Lesser Sunda Islands

Chestnut-backed Thrush Geokichla dohertyi ©Andy Walker Website
Birding the Lesser Sundas Islands

The Lesser Sundas (Nusa Tenggara Island group) is split into two provinces: Nusa Tenggara Barat and Nusa Tenggara Timur.West Nusa Tenggara (Indonesian: Nusa Tenggara Barat) is a province in south-central Indonesia. It covers the western portion of the Lesser Sunda Islands, except for Bali. The main Lesser Sunda Islands are, from west to east: Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Sumba, Timor, Alor archipelago, Barat Daya Islands, and Tanimbar Islands. The two largest islands in the province are Lombok in the west and the larger Sumbawa island in the east. Mataram, on Lombok, is the capital and largest city of the province. The province is administratively divided into six regencies (kabupaten) and one municipality (kotamadya).Lombok is mainly inhabited by the Sasak ethnic group, with a minority Balinese population, and Sumbawa is inhabited by Sumbawa and Bima ethnic groups. Each of these groups has a local language associated with it as well. The population of the province is 3.821.134; 71 percent of the population lives in Lombok.

The Lesser Sunda Islands differ from the large islands of Java or Sumatra in consisting of many small islands, sometimes divided by deep oceanic trenches. Movement of flora and fauna between islands is limited, leading to the evolution of a high rate of localized species, most famously the Komodo dragon.[5] As described by Alfred Wallace in The Malay Archipelago, the Wallace Line passes between Bali and Lombok, along the deep waters of the Lombok Strait which formed a water barrier even when lower sea levels linked the now-separated islands and landmasses on either side. The islands east of the Lombok Strait are part of Wallacea, and are thus characterised by a blend of wildlife of Asian and Australasian origin in this region.[7] Asian species predominate in the Lesser Sundas: Weber’s Line, which marks the boundary between the parts of Wallacea with mainly Asian and Australasian species respectively, runs to the east of the group. These islands have the driest climate in Indonesia.

Top Sites
  • Flores

    Satellite View
    Great scenery and great birds. The large selection of endemics ranges from the easy to the very hard.
  • Komodo

    Satellite View
    Famous for giant lizards, but also great for Yellow-crested Cockatoo!
  • Lombok

    Satellite View
    The short hop across Wallace's line ensures a trip to Lombok has birds to make it worthwhile.
  • Sumba

    Satellite View
    Easy roadside birding, beautiful scenery and amazing local culture; and a ton of endemics!
  • Timor

    Satellite View
    Easy access to some great sites and birds. A trip to Timor is well worthwhile.
  • Wetar

    Satellite View
    Not an easy place to get to, but anyone who tries it will be rewarded with a selection of endemics that very few people have ever seen.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 430

