Pani-Dihing Bird Sanctuary

Site description (2004 baseline):

Site location and context
This site includes Pani-Dihing Bird Sanctuary (3,393 ha) and its environs (600 ha), including Phokolai and Dorou beels. Situated 17 km north of Sibsagar town, the district headquarters, this large wetland complex lies on the south bank of River Brahmaputra, near its confluence with the tributary Disang. The terrain is flat, being on the floodplains. During monsoon, most of the area is inundated. The main beels (wetlands) of the area are Phokolai, Dorou (both outside the Sanctuary), Sagunpora, Ghoka, Tokia and Jarjaria. The main channels that feed the area are Dimou, Boloma, Balijan and Singorajan. Pani-Dihing and adjacent areas are known for migratory waterfowl, while there are also important resident species. It used to be a hunters paradise, and people from Sibsagar town used to go for shooting ducks and geese. Now sport hunting has been stopped, but poisoning of waterfowl still goes on. The strip of swampy reed jungle of the northern border comprises chiefly Arundo donax and plants of the genus Alpinia, Vetiveria zizanioides and Saccharum spontaneum are also common, whereas Phragmites karka is becoming rarer, possibly because of collection by the villagers. Thorny vines wind around these tall grasses and during the summer rainfall, it becomes impenetrable with thick clumps of Eichornia crassipes.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: More than 160 species of birds have been recorded in the area so far (Choudhury 1988, 1991, 1993; Barooah 1990, 1994). There are historic records of the Black-breasted Parrotbill Paradoxornis flavirostris from the area (J. R. Cripps in Hume 1888). Pani-Dihing is now famous for its vast flocks of Bar-headed geese Anser indicus and Greylag geese A. anser, and thousands of other waterfowl. It easily qualifies for A4iii criteria (= 20,000 water birds) in addition to A1 criteria (significant number of threatened species). In the reed thickets on the northern border, 400-500 pairs of Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, Pond Heron Ardeola grayii, Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus, Little Egret Egretta garzetta, Purple Heron Ardea purpurea, Grey Heron A. cinerea, Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger and Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus breed. Arundo donax and Phragmites karka are mostly preferred for nesting (Barooah 1994).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Since the mid 1990s, Asian Elephants Elephas maximus have started appearing here for a short time during migration. There are recent records of even a One-horned Rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis and Tiger Panthera tigris. Common Otters Lutra lutra and Hog deer Axis porcinus are regularly seen. Gangetic dolphin Plantanista gangetica is seen during monsoon in the Sanctuary, and throughout the year at the confluence of the Disang and Brahmaputra rivers. Among reptiles, the Brown Roof Turtle Kachuga smithii, Indian Tent Turtle K. tentoria, and Gangetic Softshell Aspideretes gangeticus have been identified, but there could be many more species.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Aquaculture / Fishing; Encroachment for agriculture; Grazing; Poisoning of birds; Disturbance to birds by humans; Burning of grass.

In the past, Panidihing attracted hunters from near and far. A bag of 50 birds in a day was quite common. Fortunately, these mass killings have been checked, but some poaching still goes on. A few years ago a large scale poison baiting with Furadon was done in Pani-Dihing, which has drastically reduced the raptor population. Measures should be taken to enhance their population and to regenerate the diversity of bird species in the Sanctuary. Fishing, grazing, encroachment and inadequate protection measures are other major conservation issues. The Phokolai and Dorou beels, which are outside the Sanctuary, should be declared as ‘community reserves’ because of their rich assemblage of waterfowl. Phokolai is also the largest single beel in Sibsagar district.

Key contributors: Diptimanta Barooah, Anwaruddin Choudhury and Kulojyoti Lahkar.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Pani-Dihing Bird Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 02/10/2023.