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Species list

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List of species seen

Great Cormorant 

Only 2 seen during the whole trip, both perched on fishing posts during the mangrove boat trip from Sandakan

Darter

As with Cormorant, only 2 seen from the boat trip out of Sandakan. One was perched drying its plumage in a tree, the other flew over the boat

Grey Heron

1 flew over the boat on the last otter search at Sabandar Bay mangroves

Great-billed Heron

1 flew from the marshy area on the morning walk through the village at Sabandar Bay

Purple Heron

A small heronry at Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary contained at least 12. They could be viewed from the bird hide, and most of the birds were to the rear of the open marshy area. The first one had been seen flying over the reserve earlier

Great Egret

After the first 2 during the transit in Brunei, small numbers were seen on most days. The highest number was ~20 when visiting the Sandakan area

Little Egret

These seemed to be slightly more common than Great Egret, and were again seen on most days, with up to ~20 seen on any particular day

Chinese Egret 

This species is a much less common sight in Sabah than Great & Little Egrets, but we were lucky to see 2 from the boat on the second otter search in the Sabandar Bay mangroves. They need to be seen well to separate from Little Egret (yellowish olive rather than black legs) and Pacific Reef-heron (more upright stance, narrower and more pointed bill)

Pacific Reef-Heron

The vast majority of this species in the Sabah region is apparently of the dark variety, and the 3 observed were all of this colour phase. They were only found in the Kota Kinabalu area. The first was in flight, seen from the hotel balcony flying over the beach adjoining the stilted village. The second and third may have been the same bird, with single sightings of birds alongside the shoreline on the visits to Sapi and Mamutik Islands

Cattle Egret

Up to 20 seen on various days - none seen in the Kota Kinabalu area

Striated Heron

The highest count was from the boat on the first Otter search in the Sabandar Bay, with ~8 birds skulking away on approach. 2 were seen from the boat in the Sandakan mangroves, with a single bird fishing in the small pond at the orchid farm, 1 in the marshes on the walk around Sabandar Bay village, 2 in the Sabandar Bay mangroves on the third Otter search, and 2 at the Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary

Rufous Night-Heron

This was probably one of the least expected species encountered. The individual seen looked like a juvenile entering early adult plumage, and was thieving crabs from the stockades in the Sabandar Bay mangroves during the first Otter search

Yellow Bittern

2 of these rather leggy small herons were seen from the boat on the third Otter search in the Sabandar Bay mangroves

Cinnamon Bittern

At least 3 birds were in the marshes of Sabandar Bay village

Brahminy Kite

A pair were regularly seen in the vicinity of the Sabandar Bay Hotel – they had apparently bred in an obvious tree amongst the mangroves further down the beach. One of the birds was seen over the hotel grounds from the swimming pool. The only other bird in the area was 1 at Tuaran on the return from Mount Kinabalu. They were much more numerous over the Sandakan mangroves. Up to 20 birds were seen in total, with a kettle of 10 being seen at one time

White-bellied Sea-Eagle

4 were seen around the Sanakan mangroves while searching for Proboscis Monkeys. A further 2 sightings were made from the balcony of the Tanjung Aru Hotel, with both birds soaring over the water village

White-breasted Waterhen

5 birds were amongst the marshes of Sabandar Bay village, with 1 bird accompanying a pair of juveniles, and another parent was with a juvenile in the small pond at the Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary visitor centre. A handful of up to 4 birds were also seen while being driven in Brunei on the return transit stopover

Common Moorhen

1 bird was seen in the Mount Kinabalu area, with a further 2 at the orchid farm

Pintail Snipe

Up to 5 birds were disturbed – one pair and 3 individuals – in the Sabandar Bay village marshes

Eurasian Curlew

Only 2 birds were seen during the mangrove boat trip from Sandakan

Wood Sandpiper 

The majority of up to 7 birds were amongst the Sabandar Bay village marshes, with a single bird on the mud of the Sabandar Bay mangroves during the second Otter search