    (As at February 2019)
  • Number of endemics: 74

    Black Cuckoo Dove Turacoena modesta, Wetar Ground Dove Alopecoenas hoedtii, Sumba Green Pigeon Treron teysmannii, Flores Green Pigeon Treron floris, Timor Green Pigeon Treron psittaceus, Timor Imperial Pigeon Ducula cineracea, Red-naped Fruit Dove Ptilinopus dohertyi, Mees's Nightjar Caprimulgus meesi, Invisible Rail Habroptila wallacii, Bald-faced Rail Gymnocrex rosenbergii, Sumba Buttonquail Turnix everetti, Sumba Boobook Ninox rudolfi, Least Boobook Ninox sumbaensis, Flores Scops Owl Otus alfredi, Wallace's Scops Owl Otus silvicola, Sumba Hornbill Rhyticeros everetti, White-rumped Kingfisher Caridonax fulgidus, Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher Todiramphus australasia, Tanimbar Corella Cacatua goffiniana, Jonquil Parrot Aprosmictus jonquillaceus, Iris Lorikeet Psitteuteles iris, Flores Lorikeet Trichoglossus weberi, Wallace's Hanging Parrot Loriculus flosculus, Streaky-breasted Honeyeater Meliphaga reticulata, Crimson-hooded Myzomela Myzomela kuehni, Red-rumped Myzomela Myzomela vulnerata, Scaly-crowned Honeyeater Lichmera lombokia, Flame-eared Honeyeater Lichmera flavicans, Black-necklaced Honeyeater Lichmera notabilis, Timor Friarbird Philemon inornatus, Plain Gerygone Gerygone inornata, Flores Minivet Pericrocotus lansbergei, Sumba Cicadabird Edolisoma dohertyi, White-browed Triller Lalage moesta, Bare-throated Whistler Pachycephala nudigula, Fawn-breasted Whistler Pachycephala orpheus, Timor Figbird Sphecotheres viridis, Wetar Figbird Sphecotheres hypoleucus, Olive-brown Oriole Oriolus melanotis, Cinnamon-tailed Fantail Rhipidura fuscorufa, Brown-capped Fantail Rhipidura diluta, Long-tailed Fantail Rhipidura opistherythra, Flores Crow Corvus florensis, Black-bibbed Monarch Symposiachrus mundus, Flores Monarch Symposiachrus sacerdotum, Golden-bellied Robin Microeca hemixantha, Golden-rumped Flowerpecker Dicaeum annae, Black-fronted Flowerpecker Dicaeum igniferum, Apricot-breasted Sunbird Cinnyris buettikoferi, Flame-breasted Sunbird Cinnyris solaris, Five-coloured Munia Lonchura quinticolor, Timor Bush Warbler Locustella timorensis, Buff-banded Grassbird Buettikoferella bivittata, Timor Leaf Warbler Seicercus presbytes, Russet-capped Tesia Tesia everetti, Timor Stubtail Urosphena subulata, Tanimbar Bush Warbler Horornis carolinae, Yellow-browed White-eye Heleia superciliaris, Yellow-spectacled White-eye Heleia wallacei, Crested White-eye Heleia dohertyi, Spot-breasted White-eye Heleia muelleri, Thick-billed White-eye Heleia crassirostris, Tanimbar Starling Aplonis crassa, Timor Blue Flycatcher Cyornis hyacinthinus, Flores Jungle Flycatcher Eumyias oscillans, Sumba Jungle Flycatcher Eumyias stresemanni, Damar Flycatcher Ficedula henrici, Sumba Flycatcher Ficedula harterti, Black-banded Flycatcher Ficedula timorensis, White-bellied Bush Chat Saxicola gutturalis, Fawn-breasted Thrush Zoothera machiki, Slaty-backed Thrush Geokichla schistacea, Orange-sided Thrush Geokichla peronii, Chestnut-backed Thrush Geokichla dohertyi,

    (i.e. 74 species found in the Lesser Sundas and nowhere else - there are close to double that number of Indonesian endemics on the islands)

Useful Reading

  • A Guide to the Birds of Wallacea

    | (Sulawesi, The Moluccas and Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia) | By Brian J Coates, K David Bishop & Dana Gardner | Dove Publications | 1997 | Hardback | 535 pages, 64 colour plates [697 species], colour photos, maps, illustrations | ISBN: 9780959025736 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birds of the Philippines, Sumatra, Java, Bali, Borneo, Sulawesi, the Lesser Sundas and the Moluccas

    | By Norman Arlott | William Collins (Harper Collins imprint) | 2018 | Hardback | 416 pages, 179 plates with colour illustrations; colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9780008102395 Buy this book from NHBS.com

Abbreviations Key

  • NP Kelimutu

    InformationSatellite View
    The park is located on the island of Flores. It consists of a region with hills and mountains, with Mount Kelibara (1,731 m) as its highest peak. Mount Kelimutu, which has the three coloured lakes.
  • NP Komodo

    InformationSatellite View
    The park includes the three larger islands Komodo, Padar and Rinca, and 26 smaller ones, with a total area of 1,733 km2 (603 km2 of it land). The national park was founded in 1980 to protect the Komodo dragon, the world's largest lizard. Later it was dedicated to protecting other species, including marine species.
  • NP Laiwangi Wanggameti

    InformationSatellite View
    It is is located on the island of Sumba in Indonesia. All forests types that exist on this island can be found in this national park. Birds include red junglefowl, red-naped fruit-dove, Sumba green pigeon, Sumba buttonquail, citron-crested cockatoo, purple-naped lory, Sumba flycatcher, Sumba cicadabird, and apricot-breasted sunbird.
  • NP Manupeu Tanah Daru

    InformationSatellite View
    It is located on the island of Sumba. This national park consists lowland forests on steep slopes that rise up to ca. 600m. There are around 87 species of birds protected in this region, including a number of endemics such as yellow-crested cockatoo, Sumba green pigeon, Sumba flycatcher, Sumba cicadabird, apricot-breasted sunbird and Sumba hornbill.
  • NP Mount Rinjani

    InformationSatellite View
    Birds include scaly-crowned honeyeater etc.
  • NR Mount Tambora

