Brilliant Birding in Malaysia

With a tropical climate, diverse terrain and lush vegetation supporting abundant bird life, combined with incredible scenery and friendly people, Malaysia continues to be a prime birding destination. From swampy mangroves to tropical rainforest-covered mountains, the landscape of Malaysia provides a variety of habitats for over 720 species of birds, including 39 endemic species, on the Malaysia Peninsula and Malaysia Borneo – the two regions of Malaysia which are separated by the South China Sea.

There are a number of tours available that focus primarily on bird-watching and therefore, take birders to the areas with the widest variety of birds. A two week tour will in all likelihood allow birders to spot over 300 species of birds, including Red-naped Trogon, Rhinoceros Hornbill, Gold-whiskered Barbet, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Garnet and Banded Pittas as well as several bulbul, babbler and sunbird species on the Malaysia Peninsula. A trip to Borneo will reward birders with sightings of endemic species including Crimson-headed Partridge, White-fronted Falconet, Bornean Barbet, Bornean Bristlehead, Whitehead’s Broadbill, Blue-headed Pitta and Whitehead’s Spiderhunter.

Birders who only have a few days to spare have numerous bird-watching areas to choose from that are within a three-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. For example, the Kuala Selangor Nature Park is a mere hour and half drive from Kuala Lumpur and, with its coastal forest, mangrove and mud flats, is considered to be one of the best places to view mangrove birds and shore birds. Birds commonly spotted include Black-shouldered Kite, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Red Junglefowl, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Buffy Fish-owl, Copper-throated Sunbird and many more.

Heading towards lowland rainforest area, Sungai Perdik is about one and a half hours drive from Kuala Lumpur. This area offers a flat walking trail along a stream where birders can expect to see the Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher as well as various barbets. Rarer species include the Red-naped Trogon, Green Broadbill, Finsch’s Bulbul, Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Crimson Sunbird and Thick-billed Flowerpecker.

Sabah and Sarawak, the two regions of Borneo, are covered by a large section of forest that contains numerous endemic species. Previously this area had been difficult to gain access to, but recently some areas have been designated as national parks and game reserves allowing easier access for birders. The Sepilok Forest Reserve in Sabah is one of the popular bird-watching areas. As well as being home to an orangutan rehabilitation centre, Sepilok Forest Reserve has designated walking areas that enables visitors to view a wealth of rare indigenous plants, forest animals and more than 200 species of birds.

With the astonishing abundance and variety of birdlife in Malaysia, without a doubt the biggest problem facing bird-watchers who go birding in Malaysia is choosing what to see first.