Trip Reports: Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge (Royal Chitwan N.P., Nepal), March 6-9, 1999

Tom and Margot Southerland, 282 Western Way, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA;


Tiger Tops is famous for its wildlife, its up-market food and lodging, and its elephants that take its guests on wildlife-seeking excursions. The habitat is subtropical and dominated by forests and grasslands with the Narayani river running through it. Last year we stayed at Tiger Tops for only two nights (Jan. 31-Feb. 1,1998) but this year with a group of non-birders (except for two others besides ourselves), we stayed for three nights. We deliberately chose ahead of time to stay at the tented camp for our first two nights, some twenty minutes away by vehicle from the main camp (an hour by elephant), and to spend our last night at the main camp in one of the two lodges. The tented camps located in woods offer a variation of habitat with fewer people but less conveniences -- kerosene lanterns instead of light bulbs, for example. But the food is equally good at both camps!

Everyone in our group who opted to go out to look for game on Elephants on our second morning was rewarded with seeing a Tiger out in the open. Tigers are seen far less here in the woods and grasses of Chitwan (perhaps a sighting only once or twice a week) than in India's Ranthambhor N.P. Sightings are rarer around the main camp than around the tented camp. Birdlife is great at both camps, but by covering both places the birder, not surprisingly, will pick up more species. When it came time to transfer to the main camp, we opted to walk instead of ride and thus picked up several new birds in doing so. We highly recommend any birder staying at Tiger Tops to consider doing the same.


Everyone in our group got to see several Indian (one-horned) Rhinos more than once and at least one sighting of the shy Gaur (Indian Bison), the world's largest bovine. The Gaur usually travel in small groups of at least two. We also saw Wild Boar and a few Spotted Deer (Chital). The Sambar and Hog-deer can also be seen from time to time.


We saw several Mugger (Marsh) Crocodiles and Gavials, the long needle-nose crocodiles, along the banks of the river or one of its tributaries.


Birdlife is plentiful in Chitwan NP with over 480 species recorded, but because of the inaccessibility of some of the habitat, the vastness of the park (350 sq. miles) and the short duration of most visits, the numbers of species seen are modest. To an outsider the birds, however, seem both exotic and sensational. Both birders and non-birders usually take the boat trip down the Narayani River. From our boat we saw Small Pratincole but missed the Sand Lark we saw in 1998. On land, unlike 1998, we also missed seeing a White-tailed Stonechat in one of the tall grassy areas but did see several Common Stonechats. Our land guide was Kalu Ram, an exceptional birder.

One of our target birds was the Giant Hornbill, and four times, twice at each camp, we went to look for them in fruiting trees where they sometimes frequent. No luck. One time we heard one or two coming from trees high along a distant ridge and another time we learned one had come to a tree right above where we had just had breakfast an hour earlier. On our last morning with only a few hours of birding time left we gave up on seeing the hornbill. Instead of visiting one of the fruiting trees, we decided to concentrate on seeing other birds. Later, while doing so, a Giant Hornbill suddenly appeared from nowhere and sat in a nearby tree at a great viewing angle. He sat for about two minutes or at least long enough for Margot to view it, quickly grab a camera out of her bag and get off two photos before this heavy creature went flying away -- whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. It is still difficult to comprehend why with all the thousands of trees in the vast forest, the Giant Hornbill decided to land so near us before resuming its journey to somewhere. It was almost a religious experience!