    InformationSatellite View
    Mount Tambora, also known as Tomboro, is situated in the northern part of Sumbawa island. It is a segment of the Sunda Arc, a string of volcanic islands that make up the southern chain of the Indonesian archipelago. Tambora forms its own peninsula on Sumbawa, known as the Sanggar peninsula. To the north of the peninsula is the Flores Sea and to the south is the 86 kilometres (53 mi) long and 36 kilometres (22 mi) wide Saleh Bay. At the mouth of Saleh Bay there is an islet called Mojo. An 1896 survey records 56 species of birds including the crested white-eye. Several other zoological surveys followed and found other bird species, with over 90 bird species discoveries in this period, including yellow-crested cockatoos, Zoothera thrushes, Hill mynas, green junglefowl and rainbow lorikeets are hunted for the cagebird trade by the local people. Orange-footed scrubfowl are hunted for food. This bird exploitation has resulted in population declines, and the yellow-crested cockatoo is nearing extinction on Sumbawa island.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • 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
  • 2013 [08 August] - Peter Ericsson

    …Not many birds seen from the roadside of the tower but stepping inside of the forest soon proved productive. This area is a stronghold for Flores Monarch, an endemic to Western Flores. The bird has a distinct call and readily responded to playback. A great looking Monarch at that…
  • 2013 [09 September] - David Hoddinott - Lesser Sundas Endemics

    PDF Report
    …The rain seemed to have sparked some activity and many birds were perched up singing. Some of the species we encountered in the late afternoon included the immaculate Black-naped Fruit Dove, Green Imperial Pigeon, Wallacean Drongo, Yellow-ringed White-eye, rare Sumba Brown Flycatcher and splendid Apricot-breasted Sunbird. Our night birding here was very rewarding too with superb views of Little Sumba Hawk-Owl and Mees’s Nightjar….
  • 2015 [08 August] - Stijn de Win & Peter Ericsson

    In the end we had seen almost all the endemics possible plus a lot more. Flores Scops Owl, Flores Hawk Eagle, White-rumped Kingfisher, Small Wallacean Hanging Parrots, Bare-throated Whistler, Flores Monarch, Elegant Pitta, Yellow and Citrine-crested Cockatoos, Sumba Hornbills, Little Sumba Hawk Owl, Small Buttonquail, Sumba Myzomela, Chestnut-backed, Orange-sided and Chestnut-headed Thrushes, Five-colored Munias, yet to be described Parrotfinch species, Black-banded, Sumba and Rufous-chested Flycatchers, Red-naped, Banded Fruit Doves to name a few.
  • 2015 [09 September] - David Erterius - Lesser Sundas

    PDF Report
    Situated to the south of Sulawesi and east of Bali, the Lesser Sundas is made up of a wonderfully diverse group of islands.
  • 2015 [09 September] - Subhojit Chakladar - Lombok

    PDF Report
    ...We also went to the Mataram University campus to get close looks at Scaly-crowned Honeyeaters. After sunset, we headed to Kerandangan Nature Reserve to search for Lombok’s only endemic. A few Large-tailed Nightjars were very active and vocal at the site. So were Orange-footed Scrubfowl. The Rinjani Scops Owl were calling right after sunset.
  • 2016 [04 April] - David Donato - Nusa Penida

    PDF Report
    I had the opportunity to visit Nusa Penida, Indonesia between 5 to 14 April 2016, to do some bird watching. Nusa Penida, is an island just east of Bali, Indonesia. It is west of Wallace’s Line, having an Asia avian composition. The immediately further east is the Island of Lombok on the other side of Wallace’a Line which, has an Austro-papuan avian composition. Nevertheless, there are some species that cross the line. Nusa Penida is dry by Indonesian standards have an extended dry season from April to November, and a short intense wet season from December to March...
  • 2016 [10 October] - Gareth Knass

    PDF Report
    ...Other Lesser Sundas endemics, most being seen at a few sites: Flores Minivet, Chattering (Browncapped)Fantail, Russet-capped Tesia, Scaly-crowned Honeyeater, Flores Leaf Warbler, FloresSpangled Drongo, Eyebrowed Heleia (Cream-browed White-eye), Crested Heleia (CrestedWhite-eye), Wallace’s Heleia (Yellow-spectacled White-eye), Thick-billed Heleia (Thick-billedDark-eye) (Poco Ranaka and Danau Ranamese), Golden-rumped Flowerpecker, Flores Warbling(Jungle) Flycatcher (only seen once at Poco Ranaka), Black-fronted Flowerpecker, Flores (Bloodbreasted)Flowerpecker (Danau Ranamese)...
  • 2018 [07 July] - Zoothera

