Whether you’re a seasoned birder or you just enjoy pleasant surprises while out on a trek, Malaysian Borneo’s extensive fleet of birds is guaranteed to stir awe and imagination with vibrant colors, extraordinary calls, and intricate nest-architecture. From way up high in the montane regions of Kinabalu National Park to the untouched depths of Danum Valley, Sabah is a favorite for both birds and birders.
Left: Whitehead’s Broadbill (Calyptomena whiteheadi) Right: Whitehead’s Trogon (Harpactes whiteheadi)
The pristine mountain range of Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site doesn’t fall short in the fauna department, boasting an astonishing 5,000 plant species. Feast your eyes on up to 17 Bornean-endemic birds such as the Bornean Treepie, Bornean Laughing-thrush, Short-tailed Magpies, Chestnut-crested Yuhina, and the famous Whiteheads Trio; Whitehead’s Trogon, Whitehead’s Spiderhunter, and Whitehead’s Broadbill.
Sweeping views of the valley, wild gibbons exchanging morning banters, and marvelous birds roam the tropical paradise that is Danum Valley. The canopy walkway at Borneo Rainforest Lodge gives way to stunning sights of hornbills and walking along the numerous nature trails opens the doors to a variety of pittas such as the Blue-headed, Black-headed, and Banded Pittas, and the elegant parade of the Bornean Crested Fireback Pheasant and Great Argus Pheasant is guaranteed to render even the most experienced of birders speechless.
Even if birdwatching wasn’t a priority, the sheer number of birds making their daily rounds in the reserve will have casual travelers converting into birding enthusiasts in no time. Witness the brilliant teal of the Black-and-yellow or Black-and-red broadbill’s beak or listen to the gentle sounds of flight of Lesser Fish Eagles and Bushy-crested Hornbills amongst a stunning number of other mammals who wander the grounds of Tabin Wildlife Reserve.
If Danum Valley or Tabin is out of the budget, Sepilok’s high concentration of 300 bird species – including all eight species of Hornbills – is certainly a budget-friendly alternative and equally gratifying for birders. The Rainforest Discovery Centre is a cult favorite among birders and can be a sure-fire way to inspire non-birders to pick up birding. Canopy walkways soar high amongst dipterocarp trees, allowing birders an exclusive peek through the treetops for more enigmatic birds such as the prized Bornean Bristlehead and more.
Crowned as the lifeblood of the Kinabatangan area, the riverine forests of the Kinabatangan River appeals to an incredible array of wildlife and some of the world’s most sought after birds such as the endangered Storm’s Stork according to the IUCN Red List with an estimate of 260 to 330 mature individuals in the wild. Other famed residents of this area include the ever-adorable Bornean Falconet (world’s smallest raptor) and Oriental Darter submerged deep in the murky waters of the river.
We’re only skimming the surface of what Sabah, Malaysian Borneo has to offer and this ‘list’ does it little justice with over 688 resident and migratory birds to encounter and admire.