  Great Cormorant                   Phalacrocorax carbo  (one)
  Ruddy Shelduck                    Tadorna ferruginea  (6 pairs, later 100 together)
  Common Merganser                  Mergus merganser  (female)
  Black-crowned Night-Heron         Nycticorax nycticorax  (one)
  Black Bittern                     Ixobrychus flavicollis  (2 in open; Superb views)
F Red-naped Ibis                    Pseudibis papillosa  (one feeding)
  Asian Openbill                    Anastomus oscitans  (one in tree)
  Woolly-necked Stork               Ciconia episcopus  (two)
  Gray-headed Fish-Eagle            Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus  (adult and imm.)
  Crested Serpent-Eagle             Spilornis cheela  (three)
F Mountain Hawk-Eagle               Spizaetus nipalensis  (one soaring over)
  Red Junglefowl                    Gallus gallus  (male)
  Brown Crake                       Amaurornis akool  (one)
  Common Moorhen                    Gallinula chloropus  (one)
  Common Snipe                      Gallinago gallinago  (two)
  Common Greenshank                 Tringa nebularia  (one)
F Small Pratincole                  Glareola lactea  (two)
  River Lapwing                     Vanellus duvaucelii  (one)
  Emerald Dove                      Chalcophaps indica  (one)
F Orange-breasted Pigeon            Treron bicincta  (one)
  Plum-headed Parakeet              Psittacula cyanocephala  (one)
  Red-breasted Parakeet             Psittacula alexandri  (two)
  Common Hawk-Cuckoo                Cuculus varius  (one)
  Greater Coucal                    Centropus sinensis  (three)
  Jungle Owlet                      Glaucidium radiatum  (two)
  Large-tailed Nightjar             Caprimulgus macrurus  (one heard only)
  Common Kingfisher                 Alcedo atthis  (one)
  Stork-billed Kingfisher           Pelargopsis capensis  (one)
  White-throated Kingfisher         Halcyon smyrnensis  (two)
  Pied Kingfisher                   Ceryle rudis  (one)
  Chestnut-headed Bee-eater         Merops leschenaulti  (8-10)
  Oriental Pied-Hornbill            Anthracoceros albirostris  (2 together, nice views)
F Great Hornbill                    Buceros bicornis  (1 sitting, super view)
  Lineated Barbet                   Megalaima lineata  (one)
  Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker       Dendrocopos macei  (three)
F Rufous Woodpecker                 Celeus brachyurus  (one)
F Greater Yellownape                Picus flavinucha  (2 together)
  Scaly-bellied Woodpecker          Picus squamatus  (2 males, 1 female)
  Gray-faced Woodpecker             Picus canus  (one)
  Himalayan Flameback               Dinopium shorii  (female)
  Greater Flameback                 Chrysocolaptes lucidus  (several)
  Hair-crested Drongo               Dicrurus bracteatus  (six)
  Greater Racket-tailed Drongo      Dicrurus paradiseus  (one)
F Green Magpie                      Cissa chinensis  (one)
  Large-billed Crow                 Corvus macrorhynchos  (several)
  Black-hooded Oriole               Oriolus xanthornus  (five)
  Scarlet Minivet                   Pericrocotus flammeus  (4 males, 1 female)
  Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike      Hemipus picatus  (one)
F Golden-fronted Leafbird           Chloropsis aurifrons  (two)
  Long-tailed Shrike                Lanius schach  (1, Bl.-capped race)
F Spot-winged Starling              Saroglossa spiloptera  (twice several)
F Chestnut-tailed Starling          Sturnus malabaricus  (a few)
  Jungle Myna                       Acridotheres fuscus  (a few plus several more)
F Hill Myna                         Gracula religiosa  (six)
F Dark-sided Flycatcher             Muscicapa sibirica  (1 sallying)
  Verditer Flycatcher               Eumyias thalassina  (one)
  White-rumped Shama                Copsychus malabaricus  (male, later a female)
  Common Stonechat                  Saxicola torquata  (3 males, 1 female)
  Pied Bushchat                     Saxicola caprata  (male)
  Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch         Sitta castanea  (3 males, 2 females)
  Velvet-fronted Nuthatch           Sitta frontalis  (one)
  Sand Martin                       Riparia riparia  (a few)
  Black-crested Bulbul              Pycnonotus melanicterus  (4 or 5)
  Red-whiskered Bulbul              Pycnonotus jocosus  (at least 10)
  Himalayan Bulbul                  Pycnonotus leucogenys  (several)
  Red-vented Bulbul                 Pycnonotus cafer  (several)
  Gray-crowned Prinia               Prinia cinereocapilla  (one)
  Common Tailorbird                 Orthotomus sutorius  (one)
  Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush  Garrulax pectoralis  (a group of abt. 10)
F Puff-throated Babbler             Pellorneum ruficeps  (one close)
  Chestnut-capped Babbler           Timalia pileata  (one)
  Yellow-eyed Babbler               Chrysomma sinense  (one)
  Striated Babbler                  Turdoides earlei  (several)
  Great Tit                         Parus major  (two)
  House Sparrow                     Passer domesticus  (male, later a female)

76 Species

Note: We use "a few" for 15-25 birds.

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This page served with permission of the authors by Urs Geiser;; June 11, 1999; corrected January 4, 2000