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Sabah

Whitehead's Trogon
Whitehead's Trogon Harpactes whiteheadi ©Jason Bugay Reyes Website

Sabah, located in north Borneo, is a heaven for birders searching for montane bornean endemic such as whitehead's spiderhunter, trogon and broadbill at a cool place of Kinabalu National Park; the view of Mount Kinabalu, highest mountain in Malaysia is amazing. Looking for endangered species at kinabatangan river, the longest river in Sabah is a must, with such species as Storm's stork, lesser adjutant and the elusive Bornean ground-cuckoo. other wildlife that inhabit this area include the Bornean pygmy elephant, proboscis monkey and orang utan.

In the south east of Sabah lies another birding hot spot; Danum Valley Forest Reserve, which is famed for its lowland rainforest that is a must-visit place for birders. A walk around the nature trails would yield the secrets of the forest such as blue-headed and black and crimson pitta, the legendary Bornean bristlehead as well the shy black-throated wren-babbler.

Other birding areas in sabah include:

Tambunan Rafflesia Centre - this is excellent for Bornean bulbul, Bornean and mountain barbet together with black-breasted fruit hunter, which is uncommon at Kinabalu National Park could be seen here.

Kota Belud Paddyfield - This huge area of paddy field in Sabah is an interesting place to visit where waterbirds and raptors from north Asia spend their winter, which here is during the migratory season from September until April. Here such as common kestrel, western marsh harrier, black-winged stilt, bar-tailed godwit and grey-headed lapwing. Recently other species have been found such as buff-banded rail in 2006 added another excitement among local birders in this area too.

To properly cover the special birds of Sabah 2 to 3 weeks birding is recommended which would cover different zones of vegetation from montane to riverine and lowland rainforest. Access is easy with good places to stay, fantastic food and friendly peoples who will make your birding trip such a unique experience.

Contributor

Jason Bugay Reyes

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

horukuru@yahoo.com

http://horukuru.blogspot.com

Endemics

Number of endemics: 51

There are 53 birds endemic to the island of Borneo. of these, 51 occur in Sabah.

Useful Reading

*Field Guides & Bird Song

For a comprehensive list of recommended titles covering Malaysia as a whole - please see the Malaysia page of Fatbirder

A Photographic Guide to Birds of Borneo, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan

Geoffrey Davison and Chew Yen Fook Series: PHOTOGRAPHIC GUIDES SERIES (NEW HOLLAND NATURAL HISTORY) 144 pages, 280 col photos, 1 map. New Holland Publishers Due May 2007

ISBN: 9780713676006

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Borneo

By Susan Myers| Christopher Helm | Paperback | March 2016 | 336 Pages | many Colour Plates and Distribution Maps | Edition 2 | I
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 9781472924445

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of Sulawesi, Lesser Sundas and Sabah

R Thomas and S Thomas Frogmouth Publications - In preparation

ISBN: 156570

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Guides & Tour Operators

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Birding Pal

Information

Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Birding Tours of Sabah

Tour Operator

Birding tours of Borneo for Kinabalu National Park, Danum Valley Forest Reserve and Kinabatangan River…

Borneo Ecotours

Tour Operator

Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is one of two known places in the world to be inhabited by ten species of primates four of which are endemic to Borneo. It is also one of two places in the world where four colobines inhabit the same place - namely proboscis monkey, silvered langur, maroon langur and Hose`s or grey langur. It has the highest concentration of proboscis monkeys and orang utans in Malaysia. Other wildlifes include long-tailed macaque, pig-tailed macaque, Bornean gibbon, two nocturnal primates namely western tarsier and slow loris and other mammals including Asian elephant and Sumatran rhinoceros.

