Phuketbirdwatching.com

News and Information on Birding Sites Throughout Thailand and the Andaman

The following list is restricted to birds which can be found in southern Thailand. I figured that since most of the information on this site deals with birdwatching in southern Thailand that I should focus on the stakeouts in the region as opposed to compiling a long list for species throughout the country.

In due time I hope to add information for other wanted species from locations in other regions throughout Thailand.

Some of the details listed here may not necessary be considered “stakeouts” per se, but are included for the benefit of visiting birdwatchers who may be planning a trip and are assessing their options or are searching for information on a particular species.

[Don’t forget to check out the accompanying notes at the bottom of the page!]

I will continue adding more species to the list in the future, time permitting. If you are interested in seeing a particular species added to this list or need information on a bird, please feel free to contact me at phuketbirder.gmail.com.

The list is arranged in alphabetical order. –Happy hunting!

Banded Pitta

The Banded Pitta is not an uncommon bird as it is found in many national parks throughout southern Thailand such as Krung Ching, Khao Nor Chuchi, Kaeng Krung and Hala Bala. However, it can be very difficult to locate due to its skulking habits. The bird shows very well at Sri Phang Nga National Park where a few pairs of birds can be seen around Ton Au and Tamnang Waterfalls from January – May.

Beach Thick Knee

The bird has been spotted at Laem Pakarang, Thai Muang and even Mai Khao Beach in Phuket; however, these sightings are rare and sporadic. Birders in search of the thick knee should head over to the Surin Islands and hire a boat to take them around the deserted beaches of the islands. The birds have been known to breed on Ao Sai En but do also show up on other beaches within the area.

Brown winged Kingfisher

This massive kingfisher inhabits mangrove forest and is found along forested waterways which have access to deep water. Ao Phang Nga National Park in the early morning usually offers guaranteed sightings of this bird as long as birders arrive before 8 AM. The Krabi waterfront is also a popular place to find this bird. It has also been seen at Muang Mai Plantation in Phuket and at the Ranong Mangrove Research Center.

Brown Wood Owl

Another fairy widespread southern resident, the Brown Wood Owl is usually found in forests although it sometimes appears in rubber plantations and wooded gardens. Birders in search of this owl can try the back of the bungalows at Sri Phang Nga National Park after sundown. Other sites which host this bird are Krung Ching Waterfall in Nakorn Sri Tammarat and Talang Forest Nursery in Phuket.

Chestnut naped Forktail

The most beautiful of all five resident forktails, this southern specialty is widespread and present at almost any undisturbed waterfall. However, birders will find that Sri Phang Nga offers the best chance to see them up close. The birds are found along the trail to Ton Au Waterfall from January – May and along the main road between headquarters and the campsite from June – September.

Garnett Pitta

Most bird guides would agree with me when I say that this bird is easier to find in Malaysia at Teman Negara or Kinnabalu than in Thailand. The Garnett Pitta so far has only been recorded within the tiny lowland forest patch in Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary. Even then, finding it can prove to be a daunting task, even for the most veteran birders. The infestation of leeches and white flies in the area are another aspect which will deter many birders from the quest.

Germaine’s Swiftlet

Not the most exciting twitch for most people but one which is nice to cross off the list for those who want numbers. Differentiating the Germaine’s from the Pale rumped Swiftlet without actually having the birds in hand can be nearly impossible; that’s when we are forced to rely on habitat. The intersection at Thai Muang municipality in Phang Nga (or the sky above Thai Muang police station in the evening) is perhaps the easiest place to find Germaine’s Swiftlet as they nest in the buildings around the area. Another verified nesting location for these birds is the famous Viking Caves in Ao Phang Nga.

Grey headed Fish Eagle

Perhaps the rarest of the resident fish eagles, this raptor is very difficult to find with no real stakeout where the bird can consistently be seen. The best chance to find it would be at Klong Saen Wildlife Sanctuary on Cheio Laan Lake; even then, nothing can be guaranteed. The bird has also been spotted at Ton Pariwat and Klong Panom National Park.

Great Argus

Seeing the Great Argus in Thailand was only a pipe dream until recently when a couple of sites offered customers a chance to view this enormous bird from permanent blinds in the jungle. Most people choose to head to Khun Sak’s Treehouse where birders can choose a package tour of 3000 THB to see the bird in Khao Sok National Park. Likewise, Khun Daeng has a stakeout at Krung Ching Waterfall but would require birders to book some time in advance to ensure that the bird is present at the lek.

Gurney’s Pitta

The window for finding Gurney’s Pitta in Thailand is pretty  much a sliver away from being completely shut due to the drastic decline in numbers over the past few years. In 2013 no males were seen during the entire breeding season and instead a female was seen in the company of a male Banded Pitta. The birds are still present at Khao Nor Chuchi in Krabi and one can only pray that 2013 was a mirage and that there are still a few breeding pairs left in the area. (As of 2015 the Gurney’s Pitta has been declared “Extinct in the Wild” after two consecutive seasons with no pittas being seen or heard in the area around Khao Nor Chuchi.)

