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Buff-rumped Woodpecker Meiglyptes tristis ©James Eaton Website

Sumatra (also spelled Sumatera) is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia (two larger islands, Borneo and New Guinea, are partially in Indonesia), and the sixth largest island in the world (approximately 470,000 km²).

Sumatera consists of the provinces of: Sumatera Utara; Sumatera Barat; Sumatera Selatan; Aceh; Riau; Jambi; Lampung; and the City of Bengkulu.

The longest axis of the island runs approximately 1,790 km (1,100 miles) northwest - southeast, crossing the equator near the center. At its widest point the island spans 435 km (270 miles). The interior of the island is dominated by two geographical regions: the Barisan Mountains in the west and swampy plains in the east. To the southeast is Java, separated by the Sunda Strait. To the north is the Malay Peninsula, separated by the Straits of Malacca. To the east is Borneo, across the Karimata Strait. West of the island is the Indian Ocean.

The backbone of the island is the Barisan mountains chain, with the active volcano Mount Kerinci's 3,805 m (12,467 ft) the highest point, located at about the midpoint of the range. The volcanic activity of this region endowed the region with fertile land and beautiful sceneries, for instance around the Lake Toba. It also contains deposits of coal and gold.

To the east, big rivers carry silt from the mountain, forming the vast lowland interspersed by swamps. Even if mostly unsuitable for farming, the area is currently of great economic importance for Indonesia. It produces oil from both above and below the soil—palm oil and petroleum.

Most of Sumatra used to be covered by tropical rainforest, but economic development coupled with corruption and illegal logging has severely threatened its existence. Conservation areas have not been spared from destruction, either.

The island is the world's 5th highest island, although only the third highest in the Indonesian archipelago.

Sumatra supports a wide range of vegetation types which are home to a rich variety of species, including 17 endemic genera of plants. Unique species include: Sumatran Pine, Rafflesia arnoldii (world's largest individual flower), Titan arum (world's tallest and largest inflorescence flower).

The island is home to 201 mammal species and 580 bird species. There are 9 endemic mammal species on mainland Sumatra and 14 more endemic to the nearby Mentawai Islands. The species present include: Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Orangutan, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Sumatran Elephant, Malayan Tapir, Malayan Sun Bear and the Bornean Clouded Leopard.

The major threats to Sumatran forest are the pulp and paper industry and expansion of palm oil plantations especially for so-called bio-fuels.

The island includes more than 10 National Parks, including 3 which are listed as the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra World Heritage Site - Gunung Leuser National Park, Kerinci Seblat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park.

Top Sites

Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park


Satellite View

Getting a great reputation for montane and sub-montane specialities, also good for lowland and hill birding…

Gunung Leuser National Park


Satellite View

Vast undisturbed forests stretching from lowlands to montane. Rarely visited and many discoveries still to be made.

Kerinci-Seblat National Park


Satellite View

Famous montane and hill birding. Easily accessible forests with a good chance of almost all montane Sumatran endemics. In this national park live up to 129 species of birds, 36 mammalians with 24 protected, 10 species of reptiles. 6 species of amphibians, and 8 species of primates. There are also 4000 floras dominated by family of Dipterocarpaceae…

Medan Coastal Environs

Satellite View

Some great sites near Medan for coastal birding. Good for waders, big waterbirds and migrants.

Pantai Cemara


Satellite View

Not easy to get there, but perhaps the best wader site in Sumatra. Nordman's Greenshank, Mangrove Pitta; Malaysian Honeyguide and Asian Dowitcher are regularly seen.

Way Kambas National Park


Satellite View

Easily accessible lowland forest. White-winged Ducks, Storm's Storks and some of the best night birding in Asia…


Nick Brickle

Nusantara / Birds-Indonesia




iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali

by J MacKinnon | Paperback | 2007 Reprint

ISBN: 0198540345

Buy this book from NHBS.com

A Photographic Guide to Birds of Bali, Java and Sumatra

by Tony Tilford and Alain Compost | Paperback | Aug 2010

ISBN: 9781847738318

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Birds of Sumatra

An Annotated Checklist - JG Van Marle and KH Voous Series: BOU CHECKLISTS 10 266 pages, b/w plates, 9 tabs, 3 maps. British Ornithologists' Union 1988