Common Sandpiper

These birds were most commonly seen on the Otter searches in the Sabandar Bay mangroves, with about 10 seen each time. 6 were also in the Sandakan mangroves, with 1 on Sapi island, and 2 at the Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary

Black-headed Gull

The only gull species seen during the whole trip were 2 birds in the distance from the island shuttle in Kota Kinabalu bay while travelling back from Mamutik Island

Gull-billed Tern

This was the only tern seen, but they were very regular in small numbers on the Kota Kinabalu coastline

Spotted Dove 

This was the most common pigeon species seen, whilst not appearing abundant. They were seen in all areas visited – 2 in Brunei, up to 20 in the Sabandar Bay area, up to 10 in the Mount Kinabalu area, 2 in Tanjung Aru, and even 1 on Sapi

Little Cuckoo-Dove

A single individual was seen all too briefly in the thick of the trees during the early stages of the early morning walk in Mount Kinabalu forest

Zebra Dove

Another fairly common dove, being heard even more often than it was seen. At least 20 were seen around the hotel on the initial Brunei transit, only 2 were seen around Sabandar Bay hotel (although about 8 were seen during the walk through the village), and the odd bird was seen in Kota Kinabalu

Pink-necked Green-Pigeon

This is one of the species of note at the Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary. ~6 were found in a tree on the initial approach to the visitor centre, and these were the only ones seen during the visit. Most of this group were back in the same tree on exiting the reserve

Green Imperial-Pigeon

I was a little surprised to find this species in the small park at Tanjung Aru adjacent to the hotel. ~6 birds in total were seen, following the first bird showing its gleaming green back in the early morning sunlight at the top of one of the tallest trees

Mountain Imperial-Pigeon

A pair of birds flew across one of the clearings of Mount Kinabalu forest walk during the early morning

Blue-naped Parrot 

The small group of ~6 birds seen twice in the park adjacent to the Tanjung Aru hotel were most likely naturalised individuals. They were seen on the first walk on arrival, just after a pair of unidentified parakeets had flown over, and were seen again just before leaving the area. Both sightings were in the early evening, and may represent birds returning to a local roost site

Plaintive Cuckoo 

2 birds were seen around Sabandar Bay village. The first caused some confusion, since my first thoughts were that it was a Banded Bay Cuckoo. However, juvenile Plaintive Cuckoo is very similar, the main difference being a plain face as opposed to an obvious eye stripe on the former. The second bird was much easier to identify, since it was an adult which perched briefly in a tree above me

Lesser Coucal

What were probably various coucal species were heard regularly in the Sabandar Bay area. The only ones seen were 3 at the far end of Sabandar Bay village. They had to be studied well to note the dull black of the head, which is the most reliable separator from the other 2 species which occur in the area (Greater & Short-toed)

Glossy Swiftlet 

This species of swiftlet is very common throughout Sabah and Brunei, which may be beneficial in that it is one of the few distinctive species in the region, having an obvious white belly in flight. Occasional birds came down to drink from the swimming pool at the Sabandar Bay Hotel. However, even more surprising were the roosting birds at the Tanjung Aru Hotel. Some were using old nests, others clinging to the walls under the terrace roofing on the ground floor, and seemed unperturbed by the human presence

House Swift

Only one single dark swift with squared off tail and white rump was seen, from the balcony of our room at the Tanjung Aru Hotel. McKinnon indicated that this was Little Swift, but there seems to be a mistake in the book, since referring to “Swifts” (Chantler & Driessens) found that they do not occur in South-east Asia, whereas House Swift is a South-east Asian bird, with distribution throughout Borneo

Grey-rumped Treeswift

The best views of this distinctive species were around the Orchid Garden Hotel in Brunei. Up to 6 were picked up in the air amongst the more numerous Glossy Swiftlets, and one was found perched in a tree on a quiet avenue opposite the entrance to the sports stadium

Common Kingfisher 

The majority of the birds seen (5) were from the boat trip amongst the Sandakan mangroves, both perched and flying past. 2 further single birds were seen – 1 on the last of three Otter searches in the Sabandar Bay mangroves, and another just outside the Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary entrance, while waiting for the gates to open

