Birding at Lata Bukit Hijau – Kedah

Birding at Lata Bukit Hijau – Kedah

Trip Report: Irshad Mobarak
Location: Lata Bukit Hijau, Kedah, Malaysia.
Date: 20.4.08

The team left Langkawi on the first ferry at 7.45am and arrived at Kuala Kedah jetty at 9.15am. At the jetty we had a great view of the White–winged Tern in adult breeding color, and in the distance views of the Whiskered Terns.

After some breakfast we drove to our destination Lata Bukit Hijau (LBH). LBH is a recreational forest at the base of the Bintang Mountain Range. At over 1860 meters, Gunung Bintang is the highest peak within the range. It encompasses two states with the western part in Kedah and the eastern part in Perak. Together it covers an area of about 94,400 hectare of some magnificent rainforest.


When we arrived at LBH we were met by the General Manager Mr. Jordan, our gracious host was very helpful in directing us to the better birding areas within LBH and we were not at all disappointed. We spent the afternoon birding session within the resort grounds and the following morning at the nearby canopy walkway. The canopy walk way is a mere 25 minutes drive from the LBH and it is considered to be the longest canopy walkway in the world. It is an incredible 925 meters long and about 30 meters up in most areas.


During the short overnight stay at Lata Bukit Hijau and 2 session of birding we manage to see over 45 species with some lifers for a few in the group. This place truly deserves a return trip, so that we can develop a good birdlist plus the fact there are many things to do for the family like ‘Flying fox’ and ‘White-water Rafting’ for the adrenalin junkies, some cool waterfalls to refresh in and some serious and not so serious trekking. Other animals that we saw were the Pygmy Squirrels and Taiping Squirrels, lots of monkeys including the Dusky-leaf Langurs, Pig-tailed and Long-tailed Macaques and easy views of the White-handed Gibons whose whooping calls will break the dawn and its agile gymnastic between the trees will enthrall you. They are reports of elephants and for those who have got the time village guides can be arraigned and permission must be obtain from the Forestry and Wildlife department to view them but alas! we had time only for the monkeys and gibbons this time trip.

Rhinoceros Hornbill

The Junglewallah

Bird Species:

Lata Bukit Hijau and Sedim Canopy Walkway

  1. Crested Serpent Eagle
  2. Changeable Hawk- Eagle
  3. Crested Goshawk
  4. Grey-rumped Treeswift
  5. Whiskered Treeswift
  6. Brown-backed Needle-tailed Swift
  7. Pacific Swallow
  8. Streaked Bulbul
  9. Red-eye Bulbul
  10. Yellow-vented Bulbul
  11. Spectacle Bulbul
  12. Black-crested Bulbul
  13. Black-headed Bulbul
  14. Streaked Spiderhunter
  15. Spectacle Spiderhunter
  16. Thick-billed Spiderhunter
  17. Banded Woodpecker
  18. Blue-winged Leafbird
  19. Little Leafbird
  20. Asian Paradise Flycatcher
  21. Dark-sided Flycatcher
  22. Asian Paradise Flycatcher (white morph-long tailed and brown morph)
  23. Brown Flycatcher Shrike
  24. Large Wood Shrike
  25. Tiger Shrike
  26. Yellow-vented Flowerpecker
  27. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
  28. Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker
  29. Fiery Minivet
  30. Chestnut-bellied Malkoha
  31. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha
  32. Red-billed Malkoha
  33. Rhinoceros Hornbill
  34. Red-throated barbet (in flight)
  35. Common Tailorbird
  36. Oriental Pied magpie Robin
  37. Rufus-winged Philantoma
  38. Yellow-bellied Yuhina
  39. Emerald Dove
  40. Spotted-neck Dove
  41. Purple-napped Sunbird
  42. White-throated Kingfisher
  43. Large Hawk Cuckoo
  44. Ashy Drongo
  45. Racquet-tailed Drongo
  46. Cattle Egret ( village rice fields)
  47. Little Egret ( village rice fields)
Love and Courtship of The Great Hornbills

Love and Courtship of The Great Hornbills

The dry season is well set in here on Langkawi Island, this very dry weather triggers the plants into flower which is then followed by the fruiting season and then the seeding season. And with the seeds come the early rains arrive once again to germinate those seeds and to begin the greening processes once again. Throughout this period there are plenty of insects, flowers, fruit and seeds available, so plenty of food for the insectivorous, nectarines and insectivorous. So many birds choose this time on the island to nest because when babies are here there a lot of food to support them.

I have been privileged to witness the courtship and nesting behavior of the Great Hornbills many times. I remember once in early January some years ago I spend several days witnessing the courtship. In a flock of about 25 birds 3 males (mature at year 5) were fighting each other for a young female. Beaks clashing, push and pull sometimes falling off the tree in a wrestle, to be the only ones to offer food to her. They carry food mostly fruit in their gular pouch, pushing and fighting for this opportunity. Eventually she makes a choice for life and takes the food only from the male she wants. She does not accept any more fruit from the other males and these other males soon lose interest. This activity went on for over 8 days. it is an amazing event especially the loud calls and clashing sounds of the beaks.

