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Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Red-headed Trogon Harpactes erythrocephalus ©Laurence Poh Website

Regrettably, many people still associate Vietnam with war and hardship. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Vietnam today is a fast-developing country with [mostly] good infrastructure, extremely friendly people, and cheap to boot. Apart from the birding, Vietnam also has a very rich culture, a wide diversity of people, and great scenery, making it worthwhile to visit for both birders and non-birders alike.

Vietnam, being 1,600 km long, with over 3,000 km of coastline, has a wide variety of habitats and seasons. There is really no best time to visit Vietnam, it will almost always rain in one part of the country, and be hot and dry in another part. In the very north, it can get quite cool; it even snows occasionally, in winter, whereas the south is hot and humid year-round. However, from a birding point of view, winter is probably best for such specialties as Black-faced Spoonbill, Sarus Crane, and Spoon-billed Sandpiper, amongst others.

Although much of the forest that used to cover Vietnam has been destroyed, there is still excellent birding to be done here. However, due to excessive hunting, the best birding is confined to the numerous national parks in Vietnam. There are a number of tour operators who specialize in nature and birding trips, but the country can easily be explored independently. Although English is not much spoken outside the cities, patience, sign language and a good sense of humour will get you anywhere. With ten endemics, the largest number in mainland SE Asia, and a total of 826 species, Vietnam must rank as one of the prime countries in Asia for bird watching. Visiting Cat Tien, Da Lat, Bach Ma, Cuc Phuong, Xuan Thuy and Sapa during a 3-week trip should easily net 200+ species.

Vietnam is a very safe country to travel (apart from the traffic); with crime being primarily confined to pick-pocketing, especially in Saigon. One word of warning though: Parts of Vietnam were heavily bombed and mined during the wars, certain areas, especially along the old DMZ are still no-go areas. Do stick to well-trodden paths in those regions.

Top Sites

Sapa

Satellite View

Located in the far North-west of Vietnam, near the Chinese border, Sapa is located close to Mount Fan Si Pan (the highest peak in SE Asia at 3,142 meters) and the Hoang Lien Nature Reserve. The location and altitude mean seeing birds that will be hard to see elsewhere in Vietnam. Sapa can easily be reached from Hanoi by night train, there is plenty of accommodation in all price ranges, and excursions can easily be organized locally. Ham Rong Botanical Garden in Sapa is well worth checking out early in the morning for Blue Whistling Thrush, Blue and Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Flycatchers, Bulbuls and Parrotbills. The road between the Silver Waterfall and the Pass of Clouds a few kilometers out of Sapa makes for some excellent birding, the only place in Vietnam where Little Forktail has regularly been seen.

Xuan Thuy

Information

Satellite View

This is the Red River Delta, about 120km South-East of Hanoi. A Ramsar site, it is best visited in winter for specialties like Black-faced Spoonbill, Nordman's Greenshank, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Saunder's Gull. A word of advice: not only is Xuan Thuy extremely hard to find if you don't speak Vietnamese, it is also inside a military area, as I found out in person, the soldiers are very suspicious of birders, loaded with optics, that have not made prior arrangements. It is advisable to make prior arrangements for a permit and accommodation through, for example, the BirdLife International office in Hanoi. Accommodation is just more than basic, the food is horrible, and the boat trip to the mud flats (a must) a real rip-off, but the quality of birds more than makes up for it.

Cuc Phuong National Park

Website

Satellite View

This National Park was established in 1962, making it the first National Park in Vietnam. Only 120km South-West of Hanoi, it can be reached in less than three hours. The main entrance is accessible with public transport; the best place to stay though is Bong substation, a further 16km into the park. Try and avoid weekends, as it can get very busy and noisy, Cuc Phuong is a popular day trip for school classes out of Hanoi. With 307 species of birds counted so far, you should plan at least a couple of night's stay. Silver Pheasant are easy to see on the road between the main gate and the substation. Other birds of note are Pied Falconet, Red-collared Woodpecker, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Blue-rumped and Bar-bellied Pittas (common on the trails around the substation); and Limestone Wren-Babbler in the valley to the Silver-cloudy Top.

Da Lat Plateau

Information

Satellite View

One of the three Endemic Bird Areas identified by BirdLife International in Vietnam, the plateau is home to such endemics and near-endemics as Collared Laughingthrush, Vietnamese Greenfinch, and Grey-crowned Crocias. The best places to bird are Tuyen Lam Lake, close to the town of Da Lat, and Mount Lang Bien. Once again, accommodation is plentiful, Da Lat is a must with newly-wed Vietnamese, and transportation can easily be arranged locally. About 300km from Saigon the road trip takes about 5-6 hours, and there are daily flights.

