Waterbird assemblage along Punatsangchhu River, Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang, Bhutan

Main Article Content

Ugyen Dorji


Crossing Bhutan is one of the shortest transits, and Bhutan holds the main breeding refuge/habitats for many Central Asian migratory birds. Our study assessed the community structure of waterbirds along the Punatsangchhu River basin, located towards the western part of Bhutan. The study determined the species composition, habitat use and preference of waterbirds, together with the different habitats present. Furthermore, the study examined the potential drivers of habitat fragmentation along the river. The entire study area was classified into five different habitats: dam, dredged area, farmland, urban, and pristine. The Cummings method of habitat assessment for high gradient river and streams was used to assess the habitat variables such as bank stability, vegetative protection and the riparian vegetation zone along the river and the association with the diversity of aquatic birds. A questionnaire survey was also used to evaluate the degree of threats caused by human disturbances. Among the five habitats, the dam area recorded the highest diversity (H` = 2.13) against their total count of 103 (8.7%) and the least diversity was recorded from farmland area (H` = 1.1) against their total count of 282 (23.8%) birds. Most waterbirds preferred an open area with shallow river depth. Habitats with emergent vegetation negatively correlated with the waterbird species composition. The study also recorded one Vulnerable species Aythya ferina, one Near Threatened species Vanellus duvaucelii, and one Endangered species Haliaeetus leucoryphus. Punatsangchhu is a major habitat to both resident and migratory waterbirds which stop here enroute from the Palaearctic and Indo-Malayan Region corroborating the need for habitat conservation and management regimes in the basin. 

Article Details



Ali, S. (1979). The Book of Indian Birds. The Bombay Natural History Society, India, 466pp.

Bibby, C.J., N. D. Burgess, D.A. Hill & S.H. Mustoe (2000). Bird census techniques. London: Academic Press, Lodon: 33–34.

Daniels, R. J. R. (1991). Practical methods for studying bird vegetation associations in the forests of the Western Ghats. Proceedings of workshop on “medicinal plants conservation areas of tropical forest” held on 26–29 April, 1991 at Kemmangundi, Chickmagalur: 21¬¬¬–28.

Elafri, A., A.M. Belhamra & M. Huhamd (2017). Comparing habitat preferences of a set of waterbird species wintering in the coastal wetlands of North Africa: implication for management. Ekologia 36(2): 158–171. https://doi.org/10.1515/eko-2017-0014

Ferro, I. & J.J. Morrone (2014). Biogegraphical transition zones: a search for conceptual synthesis. Biological Journal of the Linnean society 113: 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1111/bij.12333

Ghemiray, D. K. (2016). Assessment of habitat usage by White bellied Heron (Ardea insignis) At Burichhu nesting site. B.Sc. Thesis, College of Natural Resources, Lobesa, Punakha, Bhutan.

Gillings, S., M.W. Andrew, J.C. Greg, A.V. Juliet & J.F. Robert (2008). Distribution and abundance of birds and their habitats within the lowland farmland of Britain in winter, Bird Study.S British Trust for Ornithology : 159pp.

Guptha, M.B. & N. Sridharan (2011). Status of Major Wetlands and Wetland Birds in Kanyakumari, Coimbatores, Thanjavur and Trinchy Districts in Tamilnadu, India. World Journals of Zoology 6(3): 235–242.

Inskipp, C., T. Inskipp & R. Grimmett (2004). Birds of Bhutan. Timeless Books: New Delhi, 192pp.

Jaksic, F. (2004). El Nin˜o effects on avian ecology: lesson learned from the southeastern Pacific. Ornitologia Neotropical 15: 61–72. https://repositorio.uc.cl/handle/11534/17770

Jamwal, P.S., S. Shrotriya & J. Takpa (2020). The pattern of waterbird diversity of the Trans Himalayan wetland in Changthang Wildlife sanctuary, Ladakh, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 12(1): 15129–15139. https://doi.org/10.11609/jott.5122.12.1.15129-15139

Jankowski, J.E., A.L. Ciecka, N.Y. Meyer & K.N. Rabenold (2009). Beta diversity along environmental gradient: implications of habitat specialization in tropical montane landscapes. Journal of Animal Ecology 78: 315–327. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2656.2008.01487.x

Kaiser, H. F. (1960). The application of electronic computers to factor analysis. Educational and Psychological Measurement. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/00131644600200011614115.

