Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Ratchet-tailed Treepie Temnurus temnurus ©Jason Thompson - Creative Commons Website
Birding Laos

Laos, officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in southeast Asia, traces its history to the Kingdom of Lan Xang or Land of a Million Elephants, which existed from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. It is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia at the heart of the Indochinese peninsula, bordered by Myanmar (Burma) and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southwest, and Thailand to the west and southwest.After a period as a French protectorate, it gained independence in 1949..

Laos has a thickly forested landscape consists mostly of rugged mountains, the highest of which is Phou Bia at 2,817 m (9,242 ft), with some plains and plateaus. The Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand, whereas the mountains of the Annamite Chain form most of the eastern border with Vietnam.The climate is tropical and monsoonal. There is a distinct rainy season from May to November, followed by a dry season from December to April. Local tradition holds that there are three seasons (rainy, cold and hot) as the latter two months of the climatologically defined dry season are noticeably hotter than the earlier four months. The capital and largest city of Laos is Vientiane, and other major cities include Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Pakxe.In 1993, the government set aside 21% of the nation’s land area as National Biodiversity Conservation Areas (NBCA), which it intended to be developed into a national park system.Laos is the home to the Indochinese tiger, the giant gaur, and the Asian elephant. A number of animal species have been discovered or re-discovered in Laos in recent years. These include the striped or Annamite rabbit, the saola, and most recently the Laotian rock rat or kha-nyou.The country is one of four in the opium poppy growing region known as the “Golden Triangle”. Laos has a low-income economy, with one of the lowest annual incomes in the world.

Much of Laos lacks adequate infrastructure with no railway system and few paved roads apart from major routes. However, tourism is increasingly important and provision is rapidly growing.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 701

    (As at January 2019)
  • iGoTerra Checklist

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Useful Reading

  • A Photographic Guide to Birds of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos

    | By Peter Davidson | New Holland | 2009 | Paperback | 144 pages, 260 colour images, one full-colour map | ISBN: 9781847731418 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Southeast Asia

    | By Craig Robson | Christopher Helm | 2014 | Edition 2 | Paperback | 544 pages, 120 plates with 3600+ colour illustrations; 3 b/w illustrations, 1 colour & 1 b/w map | ISBN: 9781472916693 Buy this book from
  • Collins Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia

    | By Norman Arlott | William Collins | 2017 | Hardback | 432 pages, 178 plates with colour illustrations; colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9780007429547 Buy this book from
  • Pocket Photo Guide to the Birds of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos

    | By Peter Davidson | Bloomsbury Publishing | 2016 | Paperback | 144 pages, colour photos, 1 colour map | ISBN: 9781472932846 Buy this book from
  • The 125 Best Bird Watching Sites in Southeast Asia

    | Edited by Yong Ding Li & Low Bing Wen | John Beaufoy Books | Edition 2 | 2018 | 404 pages, colour photos, colour maps | ISBN: 9781912081523 Buy this book from
  • Birdlife International

    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…

Abbreviations Key

  • NBCA Dong Ampham

    InformationSatellite View
    Dong Ampham National Biodiversity Conservation Area contains some of the last intact areas of lowland and tropical forests remaining in mainland Southeast Asia. Rivers flowing through the park include Xe Kaman River and Xe Xou River. The wetlands are home to populations of Siamese crocodiles and elephants and large cats are known to inhabit the park.
  • NBCA Dong Hua Sao

    InformationSatellite View
    Dong Hua Sao National Protected Area is a national protected area in Champasak Province in southern Laos. This forested park rises from the Mekong river lowlands eastwards into the Bolaven Plateau.
  • NBCA IBA Nam Ha

    InformationSatellite View
    Nam Ha National Protected Area is located about 5 kilometres (3 mi) southwest of Luang Namtha and covers parts of all five of the province's districts. The park's area is 2,224 square kilometres (860 sq mi). The park encompasses the Nam Ha Important Bird Area with an area of 1,845 square kilometres (710 sq mi).The park is host to diverse bird species: about 300 species are recorded here.[2] A few species are unique in Laos to Nam Ha: crested finchbill, white-bellied redstart and white-necked laughingthrush.
  • NBCA IBA Phou Xieng Thong

