Birding Around Penang

Penang is a popular tourist destination that is famous for its glorious array of local food and fine cuisines and as well as a tropical island paradise for shopping and other leisure activities. But there is another fascinating world found here that is relatively unknown which is the amazing bird life around the state of Penang.

From lush tropical rain forests to the coastal mudflats, there is a rich variety of both resident and migratory species that seek shelter here. In Penang Island the mangroves of Sungai Burung on the southern tip of the island is where you will be able to see raptors, kingfishers, cuckoos and as well as migratory passerines. Forest birds are struggling to cope with the pace of development on the island but the central hilly region like Penang Hill and Bukit Penara is still home to such amazing species like the White-bellied Woodpecker, Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler and Green Broadbill.

But to truly experience the bird life here, one has to go across the narrow straits to the mainland side of Penang. Air Hitam Dalam Educational Forest is a small patch of freshwater swamp forest at the northern end of the state and it provides sanctuary to such feathered jewels as the Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher, Ruddy Kingfisher and Black-And-Red Broadbill. A number of migrants also pass through the locality and some will also remain here for the winter. It is also for the best places to see nocturnal species like owls and nightjars. Not too far from here lies the coastline of Teluk Air Tawar – Kuala Muda which has been gazetted as an Important Bird Area. Each year, thousands of waders and other shore birds will find refuge here during the winter months up north and this is certainly one of the best wader sites in Malaysia.

The vast area of paddy fields of Permatang Pauh in the central region is a great place to see wintering raptors and water birds. The mighty Eastern Imperial Eagle, Steppe Eagle and Greater Spotted Eagles call this place home during the wintering months. It is also one of the best places to see scarce migratory water birds like the ibises, storks and waders. The Pulau Burung landfill at the southern tip is another place where both resident and migratory water birds frequent. As the name implies, the marshlands and mangroves are rich in bird life and notable birds like ducks, rails, raptors and cuckoos can be found here.

The neighbouring state of Kedah offers some of the best birding sites for forest birds. From hilly forest to coastal mangroves, there is a wide variety of bird species just waiting to be discovered. At typical forest sites like the Sungai Sedim Recreational Forest, Pedu Lake and Bukit Wang Forest Reserve birding is done along the fairly easy walking trails. Hornbills, trogons, woodpeckers, malkohas, broadbills, pittas and babblers are some of the more fascinating and alluring species that find refuge here. The forests also provide opportunities to observe nocturnal birds like frogmouths and owls in their natural environment and night excursions can be truly exhilarating at times.

At the northwestern tip of Peninsular Malaysia lies the tiny state of Perlis. For such a small area, there are a variety of habitats where rewarding birding can be enjoyed. The most notable site, is the unique open country and scrub vegetation of Chuping. This site holds the most number of first records and vagrants to Malaysia and anticipation is high for every visit as you do not know what might come your way. Northern specialities like the Plain-backed Sparrow, Red Collared-Dove, Indian Roller and Bronze-winged Jacana are regularly observed and admired. The grasslands is also renowned for the sheer number of raptors species present especially during the migratory months. Rarities like the Eurasian Kestrel, Booted Eagle and Short-toed Eagle are annual winter visitors that will grace the locality with their presence.

Birding spots around Penang

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