Lagos, N. A, P. Paolini, E. Jaramillo, C. Lovengreen, C. Duarte & H. Contreras (2008). Environmental processes, water quality degradation, and decline of waterbird populations in the Rio cruces wetland, Chile. Wetlands 28: 938–950. https://doi.org/10.1672/07-119.1

Ma, Z., Y. Cai, B. Li & B. Chen (2010). Managing Wetland Habitats for Waterbirds: An International Perspective. Coastal Ecosystems Research Station of Yangtzze River Estuary, Shanghai 200433, People’s Republic of China. Wetlands 30: 15–27. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-009-0001-6

Melles, S., S. Glenn & K. Martin (2003). Urban bird diversity and landscape complexity: Species-environment associations along a multiscale habitat gradient. Conservation Ecology 7(1): 5–15. https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol7/iss1/art5/

Nidup, S., Gyeltshen & T. Tobgay (2020). An account of a first record of the Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula Linnaues, 1758 (Aves: Anseriformes:Anatidae) in Bhutan. Journal of Threatened Taxa 12(3): 15823–15384. https://doi.org/10.11609/jott.5323.12.3.15382-15384

Omotoriogun, T.C., J.D. Onoja, T. Tende & S. Manu (2011). Density and Diversity of Birds in the Wetlands of Yankari Game Reserve, Bauchi, Nigeria. Journal of Wetlands Ecology 5: 48–58. https://doi.org/10.3126/jowe.v5i0.4778

Page, G. W., & R.E. Gill (1994). Shorebirds in western north america: Late 1800 to late 1900. Studies in Avian Biology 15: 147–160.

Paracuellos, M. (2006). How can habitat selection affect the use of a wetland complex by waterbirds? Biodiversity and Conservation 15: 4569–4582. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-005-5820-z

Pasang (2018). Diversity of waterbird and their correalation with riparin habitat variable along Bindu River, Tashichhoeling (Sipsoo), Bhutan. Journal of the Bhutan Ecological Society (3): 45–55.

Rajashekara, S., & M.G. Venkatesha (2014). Eco–spatial and temporal variation in waterbirds composition and their relationship with habitat characteristics of Urban Lakes of Bengaluru city, India. International Journal of Advanced Research 2(7): 60–80.

Sebastian-Gonzalez, E. & A.J. Green (2014). Habitat use by waterbirds in relation to pond size, water depth, and isolation. Restoration Ecology, 22(3): 311–318. https://doi.org/10.1111/rec.12078

Snow, D. W. & C.M. Perrins (1998). The birds of the Western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford: 1051pp.

Spierenburg, P. (2005). Birds in Bhutan: Status and Distribution. Oriental Bird Club, Bedford: 383pp.

Tena, A. G., A. Saura & L. Britons (2007). Effects of forest composition and structure on bird species richness in a Mediterranean context: Implications for forest ecosystem management. Forest ecology and management 242: 470–476. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2007.01.080

Tobgay, T. (2017). First record of Oriental Pratincole. BIRDING ASIA 27: 120−121.

Traut, A. H. (2003). Urban lakes and waterbirds: Effects of the development on distribution and behavior. MSc Thesis. University of Florida.

Tyler, S.J. & S.J. Ormerod (1993). The Ecology of River Birds in Nepal. Fork tail 9: 59–82.

Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (2014). Pictorial Guide for waterbirds in Bhutan. Lami Goenpa, Bumthang: Bhutan.

Vyas, V., S. Balapure & S. Dutta (2012). Avian diversity in Barna wetland of Narmada basin in central India. Journal of research in biology 2(5): 460 – 468.

Wani, L. N., F.F. Mustahson, A. Bilal & A. Jahangir (2020). Variations in Abundance and Diversity of Waterbirds along Spatiotemporal Gradient in Shallabugh Wetland, Jammu and Kashmir, India, International journal of scientific & technology research volume 9(4): 2025–2029.

Wetlands International (2012). Waterbird Population Estimates. Wetlands International. Downloaded on 29 April 2020.