ISBN: 0907446094

Buy this book from NHBS.com


Abbreviations Key

Kerinci Seblat National Park


Satellite View

Kerinci-Seblat National Park includes around 1.6 million hectares of forest, but from a bird watching perspective has only three well known sites: The Gunung Kerinci summit trail, Danau Gunung Tujuh and the Tapan Road. Details are given on each of these below, but for those interested there are many more places could be explored in the region…

Guides & Tour Operators

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Vacation Indonesia Tours

Tour Operator

Vacation Indonesia Tours, owned by Nurlin Djuni & Darwin Sumang, is your gateway to Indonesia. We can immerse you in our culture, heritage and our extraordinarily diverse natural history. The Islands of Indonesia are justly famous for birdwatching. Over 372 species have been recorded and many are found nowhere else. Nurlin Djuni specialises in Birdwatching/Holidays Tours in Sulawesi, Halmahera, Papua, Java, Bali, Kalimantan, Lesser Sundas and Sumatera…

Trip Reports

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Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2007 [08 August] - Henk Hendriks


…Some species like Schneider's Pitta and Sumatran Peacock-Pheasant are much harder to find nowadays then in the past. Last year Red-billed Partridges were apparently rather easily whistled into view in the Base Camp area but these birds are most likely trapped as we heard the species only once briefly in that area and we encountered poachers regularly on the lower part of the trail. We did hear Red-billed Partridge for a longer period higher up on the mountain, above First Shelter but these birds remained at a distance…

2008 [08 August] - Martin Wootton


The Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java are two of the primary birding destinations in south-east Asia with a wide variety of endemics, regional specialities and pan-Asian species. It remains a major destination for all serious world birders…

2009 [08 August] - Lim Kim Seng


…birds such as Grey-throated and Golden Babblers, White-throated Fantail, Mountain Tailorbird and Mountain Leaf Warbler were common in the bird waves encountered as well as the occasional Sunda Warbler, a Greater Sunda endemic, and a suite of flycatchers - Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Little Pied Flycatcher and White-browed Flycatcher…

2010 [07 July] - Janos Olah


Our 2010 Sumatra tour offered something new again, with a post-tour extension to the remote Enggano Island to look for the endemic birds of this magical place off the west cost of Sumatra. We managed to see all the special birds of Enggano from the diminutive Enggano White-eye to the enigmatic Enggano Scops Owl…

2012 [06 June] - JÁNOS OLÁH

Report PDF

…After much hard work we also managed to track down the most sought-after bird of the place: a stunning male Schneider’s Pitta. Night birding was not very productive but finally we located a Sumatran Frogmouth and some of us saw Salvadori’s Nightjar as well. Other time consuming endemics included Red-billed Partridge, Sumatran Owlet, Sumatran and Rusty- breasted Wren-Babblers while Sumatran Trogon, Shiny and Sumatran Whistling Thrushes were easily seen. The supporting cast was also very exciting and we saw several Pink-headed Fruit-Doves, Fire-tufted Barbet, Rufous-vented Niltava and Long-tailed Sibia….

2012 [07 July] - Oscar Campbell


…Much scarcer are Salvadori’s Pheasant (mainly around Base Camp; four sightings for me was a good score), Sumatran Green-Pigeon and Pink-headed Fruit Dove (need to find a fruiting tree), Wedge-tailed Green-Pigeon (at First Shelter), Sumatran Trogon (seen twice; call is very like Javan Trogon), Sunda Minivet (only one flock; like the next species, much easier at Gede, west Java!), Orange-spotted Bulbul (only at the First Shelter, but seems to be regular here), Sumatran Drongo (seen at very bottom; easier on Bukit Tapan), Chestnut-winged Whistling-Thrush (once only, below Base Camp), Sunda Blue Robin (once only), Spot-necked Babbler (scarce but regular below Base Camp), Rufous-vented Niltava (seen only twice)…

2014 [03 March] - Jan van der Laan

PDF Report

…Today we decided to bird the lower parts of the mountain and to put as much effort as possible on the birds we did not see yet. Around the Banana Clearing a Schneider’s Pitta was calling…

2014 [09 September] - James Eaton - Remote Sumatra

PDF Report

...Sumatran Ground Cuckoo, Silvery Woodpigeon, Sumatran Partridge, Sumatran Laughingthrush, Mentawai Scops Owl – all birds you would not expect to see on any conventional tour, which is what made our inaugural Remote Sumatra tour so special...