Cat Tien National Park

Information

Satellite View

Cat Tien National Park is one of the top birding spots in Vietnam, but enough has been written about it elsewhere to need mention here, anyone making the trip to Da Lat should visit Cat Tien en route.

Contributor

Hanno Stamm

Rooms Division Manager - Victoria Sa Pa Hotel

Sa Pa District, Lao Cai Province, Vietnam

rdm.sapa@victoriahotels-asia.com

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 826

Endemics

Number of endemics: 10

Orange-necked Partridge Arborophila davidi Annam Partridge Arborophila merlini Imperial Pheasant Lophura imperialis Edwards's Pheasant Lophura edwardsi Vietnam Fireback Lophura hatinhensis Germain's Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron germaini Black-hooded Laughingthrush Garrulax milleti Collared Laughingthrush Garrulax yersini Grey-crowned Crocias Crocias langbianis Vietnam Greenfinch Carduelis monguilloti

Checklist

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 South-East Asia

Craig Robson Hardcover - 504 pages ( 1 February, 2000) New Holland Publishers (UK)

ISBN: 1843307464

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Birds of South Vietnam

by Philip Wildash - Kodansha Europe

ISBN: 0804800642

Buy this book from NHBS.com

* Field Guides & Bird Song

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

Guides & Tour Operators

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Birding Pal

Information

Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Threeland Travel

Tour Operator

Threeland offers spectacular bird watching tours in Xuan Thuy national park – The Ramsar site and a wildlife adventure in Cuc Phuong, unique by its system of limestone mountains…

Vietnam Birding

Tour Operator

Welcome to Vietnam Birding, the specialist for individually-tailored custom birdwatching tours and escorted small group birdwatching tours to Vietnam…

Wild Tour Vietnam

Tour Operator

Figures for the total number of bird species recorded in the country range around 870 species. The high bird species richness in Vietnam can be attributed to the wide latitudinal and elevational variation present within the country, which has led to the development of a wide range of habitat types…

Green Trail Tours

Tour Operator

Welcome to Green Trail Tours… and to our team of professionals. As a boutique tour operator we specialise in designing fully customised, privately guided trips. Last year we provided services for over 11,000 satisfied clients from around the world…

Birdwatching Vietnam

Tour Operator

Established in 2001, Wildtour Co., Ltd is the first professional birdtours organizer in Vietnam. We are young, enthusiastic, experience birders who specially arrange and guide professional birding tours as well as wildlife watching tours for individual or small group to all national parks and forests in Vietnam, Lao, Cambodia and Thailand….

WildBirdEco

Website

Our tour service has run the business for 15 years. We are also well known to local media as Thailand’s leading television programs, radio programs, and newspapers continuously request to conduct the interviews and make news scoops with us. Bird watchers and bird photographers from all around the world; whether private tour, group tour, tour agency, including leading international birdwatching tour operators also decided to use our tour service….

Forest Birding Tours

Tour Operator

Our Vietnam tours are comprehensive itineraries available in this fascinating and beautiful country. Vietnam has 12 currently-recognized endemics and of these our tour targets Orange-necked Patridge, Orange-breasted, Collared and Chestnut-eared Laughingthrushes, Black-crowned Fulvetta, Vietnamese Cutia, Grey-crowned Crocias, Dalat Shrike-babbler and Vietnamese Greenfinch.

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

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 [04 April] - David Diskin

Report

The following report details a recent visit to southern Vietnam from Hong Kong where I currently live. My aim was threefold: to seek out the endemic and near-endemic species that occur in Cochinchina and South Annam; to look for the five regular species of pitta that are possible in the region; and to do some general tropical-forest birding…

2009 [01 January] - Trevor Hardaker

Report

[Follow the link to Trip Reports] ….e had about 1,5 hours left before it got dark and headed off down the road leading past our house. Very quickly we were adding new birds to our list including Asian Brown Flycatcher, Arctic Warbler, Indian Roller, Greater Racquet-tailed and Ashy Drongos, Green Imperial Pigeon, Ashy Woodswallow, White-crested Laughingthrush and Green-eared Barbet, as well as our first mammals in the country, Long-tailed Macaques…

2009 [12 December] - John van der Woude

Report

This was a combined trip to Peninsular Malaysia and South Annam, Vietnam. We had booked a cheap flight Amsterdam - Kuala Lumpur and first spent a few days at Fraser's Hill in Malaysia, to get used to the birds in this Oriental region again…

2010 [03 March] - Hans Matheve

Report

…A full day was spent near the bamboo covered hills in the Dac Lua area, about 16 KM from the HQ. Here we hoped to see the Orange-necked Partridge which we unfortunately only heard. There were no real trails and we just tried to enter the bamboo wherever possible. There is also a pool (almost dried out when we were there) which might hold some water birds. Again we were dropped off and picked up by a pre arranged vehicle….