As we come closer to the nesting season we see lots of beak rubbing (bonding) and fruit passing between the new pairs and older pairs, this is referred to as conditioning, in preparation for their nesting. Their nest is a large hollow in a large emergent tree usually more than 10 meters off the ground. She enters this hollow and if she approves of it, she begins to plaster herself in. she uses the pulp of regetulated fruit and gently plaster the opening until a small slit is left, enough for her beak to stick out. She remains in this cavity for about 8 to 9 weeks and throughout that period her mate for life will fly off and return every half, one or two hour intervals with room service, mostly fruit (70%) but sometimes little lizards, little snakes, insects, young of other nesting birds and once I even saw him bring her a little squirrel.

This is why they do a lot of fruit passing before nesting because sometimes the male has to fly a long way to find food and to not get it right when he passes it to her through the tight opening sometimes from an awkward position. If they did not get this right and they lose fruit in that process she and baby (only one egg and one baby per chance per year) could go hungry. 8 or 9 weeks later the young is now stronger, can protect its own self and the accommodation is too now too small for the growing young and mum, she breaks out, now both parents feed their young until about 4 weeks later when it is time for the young to break out and join its parents and be trained for about 7 ½ months before it time to for the young to be left with the other new arrivals and sub adults of previous years.

Other than the Hornbills the White-bellied Sea Eagles, the Crimson Sunbird, Dark-necked Tailorbird, and Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Dollarbird are also nesting right now.
I can not wait to see their new born. I will keep you posted.

Happy birding
Irshad Mobarak

Seasons of Langkawi

Seasons of Langkawi

This is the season of love on the holiday island of Langkawi. By this I mean the birds and the birds. You see this island undergo a pronounced dry season that is not experienced any where else on the peninsular Malaysia. This dry season will last for between 21/2 months to 31/2 months and usually begin around the last week of November until the first of last week of March with a longer spell during the al Niño year. This dry spell is very stressful for a rainforest and when trees of a rainforest do not get enough water they begin to flower. So while some trees need just three weeks of no rain to flower others may need 3 even 4 months for it to flower so the flowering season on Langkawi is staggered depending on the plants threshold to the dry condition.

Nevertheless for the first of our flowering plants comes the first of our fruit and for the first of our fruit comes the first or our seed and with the first seeds comes the first rains that are usually light, scattered, and far between days. as the weeks proceed the rains become heavier, covering more of the island and closer between days.

Then in the middle or late part of June we are hit by the first part of the south east Monsoons. Now the rains are much heavier, longer lasting, electrical and closer between days. This electrical show is over by august but there is a slight increase in rainfall, a little more in rain in September and a great increase in rainfall in October. In October we some time get 5 days and 5 nights of continuous rain with a break of one, two or three days before another 3 days and 3 nights of more rain. Such is October, mostly wet until the first week of November before everything tappers off rather quickly and at the end of November the start of the new dry season.

Likewise many animals choose the dry season as the season of love and courtship because when the babies arrive they arrive in time for the flowers, the fruit, the seeds, and when the rains return the greening processes long with this there are plenty of insect pollinators, fruit eating insects and during the greening processes there are the leaf eating insects. Which means plenty of food for the new arrivals, the parents and many others. So this is a great time for the nectarines, the fruit eaters and yes for those birds that that prey on small birds and animals too. A season of plenty has arrived on the island and it is the best time to be on the Island. Love is literally in the air so to speak.

On my next posting I will talk about the courtship and nesting habits of the Great Hornbill.

Happy birding.

Bird Malaysia Blog

Bird Malaysia Blog

This is the first entry in the blog and how nice to start it with a positive note. As of the 1st of Feb 2008, Langkawi, an island on the very north west of peninsular Malaysia got its first nature interpretive center. It has been a long time coming, and finally nature has got a home. The center will be manned by a representative from natural history expeditions (the company that operates and Malaysia nature society (Malaysia oldest nature society).

Langkawi is home to over 200 species of birds which includes some notables like the great hornbills and wreathed hornbills and may i add this is probably the best place in Malaysia to see the Great Hornbills. there are a total of over 19 species of raptors including the Mountain hawk-eagle and Changeable Hawk-eagle , 6species of Kingfisher including the Brown winged Kingfisher and Black-capped Kingfisher, 3 species of Bee-eaters including the Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters nd Blue throated Bee-eaters and many others (Langkawi birdlist).

The aim of the center is mostly 3 fold, foremost is education, the center will run nature education classes for the young kids as well as the adults, second it will conduct conservation projects specifically on Langkawi and finally act as a watchdog in protecting the remaining wildlands with particular focus on the important bird areas. The center will eventually showcase several gardens that includes a butterfly garden, a bird garden, wildlife garden. wild fruit garden and a herbal garden. the objective is to teach locals a new way of landscaping. The center will be the heartbeat of the newly proposed Langkawi International Birdrace presently being considered to be an annual event.

Langkawi is a good birdwatching destination as it has a wide variety of habitats all within 15 minutes of each other, it offers wetlands (rice paddies , mangroves and shore birds), secondary forest (scrub-land birds) and lowland rainforest birds. It may be ideal for those birders that would like to end their trip for Malaysian birds with a beach holiday or for those birders that are on a shorter timetable. The best months to visit so as to get some of the migrants would be between the months of mid November and early april. Unlike mainland Malaysia the weather is very co-operative. It is important to know and ask us about the local weather of an area as they may differ with the general weather pattern described for Malaysia.

Happy Birding.