If you’ve watched animation movie Rio (2011) or The Big Year (2011) played by Steve Martin and Owen Wilson, you might have changed your perception about the winged animals prominently featured in these films. Yes, birds are actually one interesting type of reptile, attracting the attention of ornithologists and the casual nature lover alike.
These creatures – some of them rare, nomadic, mysterious, and beautiful – occupy a variety of habitats. They nest in urban parks, while some others hide away in forests. There have been stories of people venturing deep into the jungles of continents for a single satisfying glimpse of these feathered friends. We may observe them, but they remain “untouchable.” Perhaps that is what makes them such fascinating creatures to us all, and the reason why birdwatching is a passionate pursuit for many, especially among the hipster generation now. Malaysia, blessed with its tropical nature and greenery, is certainly one of the best bird-watching destinations in the world, with many species easily observable.
Let’s see why Malaysia should be your next birdwatching destination!
After South America, Asia has the second largest concentration of birds in the world, and Malaysia boasts a total of 790 species nationwide in both Peninsular and East Malaysia, plus over 100 species of migratory birds. Malaysia has 55 Important Birds Area (IBA) covering a total of 5.1 million hectares of mangroves land, forests and parks (www.birdinginmalaysia.com). There are 63 species of endemic birds in Malaysia (nowhere else in the world can you find them but here) along with other rare and endangered species such as Silvery Pigeons, Christmas Frigatebirds, Spoon-billed Sandpipes and Helmeted Hornbills.
The migration season for birds coming from Siberia, Manchuria and China to Malaysia starts around September annually, up until early April when it’s time to return to the north. This is the perfect time to observe the arrival of Oriental Honey buzzard, Siberian Thrush and Yellow-rumped Flycatcher after a long flight from home. The well-known birding sites in Peninsular Malaysia are Fraser’s Hill and Taman Negara which are easily accessible over a 2 or 3 hours’ drive respectively from the nation’s capital of Kuala Lumpur. Meanwhile, over in Sabah, Kinabalu Park, Kinabatangan River and Danum Valley are well known birding destinations. In Sarawak, there are 20 IBAs which are home to 500 species of birds, especially in Bako National Park. Good transport infrastructure allows quick and easy travel between the different birding sites.
There are several interesting birding routes in Malaysia that each offer different experiences and allow birdwatchers to observe different species of birds. In Peninsular Malaysia there are the Central Route, Central Route Plus and the captivating Northern (Hornbill) Route. These routes cover the crowd–favourite venues such as Taman Negara, home to 350 bird species including Hornbills, Trogons, Barbets and Great Argus. Migratory birds also can be viewed in Langkawi, Kedah and Tg. Tuan, Melaka. Up north in the state of Perak and just a 2-hour drive from Penang is The Royal Belum Park. The Royal Belum Park is home to an impressive 10 species of hornbills. Some even call it the Hornbill Capital of the World! There is no other place on the planet relative to the size of the area where tourists can find that many number of species of hornbills. Meanwhile, in East Malaysia there are two well-known routes, namely Borneo (Sabah) Route and Borneo (Sarawak) Route – that covers lowland forest to montane and lower montane which promise many species – such as Malaysian Treepies, Ashy Drongos, Mountain Leaf Warblers or bulbuls. In the care of skilled and experienced Malaysian birdwatching guides, your chances of seeing your target birds are greatly enhanced. With the right equipment such as potable blinds (camouflage tents), the guide can bring you up close to view the beautiful and vulnerable Malayan Peacock Pheasant and – when the timing is right – even to witness its behaviour during the courtship season! A well organised birdwatching tour, lasting approximately 14 days, may result in an impressive 200 to 230 species of birds!
Tour Agency: Natural History Tours (bird-malaysia.com or junglewalla.com)
Address: 1C, Lot 1392 Jalan Tanjung Rhu, 07000 Langkawi
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: + 6019 5902 300 or + 6012 4870 600