Sarah Valley, Lower Dharamshala

Country/territory: India

IBA criteria met: A1, A3 (2004)
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Area: 5,045 ha

Bombay Natural History Society
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2003 not assessed low not assessed
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Site description (2004 baseline)
The valley from north to west of Sarah, below Dharamshala town, is a rare example of a valley at the foot of the Dhauladhar Range that is still largely covered with good forest, despite the fact that human population pressure is high in this zone, which has large well watered areas ideal for agriculture. There are only a few valleys that connect the dry deciduous forests of the Siwalik Hills to the temperate forests on the higher Dhauladhar Range. The forest in the valley around Sarah is more lush than most of the forests found in the Shiwaliks. It is a fine example of broad-leaf forest in a zone where most forests have given way to intensive, irrigated agriculture or to plantation of pine trees. Sub-tropical mixed forest with good undergrowth and deciduous and broad-leafed species interspersed with Chir Pine trees cover this area. The higher reaches of the valley are partly covered by tea gardens.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Except for two species of vultures (Slender-billed Gyps tenuirostris and Oriental White-backed Gyps bengalensis) that have recently been listed in the Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001), and which are in any case widespread, there are no globally threatened species or restricted range species found in Sarah Valley. However, the forest in this Valley sustains healthy populations of birds that have disappeared from many other valleys at the foot of the Dhauladhar (J. W. den Besten, pers. comm. 2003). Many species here are typical of the Siwaliks, and even more than the Siwalik forests, they include high densities of wintering species from Biome-5 and Biome-7. Breeding species of Biome-8 and Biome-11 are also found here. This is one of the few sites that was selected more or less purely on the basis of biome restricted assemblages (A3 criteria). Perhaps, there are more such sites in Himachal Pradesh but data are lacking. Sarah Valley lies in Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest (Biome-8). BirdLife International (undated) has listed 95 species, put of which 14 species have been seen here, but more are likely to be found. As biome-7 (Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest) overlaps with Biome-8 and many species show altitudinal movement, 33 of Biome-7 are seen in Sarah Valley. During winter, four species of Biome-5 (Eurasian High Montane – Alpine and Tibetan) are seen here (Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis, Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria, Olivaceous Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus griseolus and Rosy Pipit Anthus roseatus). Except for the Himlayan Griffon which is largely confined to the Himalayas (with altitudinal movement), the three remaining species winter in the foothills and north Indian plains, so their presence in Sarah Valley is not surprising. However, what is most interesting about this IBA is the presence of at least 15 species of Biome-11 (Indo-Malayan Tropical Dry Zone). This is due to the fact that this relatively wet Valley is connected with the dry deciduous forest of the Siwaliks and many birds of Siwalik and plains move in during summer for breeding in this Valley. Thus, we have a site where we can see resident birds from the high Himalayas and also from the dry Indian plains, mixing with birds of the middle and lower Himalayas. Many species are temporarily and spatially separated but all are found in this IBA at one time of the year or another.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Not much is know about the mammalian and reptilian fauna of this site. Leopard Panthera pardus is common, as in most of the mid- to low-level forests of Himachal Pradesh. Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, is its natural prey, but cattle it commonly killed, much to the resentment of villagers. Toddy Cat Paradoxurus hermaphroditus, Himalayan Yellow-throated Marten Martes flavigula, and Porcupine Hystrix indica are the smaller predators.

Monitor Lizard Varanus bengalensis is said to occur in this IBA.

Key contributor: Jan Willem den Besten.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Sarah Valley, Lower Dharamshala. Downloaded from on 28/09/2023.