Mountain Peacock Pheasant is one of the prizes on the tour. Photo: Luke Seitz
About 720 bird species have been recorded in peninsular Malaysia, and a large proportion of these are resident, many unique to the area’s lush tropical rainforest. Our short tour revolves around three nights in cool highlands at Fraser’s Hill, where the first migrants from the north augment the local avifauna, and four nights in the superb Sundaic lowland forest of magnificent Taman Negara, Malaysia’s largest national park. We’ll be targeting some very special birds, including Malaysian Peacock-Pheasant, Great Argus, Rail Babbler, Giant Pitta, Bamboo Woodpecker and Ferruginous Partridge. This wonderful country remains one of the birdiest in Southeast Asia thanks to a system of excellent, well-protected nature reserves, and its multicultural population, modern infrastructure, great food and small towns with old-world charm help make Malaysia a comfortable and memorable birding adventure.
This tour can be taken separately or in combination with our tour of Borneo (Sabah), the world’s third-largest island.
Day 1: Our tour begins this evening in Kuala Lumpur with a get-together dinner. Night in Kuala Lumpur.
Day 2: We’ll spend the morning birdwatching on the Old Gombak Road, where barbets, woodpeckers, spiderhunters, flowerpeckers and sunbirds abound. This area provides a great introduction to Malaysian birds, and the list of even the common birds is tantalizing – Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Emerald Dove, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Indian Cuckoo, Drongo Cuckoo, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Whiskered Treeswift, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Scarlet Minivet, Great Green Leafbird, Green Iora, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Thick-billed Pigeon, Little Cuckoo-Dove, Blue-eared Barbet, Banded Woodpecker and Banded Broadbill are all possible. It’s also a great place to look for the elusive Scaly-breasted Bulbul and maybe even Collared Babbler. After lunch we’ll drive to the northwestern coastal town of Kuala Selangor. Night in Kuala Selangor.
Day 3: This morning we’ll visit the mangroves at Kuala Selangor, home to a number of special birds we are unlikely to encounter elsewhere on the tour, including Black Baza, Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Mangrove Pitta (increasingly rare), Mangrove Whistler and Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher. In the afternoon we’ll drive to Fraser’s Hill. Night at Fraser’s Hill.
Days 4-5: Fraser’s Hill is a wonderful montane region, cool by comparison to Kuala Lumpur. There are plenty of exciting birds to look for in this wonderful birding area, including the spectacular and unlikely looking Fire-tufted Barbet, Black-and-crimson Oriole and Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush. We’ll also look for Wallace’s Hawk-Eagle, Malaysian Hill Partridge, Long-billed Partridge (rare), Yellow-vented Pigeon, Wedge-tailed Pigeon, Oriental Cuckoo, Brown Wood-Owl, Collared Owlet, Malaysian Eared Nightjar, Brown Needletail, Orange-breasted Trogon and Red-bearded Bee-eater. Bushy-crested, Wreathed and Great Hornbills may be spotted, as well as Silver-breasted Broadbill and Rusty-naped (rare) and Hooded Pittas. We’ll also be on the lookout for Marbled (rare), Streaked and Eye-browed Wren-Babblers, Himalayan Cutia, the distinctive local subspecies of Lesser Shortwing, White-tailed Robin and the endemic Malaysian Whistling-Thrush. Nights at Fraser’s Hill.
Day 6: We’ll depart Fraser’s Hill this morning, birding along the Gap Road as we go. We should find Rufous-bellied Swallow, and we’ll also check the bamboo forests we pass for the elusive Bamboo Woodpecker. This bamboo specialist is scarce throughout its range, but this area is easily the best place to look for it.
After an early lunch near Raub, we’ll drive southeast toward Krau Wildlife Reserve looking en route for birds such as the diminutive Black-thighed Falconet, a tiny raptor that specializes in capturing dragonflies. On arrival at Krau Game Reserve, we’ll go directly to a blind within the forest to see what turns up. Anything from Rail Babbler, Giant Pitta, Garnet Pitta or Rufous-collared Kingfisher could be found, but we’ll make a special effort for the Rail Babbler, an intriguing, elusive and enigmatic bird that ticks all the boxes! More common denizens include Black-capped Babbler and the beautiful White-rumped Shama. With luck a Hooded Pitta may also show up, as might Banded Kingfisher, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Gold-whiskered Barbet or, if we’re really lucky, a Malaysian Honeyguide.
Later in the afternoon, we’ll drive east to Jerantut and Kuala Tembeling and then travel by boat for about two hours up the Tembeling River to the headquarters of Taman Negara at Kuala Tahan. As we cruise in our outboard-driven canopied longboats, we’ll see riparian species such as Black-capped Kingfisher, Straw-headed Bulbul and possibly raptors and hornbills as they cross the river or move along its banks. We should arrive at our destination in the late afternoon. Night in Taman Negara.
Days 7-9: Taman Negara, located in the center of Peninsular Malaysia, covers 1,677 square miles of pristine forest and contains virtually all the bird species found in inland Malaysia. We’ll spend three days walking the numerous trails leading from our comfortable lodge into the surrounding lowland rainforest. Birds we hope to see include Crested Fireback; Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot; three species of malkoha; two species of treeswift; Red-naped, Diard’s and Scarlet-rumped Trogons; Red-bearded Bee-eater; Black and Rhinoceros Hornbills; Brown Barbet; a dozen woodpeckers, possibly including White-bellied and Great Slaty; Black-and-yellow, Black-and-red and Green Broadbills; up to 15 bulbuls; Sultan Tit and many more. We’ll also hope to track down rare and elusive species such as Crested Jay, Gould’s Frogmouth, Garnet Pitta, Blue-banded Kingfisher and Helmeted Hornbill, and we’ll have another opportunity to look for the Rail-Babbler if we didn’t succeed at Krau. Birds aside, an added attraction is the opportunity to see a tremendous variety of rainforest plants and other animals during our walks. Nights in Taman Negara.
Day 10: Taking our leave of Taman Negara, we’ll make our way to Bukit Tinggi and immediately head toward a Mountain Peacock-Pheasant stakeout, a short walk up a forest track and out into an opening, where a blind has been set up. This location is likely the easiest place on earth to see this vulnerable endemic. With luck we may also encounter the striking Ferruginous Partridge. This hard-to-find bird is now listed as near threatened on the red list due to ongoing habitat loss, and its population is certainly declining, as with so many other ground-dwelling birds in the region. Night near Bukit Tinggi.
Day 11: This morning we’ll bird at either Bukit Tinggi or Krau again, depending on what we’re still looking for. Later in the day we’ll head back to Kuala Lumpur in preparation for our flights tomorrow. Night in Kuala Lumpur.
Day 12: After breakfast we’ll depart for Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where the tour concludes.
Updated: 06 November 2018