Huay Hong Khrai Royal Project

Songkran 10 (122)

Huay Hong Khrai is a huge forested area designated as a watershed and agriculture research station by the government at the request of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The area consists of mostly deciduous trees with some pine interspersed. The center also manages experimental breeding stations for fish, cattle and wildlife, aimed at improving the welfare of the local communities dotted throughout the area, most of which rely on agriculture as their sole form of income.

The area became a household name within the birding community after the staff at the Wildlife Breeding Center uncovered a local population of Green Peafowl, a bird which was  known to only exist in Huay Kha Kaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in western Thailand. The birds showed up shortly after a breeding station was built and seem to spend most of their time hanging out around the Green Peafowl cages. The discovery came as a pleasant surprise for both birders and environmentalists who see this as a boon for the endangered species. The staff at the station have gone to great lengths to provide protection necessary to keep this population of birds safe from predation and exploitation.

The staff at the breeding station vigorously deny that the birds are a feral population that were released by the breeding program, claiming they are genuinely wild birds from the forest. While it has yet to be proven scientifically that the birds are indeed wild, their behavior and mannerisms seem to support the claims.


Birding

Main Attraction: Green Peafowl

Most birders heading to Huay Hong Krai visit with only one goal in mind: to twitch the Green Peafowl. This can be easily achieved by visiting the wildlife breeding station and looking around the deer and wild pig enclosures as this is where the birds are usually encountered. However, in the dry season or in the winter months the bird can sometimes be encountered along the roadsides in the early mornings. The loud and piercing call of the peafowl carries over huge distances and  the bird can often be heard long before it’s seen.

What many birders don’t realize is that this place is also awash with many other good birds, most of which literally fly “under the radar”. With such a huge expanse of forest, the probability of adding new birds to the list is very high. Since most birders are on a one-bird quest while visiting the area, many of the side roads and other trails are left unexplored. Two long roads, one forking out to the School for Life and the other which heads to the hot springs at Sankampeng, are rarely used by locals and can often be quite good for birding, especially in the wintering months.

Blue Magpie and Eurasian Jay are two beautiful birds which are fairly common in the forest and early morning visitors may even encounter a Silver Pheasant or two. Other birds which I have personally encountered along the roadsides include Puff throated Babbler, Red Junglefowl, Crow billed Drongo, Greater Racket tailed Drongo, Greater Yellownape, Siberian Rubythroat, Mugimaki Flycatcher, Hoopoe, White throated Kingfisher, Blue throated Barbet and Green billed Malkoha.

The list could easily exceed 40 species in a few hours of morning birding along the quieter trails if one is interested and has the time to look!

Another good place to visit in the station is the lookout tower, built by the staff for visitors to get a glimpse of the view from above the timberline. Birders will appreciate the “birds-eye view” it offers which allows good views of the arboreal species or other treetop-loving birds. A good time to visit this place would be in the early winter mornings when birds tend to flock to the tops of the tallest trees to warm up before flying off to forage for food.


Directions to Huay Hong Krai

To get a better idea of the surrounding area, please zoom out by pressing Ctrl on your keyboard and scrolling with your mouse.

Huay Hong Krai is located on the highway to Chiang Rai past the municipality of Doi Saket. Drive along the highway about 5 kilometers past the Doi Saket T-junction (or 28 kilometers from Chiang Mai’s Super Highway) and the enormous concrete sign marking the site will be seen on your right hand side.

A small traders market is located near the gate and offers local organic produce and wild honey at reasonable prices.

Once off the main road, it will be a two-kilometer drive to the checkpoint gate and a further two kilometers until you reach the Head Office. The wildlife breeding station is located about 200 meters further near the fisheries breeding station. Maps and toilet facilities are available at the Head Office. The small cafeteria offers simple one-dish meals but is not always open, depending on the demand.


Personal Opinion

Pros: Easiest place in the country to twitch Green Peafowl; no entrance fees required; few visitors or locals use the roads, making it perfect for finding birds; undisturbed habitat may attract special winter visitors or migrants.

Cons: Most of the specialties in the area are easier to find in other, more accessible locations; birding can be slow on most days; limited information available for those who wish to go exploring.

Seeing a Green Peafowl is always a treat and heading to the station just to twitch the bird is well worth the time and effort. However, if one really wants to get a feel for the area, I’d recommend a few hours looking along the trails and perhaps a visit to the watchtower before heading off to tick the Green Peafowl.

This page was last updated in June, 2018.