Masked Finfoot – Twitchable in Bangladesh!

Posted 01 March 2023

Really exciting news! One of Asia’s most highly sought after and enigmatic birds, the Critically Endangered (BirdLife International) Masked Finfoot, is currently “available” in Bangladesh, for anyone eager to catch up with this elusive species before it is possibly (and extremely unfortunately) too late. The threats to this species are very real and there is a race going on to try and save it for future generations, but the very nature of this bird’s existence makes it extremely difficult to do so. Money from tourism is helping to further study and document this species and will hopefully help with its recovery, which is at least a step in the right direction.

It’s a sad state of affairs, the Masked Finfoot once had a large global range, stretching from Bangladesh and India in the west through to Vietnam and down through Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. However, the species has suffered a dramatic decline across its global range due to the ongoing loss and degradation of wetlands and especially lowland forest in Asia.   

Masked Finfoot tour

The memory of a sighting of the Critically Endangered Masked Finfoot is certain to last a lifetime (photo Sayam Chowdhury).

The species appears to have declined dramatically in Asia and is now known from comparatively few sites, occurring at low densities everywhere. The Sundabans in Bangladesh appears to hold the largest number of Masked Finfoot anywhere in the world now, with an estimated 80-160 individuals thought to exist. This sounds like a lot of birds, but the Sundabans is part of the River Ganges delta and covers an area of 10,000 km2, 60% of this is in southwest Bangladesh and 40% is in northeast India.

Masked Finfoot in the Bangladeshi Sundabans have been surveyed by a team of ornithologists and researchers on boats over the past almost twenty years. Counts of individuals have been made and patterns of distribution analysed. We have an excellent opportunity to join these same finfoot researchers to look for this most-wanted of birds.

If you want to join a Masked Finfoot tour, we will likely be running this just after our Complete Northern India birds and tigers tour in February 2025. We will also look for the very localized Cachar Bulbul on this trip. Our plan for this tour is to give everyone adequate space and single rooms, where required, on the boat; most of the trip will indeed be boat-based. A couple of nights during this Masked Finfoot tour will however be land-based to fit in with arrival and departure flights and to provide adequate time to look for the bulbul as well.

Please contact us if you would like to join us on this incredible birding opportunity while it is still possible. Many serious world birders will already have seen the other two finfoots of the world, the elusive African Finfoot and the South American Sungrebe. If you are on this boat, you now have a realistic opportunity of being one of the few people on the planet to claim having seen all three of these enigmatic birds.

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