Intrepid Tours

Tour Operator

Flora and fauna are abundant in this area with over 1,000 species of orchid, 27 species of rhododendron, 9 species of Nepethes, Rafflesia, 450 species of fern, 28 species of squirrel, and more than 300 species of birds…

Trip Reports

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CloudBirders

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 [02 February] - Björn Anderson

Report

These days were spent at Bornean Rainforest Lodge at Danum Valley. This lodge was not built at the time of my previous visit and proved highly productive in terms of birding. Top of the pops was my second last family, Bornean Bristlehead, which in all honesty was one of the reasons we went to Borneo at all. Other goodies were four species of Pittas seen exceptionally well with Blue-banded as the crown jewel. Great Argus and Bornean Crested Fireback and a nice selection…

2008 [08 August] - Geoff Dobbs

Report

The aim of this trip was to get as many of the Sabah endemics as possible, and to get three species of Pitta in southern Thailand on the way back, with some of the other Southern Thailand birds…

2009 [07 July] - Keith Barnes

Report

This was the best ever Tropical Birding tour to Borneo, and probably one of the best ever set departure birding tours run by any company to the island. If you include all the potentially split taxa we recorded 40 of the 43 Bornean endemics that were available on this trip (missing only the unpredictable Mountain Serpent Eagle and Hose’s Broadbill, and more regrettably the endemic race of Black Magpie)…

2011 [12 December] - Rosemary Royle

Report

We had booked a birding trip with Birdtour Asia in Sabah from 20th Nov to 4th Dec and decided that, while we were in that part of the world, we could do some birding in Peninsular Malaysia (PM). We therefore planned a circuit of the most popular birding sites in PM - Fraser’s Hill, Taman Negara and Kuala Selangor – travelling by means of a hire car. We realised that it was the start of the rainy season in PM but decided to take the risk – in the event, the time of the year was not a problem because of the rain but because it was completely out of the breeding season. The birds were hard to find as they were not calling or singing – often the forest was eerily quiet…

2012 [08 August] - Bent Otto Poulsen

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…Little Cuckoo-Dove, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Sunda Cuckoo, Golden-naped Barbet, Mountain Barbet, Bornean Barbet, Bornean Leafbird, Bornean Ibon, Mountain Leaf- Warbler subsp. sarawacensis (only place seen), Bornean Treepie and Chestnut-crested Yuhina….

2012 [10 October] - Katie Philips

Report

…I am an amateur birder, and though have birded the Malay Peninsula and the Philippines; this was my first excursion to Borneo. Some bird complexes required a lot of work on my part, and some I never felt confident in calling; they are omitted. Of the 280 species seen, playback was used sparingly and as noted…

2013 [03 March] - James Eaton

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…The birds certainly didn’t disappoint us this time, from the ‘Whitehead’s trio’, Bornean Green Magpies admiring a displaying Bare-headed Laughingthrush, Everett’s Thrush and other endemics of the mountains, the Kinabatangan River where we enjoyed superlative views of Bornean Ground Cuckoo and plenty of hornbills, to the lowland rainforests of Sepilok and Danum Valley where the unique Bristlehead didn’t disappoint, and neither did the plethora of exciting pittas, broadbills, trogons and other forest wonders….

2013 [04 April] - Rob Gordijn

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Annotated list…

2013 [08 August] - Rob Hutchinson

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…a last gasp Giant Pitta on the last morning for good measure! Danum also weighed in with Bornean Wren Babbler, Bornean Ground Babbler, and several hornbill sightings to complete the set of eight possible species, although we cut it fine with Helmeted Hornbill only adding it on the way to the airport on the last day! It was also great to find good numbers of Jambu Fruit Dove and Black-and-white Bulbul, both nomadic frugivores which only sporadically invade in these numbers….

2013 [11 November] - James Eaton & Mark Villa

Report

…It was quite an afternoon with the endemics coming thick-and-fast soon after our arrival; scope views of both Bornean and Mountain Barbets chonking away, Temminck’s Sunbird, a tiny gem of a bird was encountered for the first time, as was Black-sided Flowerpecker, Bornean Treepie, Bornean Spiderhunters, Bornean Whistler, Sunda and Rufous-hooded Laughingthrushes, Cinereous Bulbuls, Sunda Cuckooshrikes, Brown Barbet, Orange-backed Woodpecker, surprisingly numerous Bornean Leafbird though a pair of Fruit-hunter were frustratingly brief while at dusk several Hair-crested Drongo came out of the woods…

2014 [08 August] - Jurek D

PDF Report

...Highlights were Whitehead's Trogon and Broadbill and multiple Bare-headed Laughingthrushes at Mt Kinabalu, Hose's Broadbill and Bornean Spiderhunter at Poring, Blue-naped Parrot, Hooded and Black-and-crimson Pittas and White-faced Falconet at Sepilok, Bornean Ground Cuckoo, Whitecrowned Hornbill and camp-visiting Storm's Storks at Kinabatangan, and at Danum lots of lowland birds with multiple Bristleheads and Great Arguses...

