Birds Observed in Thailand
A Selection of Birds Observed
An Introduction to the Birds of Thailand
…………the feathered variety that is!
We’ve lived in a rural part of Thailand for the past three years and have been pleasantly surprised at the number of birds we’ve seen here. I say ‘surprised’ because on our many travels throughout Thailand in the years prior to our settling here, there were many parts where it was difficult to catch a glimpse of one or hear a birdsong. There were always the numerous water birds in the paddy fields, but smaller birds seemed rare.
We arrived in the summer of 2006 and made our home near Sattahip. It’s a small village with a population of probably less than a hundred people. They are mostly subsistence farmers so we are surrounded by farmland. The area has many small (and ever decreasing) forests, lakes and mountains.
The first depressing site within the first few weeks of our arrival was several local people netting small wild birds with a net between two bamboo poles. We could hardly say anything as we were newcomers and foreigners to boot. And would have been considered interfering foreigners at that! We didn’t even show our disapproval - really, we didn’t know if they were going to eat the poor things or sell them in the market as songbirds; or even to the temple bird sellers to sell to on as gifts to Buddha.
We have to live here and for whatever reasons the local people catch birds, it’s as well for outsiders like ourselves to remember, this part of the country is extremely poor. Not for nothing does our little shop keeper gather every recyclable item, clean them up and sell them; nor his daughter and wife beat great heaps of discarded concrete just to get the steel rebars out! When I say ‘poor’ I mean poverty in the extreme! So much as we may wish they could spare the little birds, we can also see why they need to do something to get a little cash. The cash is to survive, and these people are adept at surviving and being happy into the bargain! There’s always a smile for us, always a cheery greeting and always a seat in the shop for us to sit and have a drink. Along with this if always the offer of food! It just makes you feel very warm in your heart to know such people and have the privilege of living with them.
But back to the local bird population. We have two Labrador dogs, Tessa and Pippa, and they take us on their early morning walks each day - to keep us fit we presume! But a by product of all this walking and the early rising is that we’ve now seen many different species of birds common to Thailand. So our feelings of sadness have now turned to feelings of breath-catching hope. We’re glad we didn’t interfere with the bird catchers (and may I add, we’ve never seen them since – maybe our very presence put them off).
Below you will find a list of all the birds that we’ve seen in the past three years, some of them from further afield than local Sattahip. We’re not expert or professional birdwatchers so there may be some discrepancies, but we’ve been as diligent as possible in our research and often it’s difficult to see colours specifically.
I think we tend to forget that the birds we’ve grown up with in our own native countries we are totally familiar with. We know their flight patterns, their body size, their colours, their song, their nesting habits and everything about them. It’s an intrinsic part of our life, almost part of our genetic makeup. The same with our own native trees and animals. We haven’t studied them; we just know which is which. We can identify them at a glance without effort.
But when you move to a new country, especially one so distant from your own birth place, it’s a whole new ball game. The fall of the Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis ) as he tumbles off the electricity wires after a juicy dragonfly; the wild and insane shrieks of the Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus ) as he entices you from their nests with their limping gait; and the strange upside down creeping in the trees of the Racket-tailed Treepie (Crysirina temia ), are all enough to baffle the most passionate of ‘twitchers’. But we cannot even come near the ‘twitcher’ category. We’re just interested country folk. We’d like to know who we’re living with and are making every effort to find out.
We’re happy that we know the common Mynah, the Asian Sparrow and the gentle Zebra Dove; they live in our garden. It’s when you walk a little further that the identification becomes somewhat haphazard and it’s only with constant watching that you can become familiar with one and all.
Hopefully, the following table will be as accurate as we can possibly make it in our three years of study.