2013 [03 March] - Chris Bradshaw - Cambodian & Vietnam

Report

…In Vietnam we began with a visit to Cat Tien where we had some amazing encounters with Bar-bellied and Blue-rumped Pittas, obtained great views of Siamese Fireback, Siberian Blue Robin, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Black-and-red and Dusky Broadbills, enjoyed some demure Swinhoe’s Minivets and saw a host of other species that included Green Peafowl, Banded Kingfisher, Black-and-buff Woodpecker, Violet Cuckoo, Golden-crested Myna and Grey-faced Tit-babbler. Mammals included the rare Black-shanked Duc Langur, Long-tailed and Pig-tailed Macaques. In the highlands we found most of the important species and enjoyed some of the best views I have ever had of both Collared and Orange-breasted Laughingthrushes. We had multiple encounters with Grey-crowned Crocias, Vietnamese Greenfinches, Annam Barbets and Black-crowned Parrotbills whilst other highlights included Rufous-backed and Black-headed Sibias, Lesser Shortwing, Grey-bellied Tesia, Rufous-browed and Snowy-browed Flycatchers, White-tailed Robin, Eyebrowed Thrush and Raddes Warbler….

2013 [04 April] - Sam Woods

Report PDF

2013 [12 December] - Bengt Legnell

PDF Report

In Dutch

2014 [03 March] - Florian Klingel - Bach Ma National Park

Report

…Next morning, started well: I got nice views, with coffee in hand, of Black-throated Laughinthrush, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, White-browed Scimitar Babbler and Ratchet-tailed Treepie just below the restaurant. Later, with Nhan, we tried hard to find the Short-tailed Scimitar Babblers (now called Indochinese Wren Babbler), we had a few singing but they refused to show. Only with the last light of the day, we finally got to see a pair, in the gully right below the stairs of the trail learding from the restaurant to the waterfalls. We were lucky with Silver Pheasant and had nice views of a male and female down the slope from the road. Indochinese Green Magpie was seen well several times, but the Red-headed Trogons were surprisingly difficult to see….

2015 [02 February] - Joshua Bergmark - Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam

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... a Tropical Birding group had Slaty-breasted Rail lined up in the scope, and a Spot-breasted Woodpecker hung around briefly (Nathan's first woodpecker, finally, after 3 other Asia trips) but unfortunately the best birds came out after they left.

2015 [09 September] - Dominic Le Croissette - Dalat

Report

The endemic-rich Dalat Plateau is a great place for a few days birding, with the three key sites all within 20 minutes drive of the town center. I first visited in 2006, when I was new to south-east Asian birding, and made only a single outing to Lang Bian mountain – predictably seeing only a small selection of the available birds. Nine years later, a bit more time, more skill and experience, and a more targeted approach produced sightings of the majority of the area’s endemics and special birds among a healthy total of 106 species.

2015 [03 March] - Tom Wheatley - Mang Den, Kontum Province

Report

...I am an amateur birdwatcher who has birded extensively in South East Asia and this document should be treated as such. This is was not a professional survey, I did not band or handle any birds. I relied on my binoculars, camera, my ear and Craig Robson's field guide.

2015 [03 March] - James Eaton

Report PDF

This comprehensive tour of Vietnam targeted almost all of the countries endemics and near-endemics, and incredibly, we saw every single one of them amongst a total 358 species recorded on the tour.

2016 [02 February] - Dominic Le Croissette - South and Central Vietnam

Report

In mid January, I had a great opportunity to revisit southern Vietnam for the second time in less than four months. My friend Yann Muzika had arranged an 11-day birding and photography tour of the Dalat Plateau and central Annam, with well-regarded guide Duc Tien Bui – did I want to join them in return for a very reasonable contribution towards the costs? With a tempting menu of target birds on offer, including some highly sought-after Laughingthrushes, and the chance to connect with one or two Dalat endemics that I missed last time around, it was an easy decision to make.

2016 [02 February] - Machiel Valkenburg

PDF Report

2014 [12 December] - Glen Valentine

PDF Report

...Legendary and iconic avian gems such as Giant and Whiteshouldered Ibis, White-rumped Falcon, Bengal Florican, Greater Adjutant, Black-headed, Great Slaty and Pale-headed Woodpeckers, Germain’s Peacock-Pheasant, Green Peafowl, Bar-bellied Pitta, Red-vented and Indochinese Barbets, Dalat Shrike-babbler, Indochinese Green Magpie, Red-billed Scimitar Babbler, Orange-breasted and Collared Laughingthrushes, Vietnamese Cutia, Grey-crowned Crocias, Yellow-billed Nuthatch and Vietnamese Greenfinch are just some of the many mouth-watering highlights available...

