Feb 232012

Thailand’s bird-life, when you stop to look, is abundant – especially in Koh Samui where we’ve started to pay better attention. Though we’re absolutely amateur, over Christmas & New Years we spent some time in the company of our battered Birds of Thailand book – noticing the variety (and colour!) of Thailand’s birds. We’re getting better at recognising the regulars and we’ll update as we spot any new arrivals!

Birds we've seen in Thailand

For now, here are 9 Koh Samui birds we’ve spotted recently – (note: none of the following photos are our own, credit is duly given at the bottom of the page).

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

Asian fairy bluebird – he looks a little mean in this photo, but they’re gorgeous from afar. There seems to be a resident pair in a nearby coconut tree – so cool!

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.

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!

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!

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 kite shows up…).

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!).

Pied imperial pigeon – a much more regal looking counterpart to the pigeons we know at home!

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.

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. See photos here.

Hoping to do some bird-watching while in Thailand?

  • Field guide bird books: If you’ve any interest, we highly recommend tracking down a used copy of (1) Craig Robson’s Birds of Thailand – though it looks like the offerings are strictly second-hand. Otherwise, (2) Birds of South-East Asia is in stock and has strong praise from Amazon reviewers.
  • Better vision: Next on the shopping list: a pair of decent binoculars! (3) Olympus 8 x 40 DPSI Binoculars currently sit second on Amazon, yet come better recommended for bird-watching and weigh less than the #1 pair – they’re just 700 grams. Definitely suitcase-sized
What else will you see in flight Hoping to see some of Thailand’s butterflies, or avoid its mosquitoes? We can help!

What birds 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. We’re not “bird-watchers” in an educated sense, and every one of the above birds we’ve seen while A) eating or B) drinking (our bigger priorities). So as for “Thailand’s best bird-watching spots”… beach restaurants and anywhere slightly uphill have done the trick so far. We keep this page updated with new sightings, so Pin it (or bookmark) now for future reference!

Koh Samui Guide

So 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.


(All above bird photos c/o Flickr Creative Commons with credit – from top to bottom – to: Judhi PrasetyoBob OwenHafiz Issadeen, David CookHafiz IssadeenLudovic Hirlimann, Ron Knight and Drew Avery. Asian palm swift photo via Wikipedia).

Have you seen these yet?