A Comprehensive List of Observed Birds
Peaceful or Zebra Dove (Geopelia striata ) 22cm.  143
White Crested Laughing Thrush (Garrulax leucolophus ) 30 cm 277
Green-billed Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus tristis ) 55cm 156
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus ) 15cm. 368
Common Mynah (Acridotheres, tristis ) 25cm 348
Asian Palm Swift (Cypsiurus balasiensis ) 12cm 173
House Swift (Apus affinus ) 15cm 172
Blue Eared Kingfisher (Alcedo meninting ) 16cm 179
White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis ) 27cm 182
Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis ) 30cm 172
Cattle Egret (Bulbulcus ibis) 50cm 50
Great Egret (Egretta alba ) 90cm 51
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta ) 60cm 52
Little Heron (Butorides striatus ) 45cm 48
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea ) 95cm 47
Cinnamon Bittern (Ixobrychus cinnamomeus ) 38cm 55
Black Bittern (Dupetor flavicollis ) 54cm 55
Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica ) 14cm 225
Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica ) 18cm 226
Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius ) 23cm 304
Great Slaty Woodpecker (Mulleripicus pulverulentus ) 50cm 211
Little Cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger ) 52cm 45
Indian Shag (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis ) 64cm 45
Olive Backed Sunbird (Aethopyga boltoni ) 10cm 355
Brown Throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis ) 14cm 351
Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja ) 11cm 358
Purple Throated Sunbird (Nectarinia sperata ) 10cm 353
Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum ) 9cm 365
Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis ) 11cm 319
Black-Naped Monarch (Hypothymis azurea ) 16cm 335
Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus ) 29cm 249
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus remifer ) 25cm 251
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus hottentottus ) 32cm 252
Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos ) 51cm 260
Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotux goiavier ) 20cm 240
Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis ) 23cm 296
Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica ) 18cm 334
White-throated Fantail (Rhipidura albicollis ) 19cm 334
Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus ) 33cm 103
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (Ficedula zanthopygia ) 13cm 325
Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius ) 10cm 314
Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus ) 33cm 98
Common Coot (Fulica atra ) 40cm 99
Barred Button Quail (Turnix suscitator ) 17cm 93
Scaly-breasted Partridge (Arborophila charltonii ) 29cm 87
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo ) 55cm 79
Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela ) 81cm 76
Grey-headed Fish Eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus ) 68cm 74
Hoopoe (Upupa epops ) 30cm 188
- Striped Tit-babbler (macronus gularis ) 13cm or 275
- Fluffy-backed Tit-babbler (macronus ptilosus ) 15cm
Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis ) 53cm 158
Lesser Coucal (Centropus bengalensis ) 38cm 159
Indian Nightjar (Caprimulgus asiaticus ) 23cm 169
Vernal Hanging Parrot (Loriculus vernalis ) 13cm 149
Lineated Barbet (Megalaima lineata ) 29cm 196
Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis ) 33cm 187
Racket-tailed Treepie (Crypsirina temia ) 33cm 259
Asian Fairy Bluebird (Irena puella ) 25cm 255
(The end numbers on each listed bird refers to the pages in the above book used to identify the birds)
.........More Avian Photos.
Heard But Not Seen
The following list of birds are the night birds, and it is very difficult to identify these splendid avians by anything other than their song. The easiest of all is the ‘Ping Pong ball’ bird, or the Indian Nightjar (Caprimulgus asiaticus), for the very reason his song (?) resembles the continual dropping of a ping pong ball on a hard surface. Along with the Red-wattled Lapwing (he of the insane screech!) this is the pair of birds I’d most like to murder! The one follows the other through the daylight and dark hours. But you get used to their strange calls and they become part of the background eventually. As with any such noise, the lack of it would ruin your day! I would suffer from severe ‘Lapwing and Nightjar deprivation’ were they absent; a new disease to the medical world possibly!!
I have no way of knowing if any or all of these night birds do inhabit our area, but the very presence of so many different sounds at nighttime would suggest that many are represented. The area has all of the requirements for such birds, so it’s a reasonable assumption.
Brown Fish-Owl (Ketupa zeylonensis) 53 cm 162
Buffy Fish-Owl (Ketupa ketupa) 50cm 162
Collared Owlet (Glaucidium brodiei) 16cm 163
Brown Hawk-Owl (Ninox scutulata) 30cm 163
Spotted Owlet (Athene brama) 20cm 164
Spotted Wood-Owl (Strix seloputo) 48cm 164
Barn Owl (Tyto alba) 34cm 159
Oriental Scops Owl (Otus sunia) 19cm 160
Collared Scops Owl (Otus lempiji) 23cm 160
Savannah Nightjar (Caprimulgus affinis) 26cm 169
Large-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus) 30cm 168
Indian Nightjar (Caprimulgus asiaticus) 23cm 169
Birds On My 'Wish List'.
The following birds are the ones on my ‘Wish List’. They do not inhabit the areas around this area apart from the illusive Pelican, (Pelecanus philippensis). It’s a pretty large bird, some 140 cm in all, so shouldn’t be difficult to spot. So far though it’s evaded my eagle eye. The Hornbills though, I shall only see when and if we venture to some of the wonderful National Parks in the South and South West of Thailand. Sadly they are all becoming rare and many are on the endangered list, mainly due to habitat loss – deforestation for farming etc.
Birds to see:
White Crowned Hornbill (Berenicornis comatus) 90cm 189
Brown Hornbill (Ptilolaemus tickelli) 74cm 189
Bushy-Crested Hornbill (Anorrhinus galeritus) 70cm 190
Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyterceros undulates) 100cm 192
Plain-pouched Hornbill (Rhyticeros subruficollis) 90cm 192
Black Hornbill (Anthracocers malayanus) 75cm 193
Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) 70cm 193
Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) 110cm 194
Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) 122 cm 194
Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) 127cm 195
Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) 140cm 42
I am now 65 years old and have been living in Thailand for 3 years. The research book I quote from has some 375 pages with mostly 4 birds to a page. I’ve identified possibly 60 to 65, so how long does that leave me to identify the remainder I wonder?
I leave that for the mathematicians amongst you to work that out. Meantime, I’ll continue to observe and try to identify more of the beautiful creatures and will enjoy every minute of the activity. And in my role as the occasional teacher to our village children, will endeavour to impart to them as much knowledge as I can about conservation, ecology, the environment and the wonderful world of nature that is their heritage.