    InformationSatellite View
    The native forests of Phou Xieng Thong host a large variety of animals and birds, including endangered species. At least 16 mammal species and 188 bird species have been catalogued. Animal species include Asian black bear, Sumatran serow, banteng, pangolin, monitor lizard and leopard. The Phou Xiang Thong Important Bird Area (IBA) is located within the park. The IBA covers an area of 367 square kilometres (140 sq mi) including part of the Mekong's eastern bank. Endangered bird species in the IBA include green peafowl, grey-headed parakeet and red-collared woodpecker. Bird species rare within the park include red-vented barbet, eared pitta and grey-faced tit-babbler.
  • NBCA IBA Xe Pian

    InformationSatellite View
    This forested, hilly park is home to significant wetlands and a great diversity of animal, bird and fish species. A large part of the park's boundary follows the border with Cambodia. The park's decreed area is 2,400 square kilometres (930 sq mi) but there have been recent higher estimates of size. Threatened animal species include elephant, tiger, yellow-cheeked gibbon, gaur, dhole, Asian black bear, sun bear, banteng and the critically endangered Sunda pangolin. A part of the Xe Khampho–Xe Pian Important Bird Area (IBA) overlaps the park. 750 square kilometres (290 sq mi) of the IBA's approximate area of 2,000 square kilometres (770 sq mi) lies in Xe Pian. Bird species of important conservation status in the common IBA and park area include white-winged duck, masked finfoot and white-rumped vulture. Elsewhere in the park important species include giant ibis, sarus crane, red-headed vulture, woolly-necked stork and green peafowl.
  • NBCA Nakai-Nam Theun

    InformationSatellite View
    Nakai-Nam Theun covers approximately 3,445 km2 of the Annamite mountains and the adjacent Nakai Plateau in the provinces of Khammouane and Bolikhamxay. More than 400 bird species have been conclusively identified in Nakai–Nam Theun and the adjacent northern extension. This is by far the highest avian species richness of any site yet surveyed in Laos and is the highest recorded in a single protected area in South-East Asia.
  • NBCA Nam Et-Phou Louey

    InformationSatellite View
    The Nakai–Nam Theun National Biodiversity Conservation Area (NBCA), located in Laos, comprises one of the most pristine wildernesses remaining in Southeast Asia. Nakai–Nam Theun NBCA covers approximately 3,445 km2 of the Annamite mountains and the adjacent Nakai Plateau in the provinces of Khammouane and Bolikhamxay. The reserve headquarters is located in Nakai, the capital of Nakai District.The park consists mainly of mountains and hills, with elevations ranging between 336 and 2257 metres. The area is the source of many rivers. It is named after the Nam Et River and Phou Louey Mountain ('Forever Mountain'). The area has a high level of biodiversity and endangered species including tiger, leopard, clouded leopard, Asian golden cat, marbled cat, civet, gaur, Sambar deer, white-cheeked gibbon, sun bear, black bear, Asian elephant, dhole, hornbill and three species of otter.
  • NBCA Nam Kading

    InformationSatellite View
    Surveys in Nam Kading have documented many endangered species. There are at least 13 globally and 12 regionally threatened mammals. Gaur, sun bear, and both northern and southern white-cheeked crested gibbon are present, making the area particularly important for gibbon conservation…
  • NBCA Phou Khao Khouay

    InformationSatellite View
    It is located 40 kilometres (25 mi) northeast of Vientiane. It was established on 29 October 1993 covering an area of 2,000 km2 extending into Xaisomboun Province, Vientiane Prefecture, Vientiane Province, and Bolikhamsai Province. It includes a large stretch of mountain range with sandstone cliffs, river gorges and three large rivers with tributaries which flow into the Mekong River. Animals found in the park include elephants, tigers, bears, 13 pairs of white-cheeked gibbons, langurs, reptiles, amphibians and birds. Sightings of the green peafowl have been reported near Ban Nakhay and Ban Nakhan Thoung, although it was generally once considered extinct in Laos.
  • NBCA Phou Xang He

    InformationSatellite View
    This mostly pristine forested park is home to a large variety of important animal and bird species. The park's area has been estimated at 1,180 square kilometres (460 sq mi). Bird life includes the threatened red-collared woodpecker. Other less vulnerable species include ratchet-tailed treepie and mountain fulvetta.
  • NR Bokeo

