Ibisbill in Bhutan

I had the good fortune to travel to Bhutan between April and May 2013. One of the first bird species I saw was the Ibisbill (Ibidorhyncha struthersii) at Paro River, which is near the international airport.

The Ibisbill is a peculiar looking bird. Its long, down-curved bill is red as is its eyes. The name is derived from it’s curved bill like the ibis. It is however a unique species related to the waders but sufficiently distinct to form its own taxonomic family.

They are found on stony riverbanks of the high plateau of Central Asia and the Himalayas, from Kazakhstan to China and southwards to India.

Below is my photographic account of the species.


A drop of water hanging from the unique red curved bill after a dip on the river looking for food. The striking purple leg and feet is a breeding adult feature.


Although a good swimmer, the bird prefer to use its curved bill to probe under rocks and gravel in slow flowing streams for the larvae of aquatic insects and small fish.


Throughout the rest of the trip, we heard a number of calls of the Ibisbills near river beds, but never investigated further. However, on the last day of birding, I had the good fortune of encountering a family of them at Paro River again. This time around the birds were a little further away but it was an interesting encounter, one that yielded nice pictures and memories.


A successful hunt for a crustacean, possibly a prawn. It then proceeded to swallow it by lifting its head, tossing the prey in mid air and then swallowing it whole. Somewhat like what other long-billed waders like godwits do.


There are two fledglings in this picture, but they were well camouflaged especially the one on the right.


Although still very young, it was already trying to hunt for its own food.


The two fledglings again. Notice that the feet of the young is brownish.


The adult called for the young, and the first chick responded and followed.


The parent sat down and continued calling, while the chick hurriedly went near.


The chick doved underneath the mother for warmth and protection.


The second chick came over later after many calls from the parent. It too eventually went underneath the parent.

1 thought on “Ibisbill in Bhutan

  1. Gyorgy Szimuly

    I love these photos. I’d like to contact you via email regarding your possible contribution with your photos to my shorebird handbook in preparation. Please send an email to my address (gyorgy.szimuly at me.com). Thanks a lot.

    Cheers, Szimi


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