountains dominate, covered in snow for much of the year. In the reserved forests on the lower reaches of Dhauladhar, Deodar Cedrus deodara is dominant, while below 1,600 m large areas have been planted with Pine trees. Other parts of this zone have good examples of Oak forest.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: The Dhauladhar range, at elevation between 1,600 and 4,400 m, is rich in mountain birds of Biome-5, Biome-7 and Biome-8. The Himalayan or Impeyan Monal Lophophorus impejanus, Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha, Kaleej Pheasant Lophura leucomelana and Hill Partridge Arborophila torqueola are common breeders in considerable parts of the area, while Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii, Chukar Partridge Alectoris chukar, Snow Partridge Lerwa lerwa and Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis occur in smaller numbers in more restricted habitats. (J. W. den Besten pers. comm. 2003). Hunters in the area claim that the Western Tragopan Tragopan melanocephalus still occurs, on undisturbed slopes further from McLeod Gunj (pers. comm. to J. W. den Besten by Prem Sagar and Arvind Dharma 2003). Raptors are remarkably common in the area, with 36 species recorded. Among the breeding species are the Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus, Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela, Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus, Whiteeyed Buzzard Butatur teesa, and Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo. Possible breeders include the Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, Mountain Hawk-eagle Spizaetus nipalensis and Eurasian Sparrow-hawk Accipiter nisus. Globally threatened (BirdLife International 2001) species such as Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca, Greater Spotted Eagle A. clanga and Lesser (Indian) Spotted Eagle A. pomarina have been observed in the area, while Oriental White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis is still fairly common in the lower areas and with small numbers of Red-headed Vultures or King Vulture Sarcogyps calvus and wintering Cinereous Vultures Aegypius monachus. The Restricted Range species include Tytler’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tytleri, Solitary Snipe Gallinago solitaria and Spectacled Finch Callacanthis burtoni (J. W. den Besten per. comm. 2003). This is one of the very few sites where the globally threatened Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola has been reported. There is a specimen in the British Museum (Natural History) of this bird collected in October 1869 (BirdLife International 2001). The Wood Snipe had always been an uncommon bird. Now, it has a small declining population, as a result of habitat loss and hunting. IBA sites such as Dhauladhar can play an important role in the conservation of this species. This large IBA lies in the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA), (Stattersfield et al. 1998) and has four out of 11 Restricted Range species. BirdLife International (undated) has classified biomes based on forest types and bird assemblages (A3 criteria). This site lies in Biome-7 (Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest). 112 birds are listed in this biome, whose distributions are largely or wholly confined to this biome. With its extensive and largely intact forest cover, Dhauladhar WLS and reserve forests is perhaps one of the best examples of Biome-7. Based on extensive survey, J. W. den Besten (pers. comm. 2003) has listed 51 species of Biome-7 from this site. He found 15 out of 48 species of Biome-5 (Eurasian High Montane-Alpine and Tibetan), mainly in winter when the birds came down. As Biome-7 and Biome-8 (Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest) intergrade and many species show altitudinal movement, 10 species of Biome-8 are also found in this site.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The following mammals have recently been reported in and around the Wildlife Sanctuary: Leopard Panthera pardus, Goral Nemorhaedus goral, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, Toddy Cat Paradoxurus hermaphroditus, Himalayan Yellow-throated Marten Martes flavigula, Himalayan Weasel Mustela sibirica, Himalayan Mouse-Hare Ochotona roylei, Black-naped Hare Lepus nigricollis, Indian Porcupine Hystrix indica, Red Flying squirrel Petaurista petaurista, Common Langur Semnopithecus entellus, Red Fox Vulpes vulpes, Jackal Canis aureus, Asiatic Black Bear Ursus thibetanus (J. W. den Besten per. comm. 2003). Also reported in Forest Department circulars are the Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis, Jungle Cat Felis chaus, Brown Bear Ursus arctos, Himalayan Tahr Hemitragus jemlahicus, Ibex Capra sibirica, Serow Nemorhaedus sumatraensis, Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur and Snow Leopard Uncia uncia.

Key contributor: Jan Willem den Besten.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Dhauludhar Wildlife Sanctuary and McLeod Gunj. Downloaded from on 21/09/2023.