Inle Lake – Birding in Myanmar


Wetlands almost always provide a large number of species on bird watching tours and Inle Lake in Myanmar was no exception while leading the recent Zootherabirding tour to this interesting country. Much of the lake is open water and there is a lot of disturbance from fishermen and tourists but by investigating the lake edges and the wilder corners of the lake we managed to see a lot of different bird species including nice views of Indian Reed Warbler, Striated Grassbird, Black-browed Reed Warbler and numerous Jerdon’s Bushchats when we visited the right habitat. A waterbird colony full of Asian Openbills, Glossy Ibis and Little Cormorant right behind our accommodation was fun to watch and additions to our trip list here also included Wire-tailed Swallow, Baikal Bush Warbler and Greater Painted Snipe.

The highlight of the visit to Inle Lake, for us, were the easy-to-see Jerdon’s Bushchats that we saw on our first morning. When we entered a reedy canal with few other boats in it we immediately began to spot these smart little characters and landing on a muddy bank we were able to get out and study good numbers of both males and females.

Male Jerdon’s Bushchat

In most of its range this species is not doing too well as its wetland habitat is cleared and drained to create more farmland so it was good to be able to see plenty of them here and to find them easy to see. In the same area we also saw Yellow-bellied Prinia, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail and Striated Grassbird as well as the first of many Black-winged Kites and an Eastern Marsh Harrier.

After this we entered the large area of the lake with much open water, although we stuck to the edges to maximize bird sightings with many Sand Martins, Little Cormorants, Brown-headed Gulls, a few Common Coot and the first of many Glossy Ibis and Asian Openbills.

Brown-headed Gull in non-breeding plumage

As we traveled across the lake it also gave us the opportunity to see the famous Inle Lake ‘leg-rowers”, a spectacle that provided a lot of interesting photo opportunities.


During the heat of the day we retreated to our accommodation which was a very pleasant lodge on the lake. Here the heat did not stop us from enjoying the comings and goings at the waterbird colony immediately behind the lodge. Large numbers of Asian Openbills were attending young in nests while others were collecting nest material for the next round of egg-laying. Joing them were up to 300 Glossy Ibis and smaller numbers of Little Cormorant and a few Little Egrets in breeding plumage, showing reddish bare parts around the face.

Little Egret in breeding plumage

Asian Openbill collecting nest material

Asian Openbill chicks

Glossy Ibis

Birding around the lake edges later in the day turned up some waterfowl with Cotton Pygmy Goose, Lesser Whistling Duck and Garganey with Ruddy Shelduck, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Indian Spotbilled Duck and Ferruginous Pochard added the next morning. One of the Ferruginous Pochard looked like it could be a female Common Pochard when looked at through the binoculars but on examining it through a ‘scope it was obvious that it was a hybrid between Common Pochard and Ferruginous Pochard!

We also got some good views of Striated Grassbird, Citrine Wagtail and Asian Pied Starling, all perched on the numerous poles dotted around the landscape, while Pheasant-tailed Jacana was another nice addition to our list although a juvenile Pied Harrier was a bit distant.

Striated Grassbird

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

A surprise was seeing Indian (formerly Clamorous) Reed Warblers singing from bamboo posts. I always associate this type of bird with less showy behaviour but it was nice to be able to study this species out in the open. Black-browed Reed Warbler also showed itself nicely although Baikal Bush Warbler was far less obliging, showing itself to only a select few.

Wire-tailed Swallow

In the same area as the Bush Warbler, which was a reedy area of rice fields behind our hotel, we also found a pair of attractive Wire-tailed Swallows. The contrast of their snowy-white underparts and glossy blue upperparts with chestnut cap make them one of the nicest swallows in my opinion. A male Greater Painted Snipe, a Lesser Coucal and a pair of Streaked Weavers were also added to our total before we left Inle Lake.

Most birders spend time looking for Collared Myna here but we did not as we had seen good numbers of them at nearby fields near Heho airports. The birds were feeding on flowering trees and gave us a lot of opportunity to watch and photograph them.

Collared-myna1Collared Myna

Birding from the boat

The addition of Inle Lake in our itinerary allowed us to see a lot of bird species in a relaxing way with an interesting and beautiful backdrop and I will look forward to visiting again the next time I lead a birding tour to Myanmar.

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