According to the Lonely Planet alone, there are over 750 bird species in Malaysia, and some of which are amongst the “coolest” of species.
If you love nature, and are fond of travelling to the many nature parks and reserves of Malaysia, chances are, you would have come across at least one of these precious feathered creatures.
The popular birding sites in Peninsula Malaysia such as Taman Negara Pahang, Fraser’s Hill, Royal Belum Forest in Perak, Kinabatangan River and Kinabatangan Park, both located in Sabah, and Bako National Park in Sarawak are also home to some unique and endemic birds, specific to Malaysia.
Read on, and perhaps on your next trip, you can keep your eyes peeled for any one of the species listed here.
The Rhinocerous Hornbill
While any hornbill is worth watching out for, the rhinoceros hornbill is probably the most majestic-looking of them all, with its horn-like crown and mighty stature. Because hornbills generally require larger trees for building nests in, they are most commonly found in the forests of Temenggor Lake, Perak and Kenyir Lake, Terengganu. With Malaysia having 10 species out of the 57 species identified in the world, we come in second in terms of diversity in the region.
Some interesting facts about the hornbill.
Did you know that they are the only birds with eyelashes? They are also monogamous, and will mate with the chosen partner for life. And during the courting period, usually lasting approximately a month, the male hornbill will bring food to the female to prove himself worthy of being her mate.
To support their heavy bills, hornbills also have thicker and stronger neck muscles, which is another unique feature among birds. In the smaller species, the bills are made of spongy tissue, while ivory-like bone makes up the bills of the larger species.
Mountain Peacock Pheasant
This medium-sized, elusive, endemic bird to the Peninsula Malaysia can be found in the mountainous region of Pahang namely Fraser’s Hill and Cameron Highlands. The male and female have the same colour, and as the name would suggest, they do have a rather impressive tail plumage as well!
While the pheasant may belong to the same family as peacocks, which also includes turkeys and partridges, they differ not only in size and colour, but also live in different habitats.
Due to ongoing habitat loss and limited range, the mountain peacock-pheasant is now deemed as vulnerable
Another bird endemic to Malaysia is the ground-dwelling Malaysian Hill Partridge, which can be spotted in the rain forest of Fraser’s Hill, Pahang as well as other highlands forests in Peninsula Malaysia.
Being ground-dwellers, they nest on the ground, made from loosely woven twigs and leaves, beneath shrubs. Eggs are usually found in March so please look out for them should you explore the highland forests during this time
Black & Crimson Pitta
This brightly-coloured, ground-dweller is endemic to Borneo, and can be found in the Danum Valley in Sabah. The black & crimson pitta prefers dark and damp places, which is prime condition to feast on its diet which includes spiders, ants, cockroaches, beetles and snails.
These birds are ventriloquial, so be sure to look out for them as they may be nearer than you might expect!
And finally, the Malayan Laughingthrush which can be sighted in Taman Negara National Park and the forest of Fraser’s Hill, and is recognisable from its maroon-chestnut head. It prefers shrubs, and its diet of choice is mainly insectivorous.
These are just a few of the unique and endemic birds commonly found in Malaysia, so the next time you go on that hike, especially in the hills and highlands, do keep an ear and an eye out for these precious creatures.