2014 [10 October] - Dave Bakewell

PDF Report

...Despite the partridge remaining out of view, the trail provided us with our first Bornean endemics; Bornean Whistling Thrush on the trail, a small party of Bornean Green Magpies overhead, and a group of Bare-headed Laughingthrushes showing off their bizarre blue and yellow facial skin as they called....

2015 [01 January] - Mike Nelson

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Borneo is the third largest island in the world and hosts over 50 endemics. This tour encompassed some of the best lowland forest birding sites including Sepilok and its famous canopy walkway and Orang-utans, the Kinabatangan River with elusive forest dwellers like the Bornean Ground Cuckoo and an array of magnificent hornbills, and we finished in the amazing Danum Valley where a good tract of primary forest harbours babblers, broadbills and pittas.

2015 [03 March] - Bengt Sjoman

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...There is a small diesel powerstation here to pollute the sound-waves…but birding is good with a lot of fruiting trees that attracts Fruit-hunters, Black-eyes, White-eyes, Bornean Treepies, Flycatchers, Mountain Warblers, Thrushes etc.

2015 [03 March] - Mike Nelson - Peninsular Malaysia & Sabah

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...Our final morning in the peninsular was to find Mountain Peacock Pheasant. We showed up while it was still dark and proceeded to wait for first light. Thankfully we got here when we did as a group of noisy photographers came after us and set up their cameras. The birds though are a bit familiar with people now and soon enough a female and her chick came in to investigate and were soon joined by a rather boisterous male that would chase after her and flash all his purple and green occelai at her before running off. She showed no interest and he soon gave up. It was then time to catch a flight across the South China Sea, to East Malaysia, basing ourselves on the lower flanks of Mount Kinabalu in anticipation for the following days birding.

2015 [03 March] - Rob Hutchinson

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...We began in the mountains where Whitehead’s Spiderhunter, Whitehead’s Broadbill, Bornean, Mountain and Gold-naped Barbet and Bornean Bulbul got us off to a great start. This continued on Mount Kinabalu where we saw Whitehead’s Trogon to complete the ‘Whitehead’s Trio’, Everett’s Thrush on the first morning, cracking views of both endemic partridges, Bornean Stubtail and Mountain Black-eye, then a stomp up the summit trail gave us a Friendly Bush Warbler that lived up to its name, and a great encounter with Fruit-hunter.

2015 [04 April] - Mans Grindsten

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Rarely seen Grey-breasted Babbler at Klias. • Many Copper-throated Sunbirds at Sepilok entrance road. • Amazing scenery from the Canopy walkway at Sepilok Rainforest Discovery Center. • All good raptors along Kinabatang River.

2015 [08 August] - Pritam Baruah - Sepilok, Kinabatangan, Danum Valley, Crocker Range NP, Kinabalu NP

PDF Report

...Holding about 60 endemic bird species (taxonomy dependent) and the majority of bird species restricted to Sundaland (Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra and Java), Borneo is one of the classic birding destinations of the world....

2015 [09 September] - David & Sarah Blair

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...there were some good birds such as Blue-naped Parrot, Striated Heron, White-breasted Wood Swallow, Collared Kingfisher, loads of Green Imperial Pigeons and surprisingly two fly in Grey Imperial Pigeons.

2015 [09 September] - Mike Nelson - Sarawak & Sabah,

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...We managed 50 endemics, three heard only, from stunning Bristlehead, Crimson-headed Partridge and Bornean Ground Cuckoo to the less known but equally desired Black Oriole and Dulit Frogmouth.

