Malaysia’s Life Zone

Malaysia is made up of two regions namely West Malaysia and East Malaysia. West Malaysia is a peninsular connected to continental South East Asia, whereas East Malaysia is part of the world’s third largest island Borneo. Continental South East Asia has a recorded 1225 species of birds including its winter migrants with West Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia) and East Malaysia (Borneo: Sabah and Sarawak) accounting for over 742 species. Sabah has a total of 568 species, 399 of which are resident and 197 migrants. A total of 36 species endemic to Borneo have been recorded, 4 of which are entirely confined to Sabah. Sarawak has 550 species in total, of which 390 are residents and 184 migrants. A total of 35 are endemic to Borneo, 3 of which are entirely found in Sarawak. Peninsular Malaysia has a total of 644 species, 445 are residents and 232 migrants. 4 species are endemic to the Thai- Malayan Peninsular, 3 of which are entirely confined to Peninsular Malaysia.


Temperatures fall and precipitation increases at mountains higher altitudes, supporting cool moist montane forest. Higher still and the mountains become shrouded in mist for at least part of each day, creating conditions for cloud forest. Here growth is slowed by lower temperatures and reduction in sunlight. Branches of trees become laden with epithetic plants like moss, lichen, ferns and orchids. Tree ferns become a common sight. While this forest supports many of the same plants of the lowlands rainforest, they also harbor some unique species of plant life and birdlife that cannot be found at lower altitudes.

KEY SITES (Peinsular Malaysia): Fraser’s Hill, Maxwell Hill
KEY SITES (Borneo): Kinabalu Park, Crocker Range, Kelabit Highlands, Mt. Mulu National Park


Lowland rainforest are dense, multi layered and species rich with typically over 240 species of trees per hectare. Bird communities are very rich and diverse with a high proportion of Sundaic species. The key families are woodpeckers, barbets, hornbills, trogons, cuckoos, bulbuls, babblers, flowerpeckers and spiderhunters.

KEY SITES (Peinsular Malaysia): Kenyir Lake State Park, Royal Belum State Park, Taman Negara National Park, Endau-Rompin State Park, Panti-Forest State Park
KEY SITES (Borneo): Tambin Wildlife Reserve, Danum valley conservation area, Lambir Hills National park


Malaysia is blessed with very long coastline offering a variety of wetland habitat types both natural and manmade. Around the coastal regions we find mudflats and mangrove forest, salt pans, prawn and fish ponds while further inland we find freshwater lakes and rice paddies which are ideal habitats for the specialist wetland birds. The peninsular is also an important migratory stop for birds from Siberia, Manchuria and China.

KEY SITES (Peninsular Malaysia): Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary, Kuala Selangor Nature Park, South-West Johore Coast
KEY SITES (Borneo): Kinabatangan Flood Plain, Loagan Benut National Park, Similagau National park


Malaysia offers large islands with a greater number of interesting species, to offshore islands that have less species diversity but large congregations of seabirds. Small islets and atolls are important as nesting areas for terns, gulls and some larger seabirds such as noddies and boobies. Undisturbed sandy beaches, sand dunes and coastal flats provide valuable breeding areas for certain species, some of which are shared with larger rivers.

KEY SITES (Peinsular Malaysia): Langkawi Island, Tukun Perak, Tioman Island, Penang Island
KEY SITES (Borneo): Layang Layang Island, Bruit Island