2015 [01 January] - David Milton - Bukit Lawang, Gunung Leseur NP and Pamah Semelir, northern Sumatra


We made a short trip to northern Sumatra to visit a friend, Nasib Suhardi in Bukit Lawang and do some birding in the area. Nasib had started to set up a tourist camp at Batu Kapal on a tributary of the Sungei Bohorok about 5 km downstream of Bukit Lawang town. Nasib’s land is on the river bank opposie the Gunung Leseur NP and has a rock outcrop behind the accommodation that supports a Orangutan family. These primates could be seen daily feeding on fruiting trees about 100 m behind the camp. The rock outcrop also had both Mossy-nest and Black-nest Swiftlets nesting in the extensive caves and overhangs....

2015 [06 June] - Rob Hutchinson - Sumatra and Bali

Report PDF

...f Sumatra where highlights included Sumatran Babbler, Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon and a fine selection of Sundaic lowland species with Rufous-collared and Banded Kingfisher, Black-thighed Falconet, Malayan Crested Fireback, and Malayan Banded Pitta the highlights.

2015 [07 July] - James Eaton - Sumatra & West Java

Report PDF

...Javan White-eye, Javan Coucal, Javan Banded Pitta and Black-winged Myna were coastal highlights, while up in the endemic rich mountains Chestnut-bellied Partridge put on quite a performance, along with Javan Scops Owl, Javan Frogmouth, Javan Tesia, a brief Javan Cochoa, White-bibbed Babblers, Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush and Javan Hawk Eagles were just some of the highlights.

2016 [04 April] - Mike Nelson - Sumatra & West Java

PDF Report

With a slew of endemics always the main attraction, our West Java and Sumatra tour always delights along with several more widespread highlights also showing well. Starting in the sweltering lowlands of Java and working our way up into the mountains we tracked down such gems as Javan Trogon, Hawk-Eagle and Frogmouth, Spotted Crocias and Javan Banded Pitta also did well....

2016 [09 September] - Subhojit Chakladar

PDF Report

After a lot of research, I narrowed down on 8 birds that’d be realistic target for this trip. Apart from the Ground Cuckoo (Toktor from here onwards), there were the 2 endemic pittas, 2 galliformes (Sumatran Partridge and the Bronze-tailed Peacock Pheasant), the mythical Sumatran Cochoa and my favorite bird family – the Wren Babblers (Sumatran and Rusty-breasted Wren Babblers). Past reports also indicated the possibilities of 2 other enigmatic endemics – the Salvadori’s Pheasant and the Sumatran Laughingthrush but they haven’t been spotted in the south in recent times and are probably easier elsewhere on the island.

Other Links

Birding in Kerinci-Seblat National Park


Famous montane and hill birding. Easily accessible forests with a good chance of almost all montane Sumatran endemics…

Birding in Sumatra – Burung-Nusantara / Birds-Indonesia


Information about birding sites in Sumatra, including key species, maps, access, local guides and resources. Birdwatching in Sumatra can be very rewarding, with over 600 bird species recorded including around 28 endemics, it can also be very tough at times! Sumatra is big, and the distances involved in moving around can be great. Despite the massive area, however, very few established sites are known and many visitors just go birding at two; typically Way Kambas National Park and Kerinci-Seblat National Park, although the popularity of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park is on the rise. A trip to just two of these sites can get you almost all of the endemic species and many of the other highly sought after birds. For those with time on the their hands and a thirst for adventure, Sumatra has many, more unexplored or under-explored areas. One such area in particular is the Gunung Leuser region of North Sumatra and Aceh. Sumatra also has a chain of endemic bird rich islands off its west coast, including the Mentawi Islands and Enggano. We will be adding information about these sites very soon. Browse sites from the map or the table. Each site page will show links to birding trip reports, guides and other content that is relevant. Help us keep this information up to date by posting your experiences back here as comments…