2015 [09 September] - Peter Ericsson

Report

... On the way, we saw a pair of Black-red Broadbills. These exciting birds are quite common in Sabah and impossible to get tired of. We also saw Gold-whiskered Barbet, Sunda Bush Warbler, Mountain Tailorbird, Bornean Bulbul, Mountain Leaf Warbler, Bornean Treepies and a few more but generally it was pretty quiet. Both Bornean and Mountain Barbets kept singing

2016 [04 April] - Dave Stejskal

Report

...We started out in the Sepilok area with several of us staying at a new lodge (My Nature Resort) for a couple of nights before the start of the tour. We had some good luck with the birds there, seeing a few things that we actually missed on the main tour, and I'd be happy to head back there with groups in the future. A half-day at nearby Sepilok Nature Resort and the Rainforest Discovery Center provided a terrific intro to what was to come on the tour....

2016 [04 April] - Rob Hutchinson

PDF Report

...The endemics rarely give themselves up easily and this tour with Borneo in the grip of a substantial El Niño induced drought was particularly difficult and it was amazing to see Mount Kinabalu with rivers and waterfalls running dry. Fortunately, bird activity was surprisingly good and we had nothing more than a few drops of rain during the whole two weeks. We managed to find a total of 311 species which included an impressive 48 island endemics...

2016 [05 May] - Arjan Brenkman & Jan van der Laan - Ba’kelalan, Payeh Maga, Klias Peat Swamp and Danum Valley

PDF Report

...In 2016 we had our five-year lustrum of the Virtual Birders® and we thought Borneo would be a good idea to celebrate. Dulit Frogmouth was high on our priority list followed by Hose’s Broadbill, all endemic pitta’s, Black Oriole plus Bornean Bristlehead and Bornean Ground Cuckoo. Arjan had visited Mount Kinabalu and the Kinabatangan River already in 2003, but missed some species. James Eaton advised us to do the Bornean Rain Forest Lodge as the best chance to see the Bristlehead and also we had a reasonable chance to see the Ground Cuckoo. For the Payeh Maga part we decided to contact Yeo Siew Teck, a Malaysian based birder with good organization and birding skills. James Eaton made the contact for us with Sang Sigar, owner of a homestay and the person who rediscovered the Dulit Frogmouth in 2013....

2016 [05 May] - Mike Nelson - Sarawak and Sabah

PDF Report

Our Borneo tour is always a hit and with the regular inclusion of Sarawak there is a real chance for some once only dreamt of megas like Dulit Frogmouth, Black Oriole and Hose’s Broadbill. Sarawak also affords the opportunity at several more species more difficult in Sabah.

2016 [06 June] - Megan Edwards Crewe

Report

...Field Guides Tour Report Borneo II 2016 Jun 2, 2016 to Jun 19, 2016Megan Edwards Crewe with Hamit Suban & Paul Dimus For our tour description, itinerary, past triplists, dates, fees, and more, please VISIT OUR TOUR PAGE. See this triplist in printable PDF format with media only on page 1. The Ruddy Kingfisher is definitely ruddy, but it's got some serious purple highlights. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe. What a wonderful time we had in the Bornean rainforest! For more than two weeks, we immersed ourselves in the exotic, verdant steaminess of one of the world's richest jungles, with a plethora of things to look for, and a never-ending stream of birds, mammals, herps, insects and plants to enthrall and entertain us. The weather largely cooperated (if you discount our adventure along the Tenangang River in the pouring rain), and the birds -- well, the birds were amazing! Where do you start a "highlight list" for a trip with so many highlights? Perhaps with the quiet little gang of Bornean Bristleheads rummaging through the branches of trees near the canopy walkway on our very first morning together. Or maybe with the jewel-bright Black-crowned Pitta, spilling his pure whistled song into a warm afternoon along the Sukau boardwalk trail. Or with the bizarre, square-headed pair of Helmeted Hornbills that FINALLY showed themselves on our very last morning at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL). Or even with the lusciously green Bornean Green Magpies -- either the ones having their splashing baths in the spotlight beam of sunshine that penetrated the forest canopy, or the solemn one sitting on the log with the dead snake clutched firmly in one foot. Perhaps I should start with the male Diard's Trogon sitting stock-still mere feet from where we stood, cameras poised, on the nearby canopy walkway. Or with the nose-y Proboscis Monkeys draped across branches along the Kitabatangan and its tributaries. Or with the calling male Whitehead's Trogon on his upright snag. Or with that fabulous fig tree along the BRL entrance road, with its mob of Scaly-breasted Bulbuls, Green Broadbills, Asian Fairy-Bluebirds, and FIVE species of barbet. Wow! We began our tour in Sepilok, where the whole gang arrived a few days early to adjust to the time change (and the temperature change!!), and to have time to explore the nearby Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC) and the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. The park, with its extensive trail system and fabulous canopy walkways and towers, provided a great place to start to get familiar with many of Borneo's more widespread species. Family groups of Buff-necked and Buff-rumped woodpeckers gobbled insects from rotting branches...

