Ruby-throated Bulbul Rubigula dispar ©Govind Vijayakumar Website
Birding Sumatra

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

    InformationSatellite View
    Getting a great reputation for montane and sub-montane specialities, also good for lowland and hill birding…
  • Gunung Leuser National Park

    InformationSatellite View
    Vast undisturbed forests stretching from lowlands to montane. Rarely visited and many discoveries still to be made.
  • Kerinci-Seblat National Park

    InformationSatellite 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

    InformationSatellite 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

    InformationSatellite View
    Easily accessible lowland forest. White-winged Ducks, Storm's Storks and some of the best night birding in Asia…
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 737

    (As at February 2019)
  • Number of endemics: 22

    Roll's Hill Partridge Arborophila rolli, Sumatran Hill Partridge Arborophila sumatrana, Red-billed Hill Partridge Arborophila rubrirostris, Bronze-tailed Peacock Pheasant Polyplectron chalcurum, Sumatran Ground Cuckoo Carpococcyx viridis, Simeulue Scops Owl Otus umbra, Mentawai Scops Owl Otus mentawi, Sumatran Trogon Apalharpactes mackloti, Graceful Pitta Pitta venusta, Schneider's Pitta Pitta schneideri, Sumatran Treepie Dendrocitta occipitalis, Sumatran Leafbird Chloropsis media, Blue-masked Leafbird Chloropsis venusta, Cream-striped Bulbul Pycnonotus leucogrammicus, Spot-necked Bulbul Pycnonotus tympanistrigus, Enggano White-eye Zosterops salvadorii, Sumatran Babbler Trichastoma buettikoferi, Rusty-breasted Wren Babbler Turdinus rufipectus, Black-and-white Laughing-thrush Garrulax bicolor, Rück's Blue Flycatcher Cyornis ruckii, Shiny Whistling Thrush Myophonus melanurus, Sumatran Cochoa Cochoa beccarii
  • 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 | Oxford University Press | 1993 | Paperback | 2007 Reprint | 491 pages, 88 col plates, line illustrations, maps | ISBN: 9780198540342 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Java, Sumatra and Bali

    | By Tony Tilford & Alain Compost | Bloomsbury Publishing | 2017 | Paperback | 136 pages, 250 colour photos, 1 colour map | ISBN: 9781472938183 Buy this book from
  • The Birds of Sumatra

    | (An Annotated Checklist) | By JG Van Marle & KH Voous | BOU | 1988 | paperback | 266 pages, b/w plates, 9 tabs, 3 maps | ISBN: 9780907446095 Buy this book from
  • Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary

    We are a group of like-minded individuals who are passionate about preventing habitat loss in Sumatra, Indonesia. Together and in partnership with local Indonesian-run Orangutan Information Centre (OIC) and Photographers Without Borders (PWB), we're fundraising to protect and conserve more than 50 hectares of rainforest land in Sumatra, which is adjacent to the Gunung Leuser ecosystem. We will also be building a primate rescue centre on-site.

Abbreviations Key

  • NP Batang Gadis

    InformationSatellite View
    It is named after the Batang Gadis river that flows thorough the park. There are 47 species of mammals, 247 of birds, 240 of vascular plants and 1,500 of microorganisms in the park. There were 13 endemic species of bird recorded in the park, including Salvadori's pheasant and Schneider's pitta.
  • NP Berbak WII

    InformationSatellite View
    The Berbak National Park in Sumatra island, Jambi province, forms part of the largest undisturbed swamp forest in southeastern Asia, and the peat swamp forest with the greatest number of palm species. The more than 250 bird species include the Chinese egret, lesser adjutant stork, many species of kingfisher, and the white-winged wood duck.
  • NP Bukit Barisan Selatan

    InformationSatellite View
    The park located along the Bukit Barisan mountain range, has a total area of 3,568 km2, and spans three provinces: Lampung, Bengkulu, and South Sumatra. Together with Gunung Leuser and Kerinci Seblat national parks it forms a World Heritage Site, Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra. There are over 300 species of bird in the park, like the critically endangered Sumatran ground-cuckoo.
  • NP Bukit Duabelas

