Chhimi Dema  | Zhemgang

To celebrate the richness of this avifaunal diversity, the three-day Bhutan Bird Festival will take place this November after a hiatus of three years.

The festival was first held in 2015 at Tingtibi in Zhemgang to commemorate the birth anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo. It will be held on November 11 to 13 this year with support from the Global Environment Facility.

Zhemgang located in the South-Central region of the country is known as a birding paradise. True to the fame, Zhemgang dzongkhag which has 94.7 percent forest cover, hosts 234 bird species. Seasoned birders and experts say that many species are uncounted yet.

According to dzongkhag officials, the pandemic restrictions for the past three years and the lack of funds during the pre-pandemic years made it challenging to continue the festival.

A birder, Yeshi Dorji, said that the festival allows birders in the country to gather and interact with others which doesn’t happen often. “The festival also intrigues international birders to visit the country.”

He said that the festival provides a platform to learn from international birders and locals.

The birder said that the festival should be held yearly to give a learning and interacting platform for birders and an earning opportunity for locals.

According to a report on Bhutan Bird Festival 2019, food stalls from gewogs in Zhemgang and other agriculture and livestock-related stalls, generate an income of Nu 4,826,800 in total.

A dzongkhag official said that the festival is organised because Zhemgang is home to diverse bird species and the most endangered bird species – the White-Bellied Heron (WBH).

The global WBH population is less than 60 birds. Bhutan has 23 WBH, according to a survey conducted by the Royal Society of Protection of Nature in 2021.

“It is organised to make people understand about avifauna and how conservation plays a role in strengthening livelihood,” the official said.

A business owner at Tingtibi said that the festival provided her with an opportunity to earn extra income.

“We have only a few people visiting the town on other days. But during the festival, we have many people visiting the shop,” she said.

The festival holds  “bird-athon”, a three-day bird-watching event; an art and literary competition relevant to the festival; a cyclothon, and other activities.

It was first organised by the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment Research in 2015.

Zhemgang is home to species such as Rufous Necked Hornbill, Siberian Rubythroat, Black-Crested Bulbul, Great Racket-tailed Drongo, Golden-throated Barbet, and others.