email a friend
printable version
Location India, Assam
Central coordinates 93o 20.85' East  26o 39.28' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A4i, A4iii
Area 84,980 ha
Altitude 67 - 80m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society



Site description Kaziranga National Park (47,171 ha) is an internationally famed wilderness, mainly known for the Indian One-horned Rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis. However, Kaziranga has large populations of many others endangered species, notably the Tiger Panthera tigris, Wild Buffalo Bubalus arnee (= bubalis) (largest population in the world), Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Swamp deer Cervus duvaucelii and many more. However, it is equally rich in avian diversity with more than 490 bird species. Situated in the floodplains of the Brahmaputra river, it covers parts of Nagaon, Golaghat and Sonitpur districts of central Assam. Panbari and Kukurakata Reserve Forests, small but important areas for many forest bird species, lie just outside the Park, but are included in the IBA. The Kaziranga authorities administer these reserve forests. Kaziranga is a world heritage site, a part of the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Elephant Reserve and is a proposed Ramsar site. The terrain of the Park is flat (67-80 m above msl), with an east to west and south to northwest incline. Being in the floodplain of the Brahmaputra River, the soil of the Park is mainly recent alluvium. Floods are an annual phenomenon, and 50-70 per cent of the total landmass gets submerged for many days. The floodwaters generally recede after 7-10 days. Areas along the base of the Karbi Anglong (a plateau) are at a higher elevation (80 msl) and form natural ‘highlands’ that do not get flooded. Soil erosion and the shifting course of the Brahmaputra induce constant change in the total area of the landmass. Numerous small rivers and channels flow through the Park from east to west and some, which originate from the Karbi plateau in the south, run northwards and ultimately drain into the Brahmaputra river. Shallow oxbow lakes, locally known as ‘beels’ are the relicts of older channels. There are many such beels inside the Park. Some beels have been silted up, producing swamps and marshes. Consequently, there has been an increase in areas of tall grass and a reduction in areas of short grass. The habitat of Kaziranga is such that waterbodies and grasslands form a significant part of the Park’s area. Wetlands cover 7%, grasslands 57% (tall grass 52%; short grass/marshes 5%), sand 7%, and woodland 29% of the total area of the original Park (Kushwaha and Madhavan Unni 1996; Kushwaha 1997). There are three main types of vegetation: alluvial inundated grassland, Tropical Wet Evergreen Forest and Tropical Semievergreen forest. Grasslands predominate in the west, with tall elephant grass on the higher ground and short grasses on the lower ground surrounding the beels. Erianthus ravennae, Phragmites karka, Arundo donax, Imperata cylindrica and Saccharum spp. are the main grass species. The herbaceous Alpina allughas grows abundantly all over the grassland, especially in the damp areas. Amidst the grasses are numerous forbs, and scattered trees of Bombax ceiba, Dillenia indica, Careya arborea and Emblica officinalis. Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests, near Kanchanjuri, Panbari, and Tamulipathar blocks, are dominated by trees such as Aphanamixis polystachya, Talauma hodgsonii, Dillenia indica, Garcinia tinctoria, Ficus sp., Cinnamomum bejolghota and Syzygium sp. Tropical Semi-evergreen Forests occur near Baguri, Bimali and Haldibari. Barringtonia acutangula grows in the waterlogged areas.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: Kaziranga NP harbours more than 478 bird species (Barua and Sharma 1999) now increased to 490 (Choudhury 2003), including 24 globally threatened species. While it would not be possible to describe status and distribution of each threatened species, it is worth mentioning that Kaziranga is one of the outstanding IBAs, especially for birds of the tall, wet grasslands of the Assam Plains Endemic Bird Area and Biome-12 (Indo-Gangetic Plains). Out of the 478 bird species listed by Barua and Sharma (1999), 197 are residents, 165 are migrants, 46 are local migrants, and the status of the remaining species is uncertain. Notable resident species with significant populations are: Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis, Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, Swamp Francolin Francolinus gularis, Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis, Pallas’s Fish-Eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus, Greater Grey-headed Fish-Eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus, White-bellied Heron Ardea insignis, Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus, Bristled Grass-Warbler Chaetornis striatus, Marsh Babbler Pellorneum palustre, Blackbreasted Parrotbill Paradoxornis flavirostris and Finn’s Weaver Ploceus megarhynchus. Some of the uncommon residents are Oriental White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis, Slender-billed Vulture G. tenuirostris, Red-headed Vulture Sarcogyps calvus, Black-bellied Tern Sterna acuticauda, Pied Falconet Microhierax melanoleucos, Greater Adjutant Leptoptilos dubius, Jerdon’s Bushchat Saxicola jerdoni, Rufous-vented Prinia Prinia burnesii, Jerdon’s Babbler Chrysomma altirostre and Slender-billed Babbler Turdoides longirostris. Some of the species, especially of the tall grasslands and thick shrubs may not be as rare as thought because finding them is rather difficult, especially on brief bird watching surveys. Possibly, the globally threatened Pale-capped Pigeon Columba punicea breeds in the Park, is considered as a summer visitor by Barua and Sharma (1999). After Manas and Orang, Kaziranga has the largest and most secure population (about 30 individuals) of the highly Endangered Bengal florican Houbaropsis bengalensis in Assam (Narayan et al. 1989). A. U. Choudhury (pers. comm. 2002) did not notice any decline during his surveys in 1995-96. Kaziranga is also famous for its nesting colonies of the Spot-billed Pelicans and Adjutants. Almost all the species of tall, wet grasslands of the Brahmaputra floodplains are found here. Thus, Kaziranga is one of the most important bird areas of India. This fabulous IBA also has 14 Near Threatened species, some of them with significant wintering or breeding populations in the Park. According to the classification by BirdLife International (undated), this IBA lies in Biome-12 (Indo-Gangetic Plains). Thirteen species are listed in this biome, out of which twelve are found here. Bird species of at least six other biomes are also seen, generally in winter. For instance, Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis, Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus, Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus found in Biome-5 (Eurasian High Montane) occur in Kaziranga in winter. Similarly, Slaty-backed Flycatcher Ficedula hodgsonii, Slaty Blue Flycatcher F. tricolor, Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea, Himalayan Rubythroat Luscinia pectoralis, Chestnut-headed Tesia Tesia castaneocoronata, Grey-bellied Tesia T. cyaniventer, Grey-sided Bush Warbler Cettia brunnifrons, Chestnut-crowned Bush Warbler C. major belonging to Biome-7 (Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forests) winters in this site. Kaziranga is also famous for its large populations of waterbirds, especially Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus. In total, more than 20,000 waterbirds are found in the beels and riverine tracts that fall in the national park area. Therefore, this site also qualifies in A4iii criteria. Between 2-3 thousand Bar-head Geese are found in Kaziranga. According to Wetlands International (2002), the total population of this goose is between 52,000 to 60,000, and 1% population threshold is 560. At least 4-5% of the global population of Bar-headed Goose winters at this site, thus qualifying A4i criteria also.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Kaziranga is famous for its large mammals such as Indian Onehorned Rhinoceros, Asian Elephant, Wild Buffalo, Swamp Deer, Gaur Bos frontalis, Sambar Cervus unicolor and Tiger Panthera tigris. Other fauna in the Park include 15 species of threatened mammals. In addition to the mammals already mentioned, there are the Slow Loris Nycticebus coucang, Capped Langur Trachypithecus pileatus, Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta, Hoolock Gibbon Hylobates hoolock, Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus, Otters (Lutra lutra and L. perspicillata), Gangetic Dolphin Plantanista gangetica, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak and Malayan Giant Squirrel Ratufa bicolor.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Swamp Francolin Francolinus gularis resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Baer's Pochard Aythya baeri winter  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus 2004  present  A4i  Least Concern 
Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Greater Adjutant Leptoptilos dubius breeding  2004  present  A1  Endangered 
White-bellied Heron Ardea insignis resident  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis resident  2004  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni passage  2004  present  A1  Least Concern 
Pallas's Fish-eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis resident  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Spotted Greenshank Tringa guttifer winter  2004  present  A1  Endangered 
Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis breeding  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Pale-capped Pigeon Columba punicea resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Marsh Babbler Pellorneum palustre resident  2004  present  A1, A2  Vulnerable 
Jerdon's Babbler Chrysomma altirostre resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Slender-billed Babbler Turdoides longirostris resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Black-breasted Parrotbill Paradoxornis flavirostris resident  2004  present  A1, A2  Vulnerable 
White-throated Bushchat Saxicola insignis winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Yellow Weaver Ploceus megarhynchus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds unknown  2004  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2013 high not assessed medium
  unset
Medium - based upon reliable but incomplete / partially representative data