    PDF Report
  • 2018 [10 October] - Mike Nelson

    PDF Report
    ...Further night birding also got us wonderful looks at a pair of Greater Sumba Boobooksperched high and peering down at usand the screams of Barn Owlled us to the local sumbae subspecies of this night hunter. Having cleaned up on Sumba we happily headed offto Rote for a new flight of endemics....
  • 2018 [12 December] - Michael Grunwell - Timor & Sumba

    PDF Report
    ...It was not for lack of effort on my part that I failed to connect; hours spent walking the beautiful parkland habitat looking for birds. By far the commonest bird here is the noisy flame/yellow-eared honeyeater and white-eyes. Mountain white-eye is supposed to be up in the higher areas but I had good views at all altitudes of white-eyes that were all identical and looked like ashy-bellied....
  • 2019 [09 September] - Mike Nelson

    PDF Report
    The Indonesian archipelago is home to just over 600 endemics and within Wallacea itself there are roughly around 265, over 40% of the close to 700 species recorded, and this number continues to grow with the ever-changing taxonomic picture. It is for this reason that the Lesser Sundas are such a magnet for birders and this year’s tour was filled with many of those endemics. Of the 230 species we recorded 77 are endemic with three heard only...
  • 2022 [06 June] - Andrew Walker

    PDF Report
    The list of highlights was very long and included Flores Scops Owl, Sumba Boobook, Little Sumba Hawk-Owl, Rote Boobook, Timor Boobook, Flores Hawk-Eagle, Sumba Hornbill, Yellow-crested Cockatoo, Elegant Pitta, Ornate Pitta, Red-naped Fruit Dove, Timor Imperial Pigeon, Timor Cuckoo-Dove, Bare-throated Whistler, Buff-banded Thicketbird, Flores Monarch, Little (Flores) Minivet, Rote Leaf Warbler, Timor Leaf Warbler, Flores Leaf Warbler, White-browed (Flores) Shortwing, Black-banded Flycatcher, Timor Blue Flycatcher, Sumba Myzomela, Rote Myzomela, Black-breasted (Timor) Myzomela, Alor Myzomela, and Timor Sparrow. Non-avian highlight was easily Komodo Dragon!
  • 2023 [08 August] - Craig Robson

    PDF Report
    Our first Birdquest to The Lesser Sundas for six years was a great success, with more than 100 taxonomy-dependant Tenggaran endemics amongst our healthy trip total of 249 species. There was no birding on Bali this time, apart from at the airport. Some of the top highlights this year included Timor Nightjar, Timor, Eucalypt and Black Cuckoo-Doves, Flores Green Pigeon, Red-naped Fruit Dove, Timor Imperial Pigeon, Sumba, Rote, Timor and Least Boobooks, Flores Scops Owl, Sumba Hornbill, White-rumped and Cinnamon-banded Kingfishers, Yellow- and Citron-crested Cockatoos, Sumba Eclectus, Iris, Olive-headed, Marigold and Leaf Lorikeets, Wallace’s Hanging Parrot, excellent perched views of both Ornate and Elegant Pittas, Sumba, Rote and Black-breasted Myzomelas, Flame-eared Honeyeater, Little Minivet, the vocally wellendowed Bare-throated Whistler, Brown-capped, “Rote”, “Timor” and “Supertramp” Fantails, Flores Monarch, Flores Crow, Russet-capped Tesia, Timor Stubtail, Flores, Timor and Rote Leaf Warblers, Buff-banded Thicketbird, 5 endemic Heleias, Orange-sided, Chestnut-capped and Chestnut-backed Thrushes, Flores Shortwing, Black-banded Flycatcher, White-bellied Bush Chat, all 7 endemic flowerpeckers (taxonomy-dependant), Apricot- and Flame-breasted Sunbirds, both Tricolored and the recently discovered Mount Mutis Parrotfinch (including adult males), and Timor Sparrow.
Places to Stay
  • Nihiwatu

    "For trekkers there are incredible waterfalls and beaches to discover and while hiking through the tropical forests you can also search for the indigenous birds of Sumba Island. If you are looking for adventure, true natural beauty or just relaxing and really getting away to another world, Nihiwatu Resort, in Indonesia is the place to be."
Other Links
  • Birding in the Lesser Sundas

    Information about birding sites in the Lesser Sundas, including key species, maps, access, local guides and resources. The string of islands east of Bali are a fascinating region of Indonesia to go birding, and one that

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