2016 [06 June] - Rich Lindie

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...While there, we had great views of nesting Blue-naped Parrots, confiding Oriental Pied Hornbills, a very active Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, Zebra Dove, White-breasted Woodswallows and our first Bornean endemic, Dusky Munia...

2016 [07 July] - Sam Woods

PDF Report

...dashing Blue-banded Pitta, similarly spectacular Blue-headed Pitta; Whitehead’s Broadbill and Trogon, (part of the infamous “Whitehead’s Three”, which we completed with the spiderhunter too); a quartet of White-fronted Falconet sightings; “Bornean” Banded Kingfisher (Black-faced Kingfisher); Golden-naped Barbet, and Bornean GreenMagpie. However, aside from the endemic species, there are plentiful spectacular species that are not confined to the island, like Rhinoceros and Wrinkled Hornbills; Black-and-yellow and Black-and-red Broadbills; Checker-throated Woodpecker, and Rufous-collared Kingfisher...

2016 [10 October] - Birding2Asia

Report

...The Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot isn't uncommon in well protected forest reserves. The resorts at Sepilok smartly sit at the forest edge and it was no wonder we had the usual thing going on in the grounds; fly-over at rocket speed, perched distant at best. I kind of started wondering about getting good close-up shots....

Places to Stay

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Mesilau Nature Resort

Accommodation

Located in the Kinabalu area, Mesilau stands in between the Kinabalu Park and the Poring Hot Springs. Its elevation is at approximately 2,000 metres above sea level. One will feel a strong sense of nature as Mesilau is on the Pinousuk Plateau which is richly endowed with flora and fauna. The cool climatic condition in the highlands combines with the mist and evergreen environment creates an exotic and mysterious atmosphere.

Sukau Rainforest Lodge

Accommodation

Among the 200 species found in the region are 8 species of hornbill (rhinoceros, helmeted, black, pied, wreathed, wrinkled, white crowned and bushy crested); oriental darter, several species of egret, Storm`s stork, Sunda ground cuckoo, kingfisher, brahminy kite, crested serpent eagle, greater coucal, red-crowned barbet, black and yellow broadbill, white-rumped shama, white-chested babbler, heron, hawk, osprey, falcon, pheasant, parakeet, buffy fish owl, frogmouth, nightjar, trogon, bee eater, roller, woodpecker, pitta, swallow, bulbul, forktail, warbler, flycatcher, flowerpecker, spiderhunter, drongo, oriole and crow.

Organisations

Malaysia Nature Society - Sabah Branch

Website

Contact info…

Festivals

Borneo Bird Festival

Website

[23-25 October 2015] Sabah is a destination renowned among nature lovers for its flora and fauna, and ultimately for its bird life. With a vast array of habitats with their own specialized birds, Sabah is a haven for birding enthusiasts. Borneo’s accumulated record, a total of 688 resident and migratory species of bird; 60 endemic species where 33 of these endemics are found in Sabah.

