Northern Thailand is one of two regions most frequented by visiting birdwatchers (the other being the western region) – and it’s easy to see why! Due to its mountainous terrain, much of the north is still blanketed in rich, deciduous forest. Over 40% of the country’s bird species can be found in the north and each winter brings the possibility of a new migrant being added to the locality lists.
Winter and spring are by far the most productive seasons for birdwatching as hundreds of migrant species head south to escape the freezing temperatures in central Asia, Siberia, Mongolia and northern China. Northern Thailand is also home to seven of the ten highest mountains in the kingdom, including the Roof of Thailand, Doi Intanon.
There are nine provinces in northern Thailand: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Lampoon, Mae Hong Sorn, Nan, Payao, Prae and Uttradit.
Northeast Thailand is the largest region in the country and located on a giant, arid plateau. The region is largely deforested, with much of the land devoted to agriculture. Local bird populations have been severely impacted by centuries of hunting, deforestation and persecution.
The last remnants of forest are located along the borders of the plateau in areas such as the southwest (Khao Yai – Dong Payen Forest Complex), east, northeast along the Mekong River and northwest near Laos.
The northeast remains the most underwatched region in the country due to poor habitat and the low number of resident birds. Few specialities are found in the region; the majority of species represented are common birds which are also present throughout continental Thailand. However, if birders were to explore the underwatched forests and wetlands to the east and northeast along the Mekong River, there is a chance a number of fascinating species may be added to the Thai lists
The Northeast is comprised of 19 provinces: Amnat Charoen, Buri Ram, Chaiyaphum, Kalasin, Khon Kaen, Loei, Maha Sarakham, Mukdahan, Nakhon Phanom, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nong Bua Lamphu, Nong Khai, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon, Sisaket, Surin, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani and Yasothon.
The Eastern Seaboard
The Eastern Seaboard is an bustling tourist destination, better known for its idyllic beaches, picturesque islands and raceous party nightlife. Yet behind the noise and bright lights of Pattaya, Koh Chang and Bang Saen lies a world almost completely forgotten by modern man. The unique forests of the east are home to scattered remnants of Indo-Chinese bird species found nowhere else in the country such as Bar bellied Pitta, Blue rumped Pitta, Chestnut headed Partridge and Indochinese Magpie.
The forests in this region are restricted to two wildlife sanctuaries (Ang Rue Nai and Khao Soi Dao) while the tiny offshore islands (like Koh Man Nai) play an critical role as refueling stops for passage migrants throughout the months of May and October.
The seven eastern provinces are Chachoengsao, Chanthaburi, Chonburi, Prachin Buri, Rayong, Sa Kaeo and Trat.
The Central Region
The Central Plains are lush, fertile and well-watered. For generations it has served as Thailand’s rice bowl, blessing the kingdom with its agricultural riches. All of the lowlands are cultivated, with the occasional wooded grove adorning the gently sloping hills, adding contrast to the checkered landscape.
Most of the national parks in the region are located in the still-forested north and northeast of the region where the rugged hills made logging a logistical nightmare. Birders are reminded however, that birdwatching in this region is not only restricted to the national parks; in fact, many hundreds of species of birds can be found among the cultivation and surviving wetlands.
The Central region is comprised of 22 provinces: Ang Thong, Bangkok, Chai Nat, Kamphaeng Phet, Lop Buri, Nakhon Nayok, Nakhon Pathom, Nakhon Sawan, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Phetchabun, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, Saraburi, Sing Buri, Sukhothai, Suphan Buri and Uthai Thani.
Western Thailand contains nearly half of the nation’s forest reserves. These forests sustain a number of species which are difficult or impossible to find in any other region such as Green Peafowl, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Malayan Peacock-Pheasant, Giant Pitta, Rufous necked Hornbill and White fronted Scops Owl. Without doubt, this is the richest and most diverse region in the entire kingdom.
In this region birding isn’t just restricted to forests; the vast expanses of intertidal mudflats attract hundreds of thousands of shorebirds. These include specialties such as Asian Dowitcher, Pied Avocet, Eastern Curlew and the critically endangered Spoon billed Sandpiper. The adjacent fields of corn and rice host their own set of specialties, from the mighty Greater Spotted Eagle to the diminutive Red Avadavat.
The five western provinces are Kanchanaburi, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ratchaburi and Tak.
Southern Thailand is also referred to as peninsular Thailand, stretching from the province of Chumphon all the way to the border of Malaysia. A number national parks and wildlife sanctuaries can be found scattered throughout the region, guardians of the last remnants of a mighty rainforest which once blanketed the south. Nearly all of the lowland forest was cleared prior to the Logging Ban of 1989 resulting in the loss of dozens of species of birds, reptiles and large mammals. Today the remaining forest is restricted to the hill slopes within sanctuaries such as the Khao Sok – Klong Saeng Forest Complex, Khao Luang, Khao Banthat and Hala – Bala Wildlife Sanctuary.
Birding in peninsular Thailand differs dramatically from that of continental Thailand. It is a foregone conclusion by local and seasoned birdwatchers that southern Thailand is a far more challenging environment to bird in than that of continental Thailand.
– Ngao National Park, Ranong
– Cheio Laan Reservoir (Klong Saeng WS), Surat Thani
– Ao Phang Nga National Park, Phang Nga
– Sri Phang Nga National Park, Phang Nga
– Thai Muang – Khao Lampi National Park, Phang Nga
– Khao Lak – Lamru National Park, Phang Nga
– Mu Koh Surin National Park, Phang Nga
– Mu Koh Similan National Park, Phang Nga
– Raman Forest Park, Phang Nga
– Laem Pakarang Beach, Phang Nga
– Sirinat National Park, Phuket
– Khao Prataew Non-Hunting Area, Phuket
– Haad Nopparat Thara National Park, Krabi
– Khao Nor Chuchi (Khao Pra Bang Khram) Non-Hunting Area, Krabi
– Kanab Nam, Krabi
– Wat Tum Seua, Krabi
– Krung Ching Waterfall, Nakorn Sri Thammarat
– Khao Chong – Khao Banthat Forest Reserve, Trang
– Klong Lumchan Non-Hunting Area, Trang
– Talay Noi Waterfowl Sanctuary, Pattalung
– Yaring Mangrove Research Station, Pattani
– Sirinthorn Peat Swamp (Pa Pru Toh Deng), Narathiwat
– Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary, Narathiwat
The south is composed of 14 provinces: Chumphon, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Pattani, Phang Nga, Phatthalung, Phuket, Ranong, Satun, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Trang and Yala.