A female black-headed bunting (Emberiza melanocephala) was sighted at 9:07AM in Gelegphu, a kilometre away from the town, on September 17.

A teacher of Gelegphu Lower Secondary School, Karma Wangda, and a senior ranger of Royal Manas National Park, Dorji Wangchuk, identified the bird as a female Baya Weaver initially. However, they soon learnt that the bird was a black-headed bunting taking the record of bird count to 724.

Karma Wangda said that he along with Dorji Wangchuck went out birding as early as 6AM and found the bird feeding on some grass.

The bird is about 16cm long with dark outer tail feathers. The female is a paler version of the male and have a grey-brown back and grayish head. Female has yellow under-tail.

Its natural food consists of insects and seeds. The black-headed bunting is usually found in flocks as they look around for seeds on grasslands.

They are found in open scrub from semi-desert to subalpine meadows. These birds breed in summer, building a nest in a low bush and sometimes on the ground, including agricultural land. During winter these birds move to Asia. Large flocks are found in agricultural fields and grasslands.

Karma Wangda took interest in bird watching from May last year. “Gelephu is one of the best places to see migrating birds from higher altitude, as well as from India.”

Ornithologist with Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE), Sherub, said that birding is gradually becoming widespread. “The bird diversity in Bhutan is estimated to be around 770.”

Rinchen Zangmo