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birdwatching in malaysia

The Ultimate Guide to Birdwatching in Malaysia

Discovering Hornbills and Other Rare Birds

Malaysia’s rich biodiversity and diverse ecosystems make it a paradise for birdwatchers. The country is home to a diverse range of avian species, including the majestic hornbills. With an impressive number of around 790 bird species, including over 100 migratory birds and 63 endemics, Malaysia offers endless opportunities for birdwatching. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore some of the best birdwatching spots in East and West Malaysia, focusing on the unique offerings of each location. 

Introduction to Birdwatching

Birdwatching or birding, a recreational activity enjoyed by individuals worldwide, has been gaining popularity in Malaysia, contributing to the country’s wildlife tourism. Birdwatchers, also known as birders, indulge in observing birds in their natural habitat, documenting their findings, and even photographing them for posterity.

Birdwatching is not just a pastime. It is an adventure that allows one to appreciate nature, learn about different bird species, and contribute to environmental conservation efforts.

Birdwatching in Malaysia: An Overview

Malaysia, with its diverse ecosystems comprising mangroves, rainforests, mountains, and beaches, is a haven for birdlife. The country is home to approximately 790 species of birds, including 63 endemic species and over 100 migratory species. This makes Malaysia one of the most popular bird watching destinations in Southeast Asia.

In East Malaysia, particularly in Sabah, there are 688 species of resident and migratory birds. Of these, 54 are endemic to Borneo, and 33 are exclusive to Sabah.

Why is Birdwatching Significant for Malaysia?

Birdwatchers contribute significantly to Malaysia’s tourism industry. They spend three times more than average tourists and stay longer, often for ten days to two weeks. This makes them high-yield tourists, contributing to the country’s revenue while promoting environmental conservation.

Birdwatching Etiquettes and Tips

While birdwatching, it is crucial to respect the birds’ habitat. Avoid making loud noises, littering, or disturbing the birds. Use binoculars or a telescope for a closer look without invading their space.

Remember, the joy of birdwatching lies not just in spotting the rarest birds but in appreciating every bird’s beauty and uniqueness.

Our Sabah Tours

Sabah: A Leading Destination for Birdwatching

Located in the northern part of Borneo, Sabah has established itself as a premier destination for birdwatching in Malaysia. The state is home to an estimated 688 bird species, 33 of which are endemic to Sabah. Sabah offers diverse birdwatching locations, from mountain regions, lowland areas to coastal forests, making it a haven for birdwatchers.

The Popularity of Birdwatching in Sabah

Birdwatching in Sabah has gained significant traction over the years, contributing to its tourism industry. The dedicated bird guides, who are proficient in English and other languages, have played a pivotal role in the growth of avitourism in Sabah, making it a popular birdwatching destination for international birdwatchers.

Key Birdwatching Locations in Sabah

Sabah offers a plethora of locations for birdwatching, each offering unique bird species. Some of the most popular birdwatching spots include Kinabalu Park, Danum Valley, Tawau Hills, Tabin Wildlife Reserve,  and Kinabatangan River. Each location offers a unique birdwatching experience, with chances to spot endemic bird species.

Hornbill Valley: A Hidden Gem in Taman Negara, Pahang

Taman Negara, one of the oldest rainforests in the world, is a must-visit for birdwatchers. With over 450 bird species reported, it offers ample opportunities to spot a wide variety of birds, including the elusive Great Argus and the Helmet Hornbill. Various trails provide unique birdwatching experiences, with chances to spot different bird species.

Hornbill Valley: A New Birdwatching Spot in Taman Negara

Located just outside Taman Negara, the Hornbill Valley has become a new favorite among birdwatchers. Introduced in 2012 by the Taman Negara Bird Lovers Club, the valley is home to several Hornbill species, including the Rhinoceros and Wrinkled Hornbills and the star bird, Helmeted Hornbill. The valley offers a peaceful environment for birdwatching, with minimal human disturbances.

Hornbills: The Iconic Birds of Malaysia

Hornbills are iconic birds that are native to Malaysia. They are fascinating creatures, known for their large size, long, curved bills, and unique casque on top of their beaks. Hornbills are a significant part of Malaysia’s birdlife, with about nine species of Hornbills reported in the country.

malaysia consists of two parts

Other Birdwatching Hotspots in Malaysia

Apart from Sabah and Taman Negara, there are several other birdwatching hotspots in Malaysia. These include Fraser’s Hill, Royal Belum Park, Langkawi, Kuala Selangor, and Sarawak. Each of these locations offers a unique birdwatching experience, with opportunities to spot a wide variety of bird species.

Fraser’s Hill

Located in Pahang, Fraser’s Hill houses over 270 species of local and migratory birds. Birders can spot various species from the hill’s foot to the abandoned The Gap resthouse and the hilltop. Some of the species include barbets, bulbuls, orange-breasted, and red-headed trogons, among others.

Royal Belum Park

Royal Belum Park, the world’s oldest rainforest, hosts over 300 bird species, including many endangered ones. It’s also home to all ten species of Malaysian hornbills.Known for being home to all 10 Malaysian hornbill species, Royal Belum Park also hosts over 300 other bird species, including several endangered ones. Endemic species such as trogons, peacock pheasants, and leaf gleaners can be spotted at this location.


Langkawi is home to a diverse collection of over 250 bird species. The island’s highest peak is home to the Great Hornbills and Wreathed Hornbills

Kuala Selangor

Kuala Selangor Nature Park, a coastal and mangrove forest, is home to over 150 bird species. You can spot unique mangrove birds like the Mangrove Pitta, Mangrove Whistler, Mangrove Flycatcher, and Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker.


Sarawak, with over 20 Important Bird Areas, is a great destination for birdwatching. Birders can spot several endemic species, including the Bornean Banded Kingfisher and Whitehead’s Spiderhunter. Kubah National Park and Gunung Mulu National Park are among the top birdwatching spots in Sarawak.


In a nutshell, birdwatching in Malaysia offers a unique opportunity to witness the splendor of nature while contributing to environmental conservation efforts. Whether you’re a seasoned birder or a novice, the diverse bird species and stunning landscapes of Malaysia promise an unforgettable birdwatching experience.

So grab your binoculars and get ready for an unforgettable birdwatching adventure in Malaysia.

In her non-profit company Biodiversity Business, Barbara combines her lifelong experience in marketing communications with her passion for animals. Her mission is #Communication4Conservation: saving endangered species and their habitats.

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