Stork-billed Kingfisher 

This species was only seen in the Sabandar Bay mangroves while searching for Otters, with the best views and numbers (4) on the first trip, with subsequently 1 and 2 respectively on the final 2 trips

Collared Kingfisher 

By far and away the most common kingfisher seen, both in numbers and variety of habitat. They were found around the hotel at Sabandar Bay, among the marshes of the village, and on telegraph wires a little further inland. At least 4 seemed to be around the grounds of the Sabandar Bay Hotel, with a maximum of 8 on the mangrove Otter searches, 3 were around Sabandar Bay village, 2 at Tanjung Aru, and a single bird was seen at the Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary (although many more were heard)

Dollarbird 

Perhaps a little bit of a surprise, a single bird was perched at the top of one of the tallest trees in the Sabandar Bay mangroves during the second Otter search

Rhinoceros Hornbill

A single bird was seen flying over the treetops of Gaya while we were approaching the landing stage before the forest walk

Golden-naped Barbet

This is one of the Bornean endemic species seen, and the last bird to be picked out on the bird walk in Mount Kinabalu forest. We had heard the bird calling, but it took a little time before the bright green of the individual could be made out against the very similar greens of the tree in which it was perched. Rather than being hidden away amongst the foliage, the bird was found at the very front of a pair of trees growing alongside one of the forest buildings

Crimson-winged Woodpecker

It is hard to believe that this species is closely related to the Green Woodpecker of Eurasia, being of the same genus, but the paintpot of colours, particularly greens, reds, and yellows renders it as being very exotic. When first picked out, the guide called for Checker-throated Woodpecker, which is much more likely in this area. However, the throat was more obviously buff, and there were also bars on the flanks, which pointed to Crimson-winged Woodpecker. Closer inspection also revealed bicoloured crest (red and yellow)

Common Flameback

This was one of the first decent birds to be seen on the morning walk through Sabandar Bay village. It flew across the road in front of me, and luckily landed for some time on a bare tree amongst the marshes not far from the road edge

Black-and-yellow Broadbill 

After crossing the canopy walkway at Poring Hot Springs, Jason the guide called me back about 5 metres, where he pointed out a single bird feeding on an insect. Despite the swaying of the rope bridge, the bird could be seen quite clearly

Green Broadbill

On the descent from the canopy walkway, Jason again called me back, and pointed out a bright green bird some distance into the foliage of the forest. After some time, the distinctive wing pattern of Green Broadbill could be made out. This was the first of any of the green coloured broadbills that he had seen

Swallow

Only a few were identified – 10 in the Mount Kinabalu area, and 4 at Sandakan

Pacific Swallow  

This species is abundant, and was seen on every day but one, with up to at least 50 (could have been a lot more, though) on any one day. When seen well, they are quite distinct from Barn Swallow, lacking the dark band across the throat, and having much blunter tail streamers

Yellow Wagtail 

6 females / juveniles were around the Orchid Garden hotel in Brunei

Grey Wagtail

2 separate birds were in the Mount Kinabalu area

Pechora Pipit 

The only one seen was a single bird quietly creeping its way through the leaf litter to the rear of the cooking area on Sapi Island

Sunda Cuckoo-shrike

A pair of birds were watched for some time in the woods above one of the open accommodation slots along the Mount Kinabalu forest roadway

Pied Triller  

Commonly seen , with 2 in Brunei, up to 3 around the Sabandar Bay hotel, 1 in Sabandar Bay village, 1 in Tanjung Aru, and 1 on Mamutik Island

Grey-chinned Minivet 

2 pairs of birds were picked up in the trees above the accommodation block in Mount Kinabalu forest walk while watching the Sunda Cuckoo-shrikes through the telescope. When we returned after breakfast with the main group for the forest trail, another female was found at much closer quarters

Yellow-vented Bulbul 

This is one of the most common sights and sounds encountered throughout the island. They were numerous when first seen in Brunei on the first transit stop (30+), and quite common in the Sabandar Bay area (up to around 15 on any one day). Small numbers were around the Tanjung Aru hotel, with up to about 6 seen, and there was even a quite sizeable group of ~12 birds on Mamutik Island