Helmeted Hornbill

One of the rarest and by far the most bizarre-looking of all Thai hornbills, the Helmeted Hornbill is only found in virgin forest habitat with little or no disturbance. Two sites which meet this criteria are Klong Saen and Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuaries. Klong Saen is more easily accessible but finding the birds often will require a large measure of luck. Hala Bala will guarantee a sighting of the birds, but most birders will cringe at the thought of traveling through a virtual war zone to get to the sanctuary.

House Crow

The House Crow is rare throughout Thailand but very easy to find at the municipal recycle center at Sapan Hin in Phuket town. Here the numbers can swell to nearly 500 individuals. These birds breed in the area and are slowly beginning to colonize other areas of the island.

Javan Frogmouth

Perhaps the most abundant frogmouth in the country, the Javan Frogmouth remains an enigma to many birders due to its ridiculously cryptic plumage, skulking habits and nocturnal schedule. Khao Nor Chuchi, Sri Phang Nga National Park, Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary and the Trang Botanical Gardens are great places to find the bird, but the easiest is at Krung Ching. Acquiring the assistance of Khun Daeng (the local ranger at Krung Ching) may make it easier to locate this bird.

Lesser Fish Eagle

Like its relative the Grey headed Fish Eagle, this fish-eating raptor is found along forested streams and undisturbed lakes. A visit to Klong Saen Wildlife Sanctuary will virtually guarantee a sighting of this uncommon raptor; Sri Phang Nga also has a small population of birds although they can sometimes be difficult to locate. The famous resident of Krung Ching has been absent from its usual haunt for a number of years and is assumed to have passed away of old age.

Large Wren Babbler

Wren babblers are a tricky lot and the Large Wren Babbler can prove to be the largest of headaches to locate. Most birders find their quarry at Khao Nor Chuchi, otherwise known as Khao Pra Bang Khram in Krabi, along trail C, H, B and U. Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary is also a haven for these lowland specialties.

Malaysian Blue Flycatcher

Ba Pru Toh Daeng or Sirinthorn Peat Swamp in Narathiwat is the only known site in the country where this bird is found. It is a fairly conspicuous bird which is usually encountered along the first 100 meters of the trail. It breeds at the station as well. If you missed it, ask the rangers; they usually keep track of where this specialty likes to hang out.

Malaysian Nightjar

Like the Garnet Pitta and Short toed Coucal, this nightjar is restricted to the southernmost tip of Thailand in Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary. The bird is usually found around the Flora division of the wildlife offices where it feasts on insects caught on the wing. The bird prefers to perch in the boughs of large trees and can usually only be observed in flight; however, some individuals have gotten lucky and found the bird roosting on the ground along the nature trail during the day.

Malaysian Rail Babbler

The two known sites for this bird are Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary and Krung Ching Waterfall, the latter being the safer and more recommended option of the two. The bird is seasonal and very unpredictable; January – May is when the bird is most frequently encountered, although the exact timetable for its appearance is very uncertain. Those heading to Krung Ching in search of the bird should request the assistance of Khung Daeng, the local ranger and bird guide at the park.

Mangrove Blue Flycatcher

A former stable at Kanab Nam in Krabi, this enigmatic flycatcher has disappeared from nearly all of its former haunts, for reasons yet unknown. The only place where this bird can be found (to date) is the Mangrove Study Center in Yaring, Pattani. The daily bombings and shootings which occur in the municipality will turn away most birders who are thinking of heading in that direction.

Mangrove Pitta

This pitta should be one of the easiest of resident pitas to locate but remains a tough bird to find, even in the breeding season. Obviously restricted to mangrove habitats, most birders will find success when searching for this bird at Ao Phang Nga National Park or at the mangrove walkway near Krabi town. The best times to search for the bird are in the early morning from March – May.

Nicobar Pigeon

This bird is present on a number of islets in the Andaman but the easiest place to twitch it is on the Similan Islands. A visit to the back of the cafeteria at Island 4 will get you a sighting of this bird. -Just ask the cooks and they’ll show you where the birds like to roost! Best times to see the bird are from November – February. After that time the birds head over to Koh Payan to breed, making them very difficult to find on Koh Meng or Koh Similan.

Orange breasted Green Pigeon

Finding the Orange breasted Green Pigeon is not as easy as one would think. The bird is fairly widespread throughout the south but never present in large numbers. The Hilton Arcadia Hotel on Karon beach usually has a few roosting on its grounds near the Sai Tong wing every evening. The bird can also be found with some difficulty in Thai Muang National Park, Koh Pratong National Park and other site which offer mangrove or beach forest habitats.

Oriental Bay Owl

One of the most errie-looking (and sounding) owls, this bird is fairly difficult to find in most provinces in the south. However, it is quite abundant in Phuket, especially in the forested hills in the south and center of the island. The old jeep track which cuts through Khao Prataow National Park is your best bet for seeing the bird, although birders will have to wait on the trail until dark as the rangers will not allow birders access to the trail after 6 PM.

