Birding Sites in Phuket
Chalerm Prakiat Municipal Park
Laem Mum Nai
Talang Forest Nursery
Note: Text reviews are not complete for sites marked with an asterisk.
Birding in Phuket
Birding in Phuket pales in comparison to birding in the nearby provinces of Phang Nga and Krabi. With little natural habitat left to speak of, birding can be slow and frustrating. Birders planning on spending their entire time on the island should not place their hopes too high or expect a long list of sightings during their stay. I’d recommended one to hire a guide for the day, in order to maximize the chances of seeing a higher number of species. This would help to save time trying to figure out which places are “hot” for birding and which places are “not”.
This is not to say that Phuket is a worthless birding destination. While some have complained that the selection of birds here is limited, others have been blessed with a number of quality birds in one outing. There are a number of species unique to Phuket which cannot be found in the other west coast provinces. Not just that, but the geographical positioning of Phuket also makes it a prime stopover for many migratory species; this helps explain why one will occasionally come across species for only a few short days of the year, such as Imperial Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle and Common Cuckoo, to name a few.
Phuket his has some bird life and it’s only a matter of going to the right places when looking for it. Timing and weather can also play an important role in deciding what kind of day you will have. Again, if you want to make the most of your day, a guide would be recommended.
Map of Phuket
Phuket is located on the west coast of Thailand and is bordered by Phang Nga province in the north. Across the Phang Nga bay are numerous islands, largest of which are Kho Yao Yai, Koh Yao Noi (Phang Nga), and Phi Phi Island (Krabi).
Phuket is the largest island in Thailand, covering a land mass slightly larger than Singapore. In times past the island was covered in lush tropical jungles, most of which remained intact until the start of the 18th century, when tin was discovered in Phuket and neighboring Phang Nga. Chinese immigrants flooded in to what was then known as “Junk Ceylon” to labor in the tin mines or ply their trade in the booming cities of Talang and Takuapah. Tin mines carved out the forested hillsides and timber from the jungles was used to build the towns and cites which sprang up from this trade. It wasn’t long before Phuket’s landscape became marred with open pits from the industry, a permanent scar which forever replaced the virgin jungles of the island.
After the second World War, the demand for tin dissipated and for a while there was a truce between man and nature. It wasn’t long, however, until a new threat slowly appeared: the lure of tourism began to take root in the lives of the local population. The powdery sands of the west coast beaches and the unspoiled emerald blue seas became an instant attraction for tourists from the Americas and Europe. With them came their money, and with money came the sin of greed. Soon the simple life of a fisherman was no longer substantial; rubber tapping was inadequate; oil palm could not support a “good” life. One by one, locals began selling off their ancestral lands in exchange for cold cash and within a decade, Phuket was transformed from a simple fishing and trading province to an internationally renown tourist destination, catering to the pleasures of man and the lust of his flesh.
Forests and fields were cleared to make way for five-star resorts and hotels; hillsides were cropped in preparation for villas which boasted stunning ocean views; wetlands were bulldozed and in their place came low-budget housing developments, townhouses and markets. The natural world didn’t stand a chance against the greed of man.
Nature does, however, have something that man does not posses and that is its ability to learn from the past. Despite being driven to the brink of extermination, nature has learned to cope with what it has left. Though much of Phuket’s former forests are now cleared and gone, many birds still call this island home. The sound of birds can still be heard in the hilltops. Coral reefs still abound with fish. Cobras and other reptiles have moved from the jungles and have taken up residence in rubber plantations and small forest patches.
Large mammals and reptiles have not been as lucky however. Tiger, deer, tapir, buffalo and rhino were hunted to extinction around the turn of the 19th century. Siamese Saltwater Crocodile joined the ranks of the forgotten in the late 1950′s. Gone with the mammals are large birds such as Red-headed Vulture, White winged Duck and Hornbill. Songbirds such as Straw-headed Bulbul and Red whiskered Bulbul are also extirpated. Lastly, the few records of Gurney’s Pitta in Phuket was appreciated only by a mere handful.
Today, tourism in Phuket is a 30 billion baht industry, placing the island firmly in third place in Thailand’s list of annual income-generating provinces. Land prices continue to skyrocket and as the days and months roll by, nature seems to take on less importance to man.