    InformationSatellite View
    Bokeo Nature Reserve is located in Bokeo Province, Laos. The protected area was created to protect its population of the black-cheeked gibbon, discovered in 1997 which was previously thought to be extinct. The protected area, 475 square miles (1,230 km2) in size, is characterized by a mix-deciduous forest and mountainous terrain (elevation ranging from 500-1500m). Asian elephants and wild water buffalo migrate through the reserve; bears and tigers are also present.
  • NR NBCA Hin Namno

    InformationSatellite View
    Hin Namno National Biodiversity Conservation Area is a nature reserve in Khammouane Province, Laos. This area borders Phong Nha-Ke Bang of Vietnam to the east.
  • WII Xe Champhone Wetlands

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
  • Wetlands of International Importance

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Lao People's Democratic Republic currently has 2 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 14,760 hectares.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • WildBirdEco

    Our tour service has run the business for 15 years. We are also well known to local media as Thailand
Trip Reports
  • 2015 [02 February] - James Eaton - Laos and Cambodia

    PDF Report
    This was our third tour to include ‘twitching’ Laos, with the focus on the Bare-faced Bulbul, currently only known from Laos and described just 6 years previously. We had just a couple of days birding, and managed a fine supporting cast of Sooty Babbler, Limestone Leaf Warbler, Red-vented and Moustached Barbets, Silver-breasted Broadbill and White-throated Rock Thrush.
  • 2016 [02 February] - Mike Nelson - Laos & Cambodia

    PDF Report
    ...So it was fitting we began our tour in the landlocked Laos where we secured great looks at the aforementioned bulbul as well as a fine suit of accompanying birds including Red-vented Barbet, Limestone Leaf Warbler and Sooty Babbler...
  • 2016 [11 November] - Greg Roberts

    A mixed cultural and birding trip with Glenn Scherf to Cambodia and Laos, followed by a visit to Penang (see postscript to this trip report). An annotated diary follows.
  • 2018 [02 February] - Mike Nelson - Cambodia & Laos

    PDF Report
    The dry deciduous forests, open grasslands, marshy wetlands and limestone karst of Cambodia and Laos make for some brilliant birding. Some of South-east Asia's most sought-after rarities reside here like Giant and White-shouldered Ibis, Greater Adjutant, Milky Stork, Bengal Florican, Cambodian Laughingthrush and recently described Bare-faced Bulbul, and these were just a few of the mouthwatering species we encountered on this tour.
  • 2018 [03 March] - Jan de Groot - South Laos, Champasak

    PDF Report
    The wetland was almost completely dried up. Cattle and two elephants were seen grazing. Villagers were digging fish trap ponds or emptying them to catch fish...
  • 2019 [02 February] - Craig Robson - Cambodia & Laod

    PDF Report
    This year’s tour saw several additions to the itinerary, with Okoki, Phnom Aural and Pursat Grasslands. The main highlights amongst our total of 331 Species were: Chestnut-headed Partridge, Siamese Fireback, Milky Stork at the nest, Greater Adjutant, Giant and White-shouldered Ibises, White-rumped Vulture, Bengal Florican, Oriental Bay Owl, Blyth’s Frogmouth, White-rumped Falcon, Bamboo Woodpecker, Bare-faced Bulbul, Cambodian Tailorbird, Cambodian Laughingthrush, Sooty Babbler, Chinese Grassbird, Green Cochoa, Jerdon’s Bush Chat, Asian Golden Weaver, and Mekong Wagtail. Irrawaddy Dolphin headed-up the mammal list as usual.
  • 2020 [02 February] - Mike Nelson

    PDF Report
    ...Wintering Manchurian Reed Warbler and Yellow-breasted Buntings were greatly appreciated, and in neighbouring Laos the recently described Bare-faced Bulbul inhabits the limestone karst of the western Annamites.
Other Links
  • Birds of Laos

    This is a list of the bird species recorded in Laos. The avifauna of Laos include a total of 701 species, of which two have been introduced by humans and eight are rare or accidental. Twenty-five species are globally threatened.

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