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A bird spotter's guide to Myanmar

Country pins post-coronavirus tourism hopes on rare and endangered birds

A drawing of the elusive pink-headed duck. Once found across India, Bangladesh and northern Myanmar, it has not been spotted in the subcontinent since 1949. (Henrik Gronvold) 

LON TON, Myanmar -- Indawgyi Lake, the third-largest body of fresh water in Southeast Asia, is home to more than 20,000 water birds. But the question for dedicated bird-watchers is whether they include the elusive pink-headed duck, once found across India, Bangladesh and northern Myanmar, but unseen in the subcontinent since 1949.

The pink-headed duck (Rhodonessa caryophyllacea) is among several bird species classified as critically endangered that are -- or have been -- resident in this remote area near Lon Ton in northern Kachin State. Others include the white-rumped and slender-billed vultures (Gyps bengalensis and Gyps tenuirostris), and Baer's pochard (Aythya baeri), a colorful diving duck -- male birds have glossy dark-green heads and boldly patterned chestnut-and-white sides.

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