    InformationSatellite View
    It is representative of lowland tropical rain forests in the province of Jambi. Only the northern part of the park consists of primary rainforest, while the rest is secondary forest, as result of previous logging. Among the endangered animals protected in the park are the siamang, clouded leopard, Java mouse-deer, sun bear, Sumatran muntjac, leopard cat, hairy-nosed otter, dhole, Sumatran striped rabbit and the crested serpent eagle.
  • NP Bukit Tigapuluh

    InformationSatellite View
    It is famous as one of the last refuges of endangered species such as the Sumatran orangutan, Sumatran tiger, Sumatran elephant, and Asian tapir, as well as many endangered bird species. Bird species include: great argus, little green-pigeon, white-rumped shama, white-bellied woodpecker, crested serpent-eagle, Hill myna, helmeted hornbill, wrinkled hornbill, white-winged wood duck, Storm's stork, garnet pitta and grey-breasted babbler.
  • NP Kerinci Seblat

    InformationSatellite 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.The fauna include Sumatran tigers, and the park is recognised under the Global Tiger Initiative as one of the 12 most important protected areas in the world for tiger conservation. The Kerinci area is home to more than 300 bird species, including 17 of Sumatra's 20 endemic birds, making it of particular importance to ornithologists and bird-watching enthusiasts.
  • NP Mount Leuser

    InformationSatellite View
    The national park, settled in the Barisan mountain range, is named after Mount Leuser (3,119 m), and protects a wide range of ecosystems. An orangutan sanctuary at Bukit Lawang is located within the park. Together with Bukit Barisan Selatan and Kerinci Seblat National Parks, it forms a World Heritage Site, the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra.
  • NP Sembilang WII

    InformationSatellite View
    The park is dominated by swamps as peat forests, like the neighbouring Berbak National Park, and both parks are Ramsar wetlands of international importance. About half of the park is covered by mangrove forests, while the rest is covered by peat swamp forest, lowland tropical forests, mud flats, freshwater swamp forests and riparian forests. Within the park is the largest breeding colony of milky storks in the world, and one of the largest colonies of lesser adjutant. Other threatened birds in the park include the Storm's stork, white-winged duck, Nordmann's greenshank and Far Eastern curlew. The total bird population of the park has been estimated to be up to one million, while during winter up to 100,000 migratory birds stop over for rest.
  • NP Siberut

    InformationSatellite View
    The park protects four endangered endemic primate species: Kloss's gibbon (Hylobates klossii), Siberut macaque (Macaca siberu), Siberut langur (Presbytis potenziani ssp. siberu) and pig-tailed langur (Simias concolor ssp. siberu). Among the 31 species of mammals in the park[1] there are four endemic species of squirrel. The park also protects 134 species of bird of which 19 are endemic, including the Mentawai scops owl.
  • NP Tesso Nilo

    InformationSatellite View
    Tesso Nilo National Park houses some of the largest coherent lowland rainforests remaining on Sumatra. Critically endangered Sumatran elephants and Sumatran tigers live here.
  • NP Way Kambas

    InformationSatellite View
    It consists of swamp forest and lowland rain forest, mostly of secondary growth as result of extensive logging in the 1960s and 1970s. Despite decreasing populations, the park still has a few critically endangered Sumatran tigers, Sumatran elephants and Sumatran rhinoceroses. It also provides excellent birdwatching, with the rare white-winged wood duck among the over 400 species present in the park.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Let's Birding

    Facebook Page
    Let’s Birding is one of the tour operators who can organize your trips in groups and individuals. We offer the best trips by seeing many birds and exciting in Sumatra, including all the wildlife, fabulous surroundings, and interesting local culture along the way
  • 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
  • 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…
  • 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....
  • 2016 [09 September] - Subhojit Chakladar

    PDF Report
    After a lot of research, I narrowed down on 8 birds that’dbe 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.
  • 2017 [04 April] - Sjoerd Radstaak

    PDF Report
    In early 2017 I again visited Borneo and also found myself some time and - little - money to visit Sumatra again. As I always have been intrigued by the avifauna on the satellite islands SW of Sumatra (Simeulue, Mentawai & Enggano), even more so after the publication of ‘Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago’ by Eaton et al (2016),this was my initial focus for this trip.
  • 2017 [10 October] - Carlos Bocos

