Birding Tour Thailand: Central and Northern Thailand 2019

Duration: 23 days

This three-week tour includes a circuit around central Thailand, starting and ending in Bangkok, and then another circuit around northern Thailand, starting and ending in Chiang Mai. This tour has been designed to focus on the amazing birding that Thailand has to offer during the northern winter, set in a beautiful country with incredibly welcoming people and some of the best food in the world too. Several sites visited offer excellent photographic opportunities for those with an interest in capturing the many wonderful moments likely.

After arrival in Bangkok we head south to the shores of the Bay of Bangkok and the vast areas of saltpans that form the vital overwintering habitat for hundreds of thousands of shorebirds, where one of the most highly-sought of the birds on the planet, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, can be found here during the non-breeding season. We will be putting all of our effort into finding it, along with many other species. In fact, over 40 species of shorebirds can be found here in a couple of days! It really is quite staggering witnessing the huge numbers of birds and the species diversity here. Other key birds on our radar here will include Great Knot, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Asian Dowitcher, Far Eastern Curlew, Malaysian Plover, and ‘White-facedPlover (a very distinctive subspecies of Kentish Plover and a bit of a taxonomic mystery). There are of course many other potential highlights to search for during our time here, and Chinese Egret will be high on that list.

We will then dive into about a week of forest birding across two phenomenal reserves: Kaeng Krachan and Khao Yai National Parks. The potential list of species of birds and other wildlife across these two locations is massive (see the detailed itinerary below for extra details). Some of the most interesting and exciting birds we might find here could include Blue and Eared Pittas, Great, Wreathed, Tickell’s Brown, Austen’s Brown, and Oriental Pied Hornbills, Black-and-red, Banded, Black-and-yellow, Dusky, Silver-breasted, and Long-tailed Broadbills, Banded Kingfisher, Kalij and Silver Pheasants, Red Junglefowl, Siamese Fireback, White-fronted Scops Owl, Oriental Bay Owl, Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo, Red-bearded and Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, Common Green Magpie, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Red-headed and Orange-breasted Trogons, Orange-headed Thrush, and Bamboo, Heart-spotted, and Great Slaty Woodpeckers. Non-avian highlights could include Lar (White-handed) and Pileated Gibbons, Asian Elephant, the Indochinese subspecies of Leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri), which may include the melanistic form that occurs here, also known as the “Black Panther”, Sloth Bear, and Siamese Crocodiles among the commoner monkeys, squirrels, and deer.

Our tour will then head north to the northern capital Chiang Mai, where we will visit Doi Inthanon, the country’s highest mountain. The unique set of habitats here offers us some excellent birds as well as letting us come to grips with some of the commoner northern species. Special birds here may include Rufous-throated Partridge, Mountain Bamboo Partridge, Black-tailed Crake, Spectacled Barwing, Himalayan Bluetail, White-browed Shortwing, Dark-sided Thrush, White-crowned, Slaty-backed, and Black-backed Forktails, and Red-headed Trogon. The dry, lowland forest at the foot of the mountain can be full of woodpeckers, and the stunning Black-headed Woodpecker, huge Great Slaty Woodpecker, and tiny Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker can all be found, along with White-rumped Falcon, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Blossom and Grey-headed Parakeets, and Burmese Nuthatch.

After our exploration of areas to the south of Chiang Mai we will head back north and spend the next few days birding at several mountain sites close to, and sometimes along the Thai-Myanmar border (e.g. Doi Chiang Dao, Doi Ang Khang, and Doi Lang). These mountains support huge numbers of overwintering migrants from China, such as numerous warblers, flycatcher, chats, thrushes, finches, and buntings, and also some very highly-sought resident species like Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Rusty-naped Pitta, Himalayan Cutia, Scarlet-faced Liocichla, Silver-eared Mesia, Silver-breasted and Long-tailed Broadbills, and Giant Nuthatch. Between the mountains here much of the land is farmed for rice, and these rice paddies often also hold exceptional numbers of migrants and a few interesting residents , and we will look for Greater Painted-snipe, Siberian Rubythroat, Yellow-breasted Bunting, and Wire-tailed Swallow.

Our final stop of this exciting trip will see us visiting the famous Mekong River along the Thai-Myanmar-Laos border, in addition to the nearby Chiang Saen Lake. During our time in this area we will hope to find the pretty River Lapwing, Small Pratincole, and, with luck, the Critically Endangered (IUCN) Baer’s Pochard that sometimes overwinters on the vast waterbody of Chiang Saen Lake. Plenty of other overwintering wildfowl species are possible too, and there is usually something unexpected floating about on the lake, such as Baikal Teal or Falcated Duck! The evening here is pretty spectacular too, and we end the tour with a visit to a harrier roost, where hundreds of Pied and Eastern Marsh Harriers come in to roost, giving fantastic views as they drop in overhead as the sun disappears.

See full tour detail