Feb 232012

Thailand’s bird-life, when you stop to look, is abundant – especially on Koh Samui. Thanks to a variety of environments from sea-level to Koh Samui’s highest point at 635 metres, and plenty of migrating visitors, it’s a great destination for bird-watchers. We’ve spent many happy hours noticing the variety (and colour!) of Thailand’s birds and are getting better at recognising the regulars.

Hope to see some of Koh Samui’s birdlife yourself? Our tips for bird-watching in Thailand include a few location suggestions, but our amateur skills depend on a fantastic bird-watching book and a decent supply of gin and tonics. We keep this page updated with new sightings, so Pin it (or bookmark) now for future reference!

How to identify birds in Thailand

The birds of Thailand bible: Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson – Amazon’s offerings are strictly second-hand but it’s truly the definitive bird-guide for Thailand. We highly recommend even a dog-eared version!


South-East Asia generally: A Photographic Field Guide To Birds Of South-East Asia – A slightly newer book with a wider geographic range. This guide is second-most popular with our bird-watching readers, though we haven’t used it ourselves.


Better vision: Olympus 8 x 40 DPSI Binoculars – Best-selling binoculars with astonishingly high reviews, they weigh just 700 grams (definitely suitcase-sized).

15 Birds of Koh Samui: seen so far

In alphabetical order –– *denotes a reader’s sighting

Asian palm swift: these beauties appear at dusk in the dozens, presumably hunting mosquitoes. They’re fast and silent… they’re swift! Fun fact? They nest under palm leaves, gluing them together with saliva. (Wikipedia photo).


Besra: (We think). A medium-size raptor that eats lizards and dragonflies, amongst other things.


*Black bellied malkoha bird: Not our own sighting, but one kindly reported from a blog reader, Harry. He saw it from his hotel room near Lamai – proving that, in the tropics, nature gladly comes to you.

Brahminy kite: the myna birds disappear quickly when this big baddie shows up. Fascinating to watch it soar, but haven’t yet seen it swoop. (Photo credit below).


Cattle egret: In Thailand’s heat, why not let someone else do all the work?


Common tailor bird: As featured in Rudyard Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.


Greater coucal: seriously ugly bird with scary eyes and an exceptionally menacing call cackle. Still, they hunt for big insects and even snakes – so they’re welcome to stay! (Photo credit below).


Indian roller: For a long time we thought this was an Asian fairy bluebird (it’s blue!). Turns out that the latter looks mean and scary, and this guy is pretty and sweet.


Myna bird: about as common as pigeons anywhere else in the world, but mynas are interesting for their intelligence & their life-long pairing. They’ve been hanging out on the top of the sala lately. (Until the brahminy kite shows up…).


Olive backed sunbird: The coolest bird we’ve ever seen outside of a zoo! Must consider spray-painting the common sparrow – all birds should be this bright. We first noticed this little guy when he flew into the kitchen!


Pacific reef egret: Could it look more like a velociraptor if it tried? We think this one is pretty scary-looking, though it was great to watch him catch his breakfast while we enjoyed ours (who needs TV!). (Photo credit below).


Pied imperial pigeon: A much more regal looking counterpart to the pigeons we know at home! (Photo credit below).


Spotted dove: (And a yellow browed warbler)


White bellied sea eagle: We’ve spotted this terror on a number of occasions, soaring around the bay at Bophut Beach. Absolutely massive.


What birds and wildlife will you see in Thailand? We’re guessing we’ve barely scratched the surface of Koh Samui (and Thailand’s) bird-life, but it’s amazing what you see when you start paying attention. Or, in the case of one of our readers, what you nearly drive into: Koh Samui has massive monitor lizards!

What else is there to see and do? Whether you’ll explore Koh Samui with or without binoculars, use The Koh Samui Guide to make sure you don’t miss a thing. Find out what to expect and exactly where to find your favourite places, foods and island activities.

Photo credit to Hafiz Issadeen, Hafiz IssadeenRon Knight and Drew Avery via Flickr Creative Commons