    Entering the wet season in the Greater Sundas can be a risky strategy with the weather but can be excellent for birding, and so this tour proved, with a very high rate of endemics bagged in both islands. Java, hosting an incredible number of endangered species, gave us excellent birding with highlights like Javan Hawk-eagle, Chestnut-bellied Partridge, Javan Cochoa, Sunda and Horsfield´s thrushes, Javan Trogon, Javan Banded Pitta, Javan Owlet, Javan Frogmouth, White-breasted Babbler, Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon, Pink-headed Fruit-dove, Javan Laughingthrush, Volcano Swiftlet or both Tawny-breasted and Pin-tailed Parrotfinches. Way Kambas treated us well with excellent night birding as expected, including Oriental Bay Owl, Bonaparte's Nightjar, Reddish Scops-owl and Sunda, Large and Gould's Frogmouths. Daytime birding was also excellent with the endangered White-winged Duck, Cinnamon-headed Green-pigeon, Malayan Banded Pitta, Olive-backed Flameback, Rufous-tailed Shama and many more. Both Gunung Kerinci and Bukit Tapan were also great and the number of highlights, countless. Schneider's Pitta, Salvadori's Pheasant, Sumatran Cochoa, Rimator, Sumatran Peacock Pheasant, Red-billed Partridge, Sumatran Frogmouth, Sumatran and Blue-faced Leafbirds, Ruby-throated Bulbul, Graceful Pitta and Marbled Wren Babbler.
  • 2018 [03 March] - Rob Hutchinson - Java & Sumatra

    PDF Report
    An ever increasing number of recognised endemics make these two Indonesian islands even more attractive, and this custom tour targeted those, following a traditional birding circuit but with the exciting addition of the Mentawai islands. We began on Java where Gunung Gede-Pangrango was pleasantly free of the hoards of hikers that descend later in the year, and we racked up a great list of endemic; Javan Scops Owl at touching distance, Javan Frogmouth, Javan Owlet, Chestnut-bellied Partridge, Javan Trogon, Javan Crocias, Javan Cochoa, Crescent-chested and Whitebibbed Babblers, Flame-fronted and Brown-headed Barbets, Pygmy Bushtit and the spectacular Javan Kingfisher.
  • 2018 [06 June] - Rob Gordijn & Helen Rijkes - Western Sumatra

    PDF Report
    Sumatra was our second stop in our year of travelling, we wanted a destination in Indonesia in June and the weather in Sumatra seemed favourable. With two new pitta’s and lots of other endemics this was an easy choice. Since we only allotted 10 days we chose to do western Sumatra with the best site for most endemics (Kerinci) and since we were travelling via Padang we added one of the offshore islands (Mentawai).
  • 2018 [07 July] - Brian Cox

    PDF Report
    This was a three part trip, travelling independently to Siberut and Kerinci and then we hired the services of Aceh Birders to take us around Aceh. We have both been to southern Sumatra before (Way Titias, Danau Ranau and Way Kambas) so we therefore had a manageable list of target birds we wanted to see mainly focussing on the endemics.
  • 2018 [09 September] - Mike Nelson - Sumatra & Java

    PDF Report
    With a tasty list of endemics, it’s no wonder our West Java and Sumatra tour is very popular and our third tour this year didn’t disappoint, notching up a total of 341 species, including a fantastic crop of endemics and local specialties.
  • 2019 [05 May] - Carlos Bocos - Sumatra and West Java

    PDF Report
    Sumatra and West Java, one of the classic birding tours in Asia, was again an amazing journey through some of the best spots in the whole continent.
  • 2019 [07 July] - Ross & Melissa Gallardy - West Java, Banyaks, Simeulue, & Aceh

    PDF Report
    With only a little over two weeks, I had to be pretty selective on where to visit in Indonesia. The decision was made to concentrate on a number of species that are unfortunately critically endangered.
  • 2019 [08 August] - Mike Nelson - Sumatra & West Java

    PDF Report
    The two huge islands of Sumatra and Java comprise half of the Greater Sundas. From steamy lowlands to high volcanic peaks these two islands boast over 80 endemic bird species, a number that makes them a priority for many avid birders.
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

    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

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Skip to content