Laos and Thailand - 6th - 22nd October 2005

Published by Steve Barrett (sscmagpie AT

Participants: Steve Barrett


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Boat view
Boat view
Black Drongo
Black Drongo


I visited Thailand, Laos and Cambodia in October 2005. Bird-watching was a secondary part of the visit but in the absence of trip reports for Laos the following short report gives a taste of the birds which you can, or should I say can’t, see in this beautiful country. The country is well worth a visit to see the sights but abundant wild life is not a feature. I have not given any description of the birds seen in north Thailand or Cambodia since there are numbers of reports for these areas but have added short notes for the island of Ko Samet 200km south of Bangkok since there seem to be no reports for this holiday spot.

The rainy season was coming to an end but the water levels were high and few sandbars in the Mekong were exposed. The river was very muddy so fishing opportunities for kingfishers and the like would have been few.

Laos - 7th to 12th October 2005

Two days travelling down the Mekong in the west of Laos with stops at villages of Hua Xai and Pak Beng. Three days in Luang Prabang. One day in Vientiane.

There seemed to be good expanses of primary forest along the Mekong but I have never been to a country with so few birds. It is possible to walk for an hour at dawn and not hear a bird call. For comparison purposes I saw more birds of more species in less time on Ko Samet and this holiday island is only 6km long by 1km wide. I suppose that care for wild life comes a distant second when your annual income is less than $300 and you have no protein to eat. For record purposes in the market in Luang Prabang the following were available for consumption;

Black Drongo
White-breasted Waterhen
Unknown bulbuls
Miscellaneous small birds
Civet cat
Lots of fish and eels

Ko Samet Island Thailand - 18th to 21st October 2005

Three days were spent on this holiday island which is about 200km south east of Bangkok. The island is designated as a ‘national park’ and there are many Park staff but it remains to be seen if the island will degenerate under the pressure of the tourist industry. The island is very busy at weekends when Bangkok residents arrive in large numbers. The forest is mostly secondary but still seems productive.

I stayed on the north east of the island at the resort of Hat Sai Kaew. It is easy to get to the forest by walking southwest along the only road. There are a couple of short tracks into the forest. Shared taxis are available to travel further afield.

Species Lists


Green Heron
Two on the Mekong river

Chinese Pond Heron
Several on the Mekong river banks and a few in paddy fields

Little Egret
Fair numbers of egrets, principally on the river

Crested goshawk
One seen flying over forest near the Mekong

White-breasted Waterhen
None was seen alive but several seen plucked in Luang Prabang market.

River Lapwing
Several flocks of this species roosting on remote sand bars. An estimated total of 40 individuals were seen.

Grey -headed Lapwing
Several flocks of this species on remote sandbars. An estimated total of 60 individuals were seen.

Common Sandpiper
Several seen on the Mekong

‘Ringed Plover’
Glimpsed from the river boat but not identified.

Black-capped Kingfisher
One on the Mekong.

Plain Martin
Two flocks were seen, each about 60 birds in riverside sand-bank colonies.

Himalayan Swiftlet
One large flock over the Mekong.

Barn Swallow
Several along the river and over villages but not roosting.

Palm Swift
A flock at a village on the west bank

Sooty –headed Bulbul
Five were seen west of the river at Luang Prabang and also in a cage at Hua Xai.

Red Whiskered Bulbul
Several wild but also in a cage at Hua Xai.

Black Drongo
Numbers of individuals flying over countryside and also dead in Luang Prabang market - see photo

Black-naped Oriole
A couple of individuals flying over countryside and also dead in Luang Prabang market - see photo

Yellow-browed Warbler
One was seen in trees at the Royal Palace in Luang Prabang.

Pied Stonechat
Several in rice paddies

One was seen west of Luang Prabang in the countryside.

Magpie Robin
Several in Vientiane in temple walled areas.

Blue Rock Thrush
Most large rock outcrops in the Mekong had a resident pair.

Long-tailed shrike
Several west of Luang Prabang in the countryside.

Common Mynah
A few of this species in villages but numbers were in Vientiane. The species is abundant in adjacent countries.

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
Two or three were seen around villages.

Tree Sparrow
Some seen in villages but not many; common in Vientiane

House Sparrow
A flock in Vientiane was the only birds of this species seen in the three weeks trip.

White Wagtail
Several on the banks of the Mekong

Caged Birds

Black-collared Starling, red turtle dove, spotted dove, common mynah, hill mynah, oriental turtle dove, collared dove were all seen in cages at a temple in Vientiane.

Ko Samet Island

Little Cormorant
Two at the mainland breakwater

Yellow Bittern
One was in the village of Hat Sai Kaew roosting in a tree

Chinese Pond Heron
Several flocks were seen at dusk flying north and three or four birds were resident on the small pond in Hat Sai Kaew village

Reef Heron
Dark phase birds were on the rocky areas

Japanese Sparrowhawk
Seen each day and five were together in the south of the island

Great Crested Tern
One bird was at the breakwater at the mainland

Spotted Dove
One at Hat Sai Kaew

Peaceful Dove
Three were resident in Hat Sai Kaew

Two overflying and one roosting on a dead tree in the island centre

Oriental Pied Hornbill
A pair was seen in the forest in the north of the island. They were surprisingly not seen in the inhabited areas.

Coppersmith Barbet
Seen and heard in several places

Barn Swallow

Pacific Swallow

Edible Nest Swiftlet
A flock at dusk over the forest

House Swift
Several over the forest

Black-winged Cuckoo Shrike
One seen at Hat Sai Kaew

Yellow-vented Bulbul
Several birds in Hat Sai Kaew

Streak-eared Bulbul
Four birds in Hat Sai Kaew

Black-headed Bulbul
A number seen in forested areas

Ashy Drongo
Commonly seen. Noisy and conspicuous.

Brown Shrike
One bird in the north of the island

Arctic Warbler
One in the resort area

Magpie Robin
A couple in the resort areas

Brown Flycatcher
Seen twice in resort areas

Blue and White Flycatcher
One bird in the north forest

Asian Paradise Flycatcher
Two females and one male in the resort areas

Common Mynah
Seen frequently

Olive-backed Sunbird
Several birds in Hat Sai Kaew

Brown-throated Sunbird
Several birds in Hat Sai Kaew

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
Two or three seen