Red bearded Bee Eater

The largest bee eater in the kingdom is known to breed at various sites in the south such as Kaeng Krachan (Petchaburi), Ngao Waterfall (Ranong), Khao Ya – Khao Pu (Phattalung) and Hala Bala (Narathiwat). The bird is also fairly easy to find at Krung Ching Waterfall. Recently a pair of bee eaters were found to be residing at Tung Chalee, a substation of Sri Phang Nga Waterfall located in Kuraburi district.

Red breasted Parakeet

The Red breasted Parakeet considered by some to have been introduced to the region, possibly via the cagebird trade. The parakeet has fared well, extending its range to various sites along the west coast. The parakeets can be seen nesting in trees along Patong beach across from the post office, usually in the dry season between November – June. They have also have been spotted near Khao Lak National Park in Phang Nga.

River Lapwing

An uncommon wader which prefers the sandy banks of wide rivers, the River Lapwing is an uncommon bird in southern Thailand. Birders can find this wader along Klong Khao Sok just north of Takuapah. Drive on Highway 4240 from Takuapah heading towards Khao Sok and take any of the right turns along the route and park at the bridge and search downstream. The best place to spot them is around Baan Talad Yai bridge near the first T-junction after passing the Takuapah – Kuraburi intesection.

Rufous collared Kingfisher

One of the rarest kingfisher in the kingdom, the Rufous collared Kingfisher is present at a number of sites (Khao Sok, Sri Phang Nga National Park) but can be very difficult to lure in for photography or extended looks. Krung Ching Waterfall has an excellent stakeout for this bird, with up to five known territories spread along the trail to the waterfall. Contact Khun Daeng, the local ranger, for assistance.

Scarlet rumped Trogon

This bird stands out like a ripe, plump mango when perched in the trees, yet it’s amazing how even with its bright red plumage it can still find a way to camouflage itself from birders. It has been heard calling at Klong Naka Wildlife Sanctuary and Sri Phang Nga National Park, but birders who want to see it in all its glory should head over to Krung Ching Waterfall or Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary.

Short toed Coucal

The smallest of three coucals in the kingdom, this coucal is unlike its relatives in that it prefers life in the forest as opposed to open country and marshlands. Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary is the only place where it can be found in Thailand, and even then birders will have to search long and hard along the lowland forest trail to find it.

Spotted Wood Owl

This owl is fairly widespread and can be found in gardens and forested areas in Krabi, Phang Nga and Trang. A popular daytime roost for this bird is at the exercise park on Thai Muang Beach. Up to three birds can be found here on any given day, although it will take a lot of patience and perseverance to find these birds as they can be well camouflaged in the trees.

Some Points to Consider:

Everyone loves stakeouts. Having the “inside scoop” to where a sought-after species may be lurking can be a godsend for twitchers in desperate search for a lifer or birders visiting a country with only a limited time frame in which to go birdwatching.

Knowing where to look increases the chances of finding the target species.

For birders who “dip” on the bird, it also allows a measure of consolidation in knowing that the fault cannot be placed entirely on the birder for missing the bird; after all, these are wild creatures and we can’t blame them for not staying put.

This brings us to present a number of tips to remember when using this list. The list was compiled using information garnered from personal experience as well as the experiences of other birders in the field. These are some lessons which we have learned which we would like to share with you which we hope will add some perspective in those times when you plan a trip and it seems like everything went wrong.

When you are out in the field in search of a lifer which doesn’t seem to be present, instead of using your worst French when speaking about myself or this list, bear in mind that these creatures are …

Wild Birds: One obvious fact to bear in mind is that the birds are wild; even on the best of days one can never guarantee that the bird in question will be at the right spot at any given time. You may be at the right place, but perhaps you arrived at the wrong time.

-Which brings us to our next point …

Timing: Not all birds are morning birds. Some are more active in the evening. Some nocturnal birds are only found in the early evenings and will be nigh impossible to locate after 8 PM. Knowing when a particular specimen (everyone is unique, right?) is active plays a MAJOR factor in whether or not you will be successful in locating your quarry.

Then again you may find yourself wondering why the birds aren’t in display despite being at the right place at the right time. You may have looked at your watch, but perhaps you forgot to look at your calendar?

Seasons: An important factor to consider when targeting a certain species is the season. Most birds in the south (or throughout Thailand for that matter) are only active or responsive to playback during certain seasons, even among the resident species.

For example, pitta are more likely to be seen between the months of March – June. Throughout the rest of the year, they are practically non-existent. Looking for Nicobar Pigeon on Koh Meng in March may leave you wondering if the birds are sporting invisibility cloaks. Green Broadbill can often be heard calling in November but will rarely respond to playback during that time.

Sensibility: If all else fails, you’ll be left with only one option: try again tomorrow. –Or next year. –Or another site. Birdwatching is a hobby to some and a sport to others. –And just as in sports, when we concede the fight or lose the game, we just have to pick ourselves up off the ground, dust off the dirt and vow to do better next time.

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