Agricultural expansion and intensification livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Invasive and other problematic species and genes problematic native species/diseases - unspecified species happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Over-exploitation, persecution and control of species hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - unintentional effects (species is not the target) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high

Grassland   0 0 good (> 90%) moderate (70-90%) near favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  Some limited conservation initiatives are in place  medium 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Kaziranga National Park 84,979 is identical to site 84,979  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   29%
Grassland   57%
Wetlands (inland)   14%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
forestry -
Notes: Forestry
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature Conservation
tourism/recreation -
Notes: Tourism/recreation

Acknowledgements Key contributors: Anwaruddin Choudhury and Asad R. Rahmani.

References 

Baruah, M. and Sharma, P. (1999) Birds of Kaziranga National Park, India. Forktail 15: 47-60.

BirdLife International (undated) Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Asia: Project briefing book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K., Unpublished.

Choudhury, A. U. (1987) Railway threat to Kaziranga. Oryx 21: 160-163.

Choudhury, A. U. (2003) Birds of Kaziranga National Park: A checklist. Gibbon Books and the Rhino Foundation, Guwahati. 49 pp.

Kushwaha, S. P. S. and Madhavan Unni, N. V. (1996) Applications of remote censing techniques in forest cover monitoring and habitat evaluation - a case study at Kaziranga National Park, Assam. In, Wildlife habitat evaluation using remote sensing techniques. (Eds., Kamat, D. S. and Panwar, H. S.) Indian Institute of Remote Sensing/ Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. Pp. 238-247.

Kushwaha, S. P. S. (1997) Landmass dynamics and rhino habitat suitability in Kaziranga National Park. Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun Narayan, G., Sankaran, R., Rosalind, L. and Rahmani, A. R. (1989) The Floricans Houbaropsis bengalensis and Sypheotides indica. Annual Report 1988-89. Bombay Natural History Society, Bombay Pp. 39.

Wetlands International (2002) Waterbirds Population Estimates: Third Edition. Wetlands International Global Series No. 12. Wageningen, the Netherlands.

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Kaziranga National Park. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/12/2014

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife