Gone to the birds
Over two-thirds of Sarawak is under the cover of tropical rainforests. This means Sarawak is a haven for flora and fauna, many of which are endemic to Sarawak and Borneo. This is what makes Sarawak a great spot to visit for bird watchers. Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak is home to the Asian Bird Fair which attracts bird watchers from all over the world.
Many species of birds in Borneo will migrate to the rainforests, hills and lowlands every year between the months of October and April. Sarawak has a tropical and warm climate, making it a prime location for birds from the cooling northern hemisphere to take refuge in. More than 50 species of birds from different regions would fly into Sarawak to take advantage of the warm weather every year.
Sarawak has built multiple national parks and nature reserves in an effort to provide visitors with bird watching opportunities. The parks and reserves also serve as a means to protect the birds and educate the public on sustainable and responsible actions. Let us look at what are some of the bird species that call Sarawak home.
Sarawak’s state bird is the majestic rhinoceros hornbill with its distinctive crest on top of its bill. Its beak has an ivory tint resembling the horn of a rhino. One of the most peculiar thing about the hornbill is that it pays particular attention to its privacy during mating season. After the female hornbill chooses the tree hole of her choice, the male hornbill will seal the hole with mud as the female hornbill lays her eggs. The male will continue to provide food through a small crack or hole in the mud wall.
The chestnut-crowned babbler is commonly found in Australia but is a unique and welcomed addition to Borneo. It is known for sporting a chestnut coloured crown.
The Kalimantan woodpecker, endemic to Borneo Island, has a head that is brightly coloured. It lives in warm and humid mountain forests.
Sarawak is home to many species of hornbills. Among them is the wrinkled hornbill that measures 65-70cm in body length. Its beak is strong enough to crush nuts. One of its favourite fruits is figs.
The Bornean Bristlehead is considered a treasure of Borneo’s mountains. It features a striking red head and neck with black dots on its cheeks. It is known as a rare and mysterious oriental bird species.
A cuckoo has colourful soft feathers that differ from male and female birds. They usually nest in tree holes or termite nests and lay two to four white coloured eggs during mating season.
The Grey-headed ospreys carry out year-round activities in reservoirs, lakes, streams, as well as in other water environments such as rivers, ponds, and the sea. It is known to dive and hunt for a variety of fishes. On sunny days, it often hovers above the water surface before diving in for a fish and bringing it back onto a rock or a tree to enjoy its meal.
This eye-catching bird has a head that is dark blue in colour but its most striking feature is its long tail. The scissor-tailed flycatcher goes by many names. It is also known as the Asian “bird of paradise”, a long-tailed flycatcher and a flower, among others.
Chinese crested tern
The Chinese crested tern is one of the rarest species among birds. They are also one of the most endangered bird species in the world. Scholars and experts refer to them as “birds of myth” because of their scarcity and mystery. Chinese crested terns inhabit coasts, island rocks, cliffs, beaches and oceans. They can be spotted at the Kuala Baram wetlands in Sarawak.
The beautiful broad-billed tody looks like an alien. It is eye-catching green in colour with big piercing black eyes and a body covered in emerald green feathers.
The Whitehead’s spiderhunter belongs to the sunbird family. Contrary to its name, the spiderhunter does not consume only arachnids. It sucks nectar through its long beak but is also known to occasionally feast on small arthropods.
Oriental bay owl
The oriental bay owl has an interesting and distinct look. It communicates with its companions via a pleasant whistling sound.
Chestnut Cheek Owl
The chestnut cheek owl has a big head and mouth. Its mouth resembles a toad which is why it is also called frogmouth. When a threat approaches, it will open its mouth to expose a bright yellow cavity to scare or confuse the threat. The chestnut cheek owl measures around 39-42cm, and the length of its wings is 22-25cm. Other types of owls found in Borneo are usually less than 30 cm in length. It mainly lives at lower parts of the mountain forests. It is greyish in colour, helping it camouflage itself and making it hard to spot
Mountain serpent eagle
The mountain serpent eagle is a predatory bird located in the northern side of Borneo. It usually soars at altitudes of 1,000-4,100 metres when hunting.
Chinese egrets are residential and migratory birds commonly found in Taiwan and the Hainan Island. During the breeding season, egrets will grow crests that is known as egret silk hair. Egrets will croak incessantly during breeding season while remaining silent otherwise.