2016 [10 October] - Florian Klingel

Report

...Black Drongos were moving southwards continuously and many Sparrowhawks (probably Chinese) with them. We had spent a lot of time to look for waders, so not that much time was left to search the island for resting passerines, and we had no really spectacular sightings. Still good though, with Siberian Rubythroats, Siberian Blue Robins, a Red-flanked Blue-tail, Eastern Crowned Leaf Warbler and other Phylloscopus Warblers, several Chestnut-winged Cuckoos. We also flushed a Red-legged or Slaty-legged Crake but could not see the legs unfortunately.....

2016 [12 December] - Dave Stejskal

Report

...Among the targets we were able to track down here were Red-vented Barbet, Red-collared Woodpecker, Pied Falconet, White-winged Magpie, Limestone Leaf Warbler, Gray-cheeked Warbler, White-tailed Flycatcher, Fujian Niltava, Rufous-tailed Robin, Limestone Wren-Babbler, Rufous-throated and Black-browed fulvettas, Gray-backed and Japanese thrushes, Chinese Blackbird, Fork-tailed Sunbird, and even an immature male Green Cochoa for some at Bong Substation!....

Places to Stay

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Hotel Sofitel Metropole Hanoi

Accommodation

About half of Cat Ba island (which has a total area of 354-sq. km) and 90-sq. km of the adjacent inshore water was declared a National Park in 1986 in order to protect the island's diverse ecosystems. More than 20 species of mammals, 69 species of birds and 20 species of reptiles and amphibians can be found in the National Park…

Organisations

Birdlife International – Vietnam Programme

Website

BirdLife International in Indochina website covers our activities in Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. You can read about our recent work and the updated news by visting our latest newsletter The Babbler

Museums

National University of Hanoi Zoological Museum

http://coombs.anu.edu.au/~vern/hnu-zoo-mus.html

The museum contains about 1000 large mammal, 3000 bird, over 400 fish, over 650 snake and some turtle specimens. Many specimens, including a mounted collection, date from the French colonial period.

Reserves

Wetlands

Website

Viet Nam currently has 8 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 117,813 hectares.

Bach Ma National Park

Information

Satellite View

The 330 species of birds that have been observed in the park represent over one-third of the species found in Vietnam. There are seven species of pheasants, including the rare endemic Edward's pheasant Lophura edwardsi. Historically this species was very common in the forests along the foot of the mountain but was already considered to become extinct by the 1940s. More than 50 years later, it was rediscovered in the park and has become one of the symbols of Bach Ma National Park…

Binh Chau - Phuoc Buu Reserve

Information

Satellite View

Although established in 1986, Binh Chau - Phuoc Buu Reserve is relatively unknown. This low, sandy, coastal wetland forest - seems almost like scrub bushland - but it is in fact a valuable link in Vietnam's network of natural forests and wetlands. The Reserve has no tourist facilities. It is serviced only by a dirt road.

Cat Tien National Park

Website

Satellite View

This park covers 74,000 Hectares of lowland forest and swamp and is home to numerous birds and mammals. One of Vietnams most important and largest National Parks. Supported by the WWF, projects include surveying the small population of Javan rhinoceros, that still exist in the area the last remaining population on main land. Other mammals include Elephant, Gaur and tiger. Many birds can be found, including such specialities as Germain's Peacock Pheasant, Bar-bellied Pitta and the rare endemic Orange-necked Partridge…

Ha Long Bay

Wiki

Satellite View

...a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a popular travel destination, in Quảng Ninh Province, Vietnam.

Other Links

Hanno's Birding Pages

Website

Admittedly, my main interest is birding. However, even the non-birder should find plenty of interest here, as I try to give information on as many aspects of my trips as I can…

Birdwatching Vietnam

Website

Welcome to Birdwatching Vietnam, the birding guides team of Wildtour Company who are researching birding condition in Vietnam and specially arrange for individually birding tour as well as escorted small group birdwatching and wildlife exploring tour…

Birds of Vietnam

Website

What's so great about a list of bird names? After all, the names that men give are just a pale reflection of the birds themselves. Well, bird-lovers may rejoice in biodiversity, but in matters linguistic they tend to use common or garden English as a lowest common denominator. So, in the interest of 'lingua-diversity', here it is: a list of bird species of Vietnam, with names in Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Malay, Indonesian, and French….