Reserves

Crocker Range National Park

Information

Satellite View

Located south of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. Although there are no tourist facilities at this park, Crocker Range is densely populated with wildlife and is a trekker's paradise…

Danum Valley

Information

Satellite View

The Danum Valley Conservation Area covers 438 km2 and is located on the western side of the upper reaches of the Segama River about 70 km to the east of Lahad Datu, the nearest town. The area is mostly primary lowland dipterocarp rain forest but small areas of hill forest, also dominated by dipterocarp tree species, occur on the higher ridges between 600m and 1,000m and on the Conservation Area's highest point, Gunung Danum (1,093m). The Conservation Area is part of a larger zone (c. 10,000km2) comprising the Sabah Foundation forest concession. The Foundation's objective is to produce timber for the benefit of Sabah's economy, so the forest surrounding the Conservation Area has either already been logged or is scheduled for logging during the next few years. A Conservation Area is designated in recognition of outstanding wildlife value.

Kinabalu National Park

Information

Satellite View

…bird varieties including the Mountain Bush Warbler, Kinabalu friendly Warbler, palefaced Bilbul and Mountain Blackeyes. More the 250 bird varieties have been recorded…

Kota Kinabalu Wetlands & Bird Sanctuary

Information

Satellite View

Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary or KKCBS is a haven for wildlife right in the heart of the city. This 24-hectare patch of mangrove forest is the only remaining patch of an extensive mangrove forest that once existed around the coastal town of Kota Kinabalu. It was designated as a bird sanctuary by the state government in September 1996 to help foster a better understanding and awareness on the value of wetlands. In 1998, it was declared as a State Cultural Heritage Site. This sanctuary will not only become a priceless landmark for future generations, it is also the only one of its kind in the city…

Sepilok Forest Reserve

Website

Satellite View

A twenty-minute drive from Sandakan, Sabah will bring you to Sepilok Forest Reserve, a enormous area of virgin equatorial rainforest. The wealth of indigenous and rare plants, animals and birds that have found sanctuary here are to be seen to be believed.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Website

Satellite View

Tabin is a bird-watcher's paradise as the forest of Tabin attracts an amazingly rich diversity of birds, including rare and endemic species, due to the abundance of food plants here. The relatively low canopy with sufficient natural lights makes birding and photography a delightful experience. About 42 indigenous families representing more than 260 species have been recorded here including all the 8 of Sabah’s Hornbill species; Black Hornbill, Rhinoceros Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, Pied Hornbill, White-crowned Hornbill, Wrinkled Hornbill, Bushy-crested Hornbill and Helmeted Hornbill…

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

Information

Satellite View

Situated just off the west shore of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, the five emerald isles that comprise this park are fringed with white sandy beaches, surrounded by the sparkling aqua waters of the South China Sea.

Blogs

Birders of Borneo Island

Blog

Bird news and views from Horukuru…

Degullacion

Blog

This blog was meant to share the world what Sabah Borneo has to offer and maybe a database for information for those who are interested to know more about Borneo avifauna, fauna and flora…

Jordan Sitorus - Amazing Borneo

Blog

Birds and Wildlife found in Borneo…

Other Links

Annotated Bird Species List , Sabah, Malaysia and South Thailand

Website

Just what it says - supplied by Moira and Graeme Wallace…

Borneo Avifauna

Website

Pictures of flora and fauna with emphasis on birds….

Borneo Birds

Website

Most visiting birdwatchers will most probably arrive and depart Sabah in her capital city of Kota Kinabalu. This seaside city of 450,000 inhabitants has a few surprises for the birdwatcher with a few hours to spare…

Endemic Birds of Borneo

Website

The very special birds of the island…

Fire Bird

Website

Birding and Tours, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Paul Huang

Gallery

This gallery showcase some of the birdlife that can be found in Kinabalu National Park and the lowland forest around Poring Hot Springs, Sabah, Malaysia. The national park is now a world heritage site and is considered to be one of the best places in the region for birding…

Photographer - Wong Tsu Shi - Wild Birds of Borneo

Gallery

Welcome to my collection of images for Birds of Borneo. A record of my humble efforts to photodocument the avifauna of Borneo in general and Sabah in particular. My starting point is to record the varied avifauna so the images are geared towards this objective. All birds photographs are of wild birds…