Olive-winged Bulbul 

A single individual was seen twice in the same tree on the perimeter of the Sabandar Bay hotel grounds, but it didn’t stay long. However, the marauding group on Sapi, with at least 6 birds constituting the group, were much more obliging, quite often alighting from the tree to pick up titbits from the eating areas

Common Iora

This was more common than the few definite sightings I made would suggest, with 1 singing to the rear of the Sabandar Bay hotel, 1 from the boat on the Otter search in the Sabandar Bay mangroves, 1 in Sabandar Bay village, 2 in the park of trees outside the Tanjung Aru hotel, and 3 at Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary

Blue Rock-Thrush

A juvenile bird was seen only once amongst the staff quarters to the rear of the Sabandar Bay hotel

Yellow-bellied Prinia

2 were seen – 1 on the first day on the walk around the Orchid Garden hotel area in Brunei, the second in Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary

Rufous-tailed Tailorbird 

The distinctive rufous crowned and buff cheeked head of this species was made out on 2 occasions, once at the Orchid farm, and the second on Sapi Island

Ashy Tailorbird 

This bird is encountered fairly commonly throughout the area, and has a surprisingly loud song for its diminutive size. Up to 7 were seen in the Sabandar Bay area, with 2 from the boat on the Otter searches, and at least 10 at Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary

Arctic Warbler  

This species is a Winter visitor to South-east Asia, with a few being seen in the Kota Kinabalu area. Most were on Sapi island, with 3 on the first visit, and 1 on Mamutik island. 2 singles were also seen around the Tanjung Aru hotel

Mountain Warbler 

5 of these montane South-east Asian warblers were seen in the Mount Kinabalu Forest, during the early morning birding walk

Yellow-breasted Warbler 

As with Mountain Warbler, this is a montane species of South-east Asia. 3 were seen in the forest below Mount Kinabalu, but kept a little higher in the trees than the former species

Striated Grassbird

After noticing that this species was on the Sabandar Bay bird list, despite McKinnon mentioning that it does not occur on Borneo, I wasn’t quite as surprised to find 3 birds while walking through Sabandar village. Two were towards the end of the track through the village, with one singing from an exposed tree within the marsh. The third was much closer, being picked up at first singing on wires above the farmland, and then followed to the bushes lining the main road

Asian Brown Flycatcher 

2 were seen amongst the trees above the accommodation clearing along the forest track at Mount Kinabalu National Park

Little Pied Flycatcher 

2 were seen quite close to with the small collection of birds consisting of Indigo Flycatchers and Mountain Warblers in Mount Kinabalu National Park

Indigo Flycatcher  

In the group of birds close to at the edge of the accommodation block in Mount Kinabalu National Park, at least 5 separate birds were probably seen. These are thankfully one of the easier blue coloured flycatchers to identify, with blue breast merging into white belly, and often buffy vent. When the light caught the birds from the front, the shimmering light blue across the top of the bill and over the eyes was evident

Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher  

A pair of these were found on the small island of Sapi. When the male was seen, there was some confusion with Large-billed Blue-flycatcher, since the 2 species are very similar, and the bird in question seemed to have the shining blue above the bill that Mangrove Blue-flycatcher is supposed to lack. However, the appearance of the female dispelled all doubts, since it characteristically has white patches above the lores and a white throat

Oriental Magpie-Robin  

These birds are quite common throughout, and are usually of the black-bellied variety, with white only on the wings and tail. At least 2 pairs were around the Sabandar Bay hotel, 1 was seen around Mount Kinabalu National Park, 1 was at the Orchid farm, 1 singing next to Tanjung Aru Hotel, and 1 on Sapi Island

White-crowned Shama 

A single bird was seen to the rear of the clearing at Poring Hot Springs while waiting for the non-appearance of a half expected Orang Utan

White-throated Fantail 

These look all dark at a distance, and contrast sharply with the mainly white underbody colours of the much more common Pied Fantail, making the single bird spotted above the accommodation block in Mount Kinabalu National Park easy to identify

Pied Fantail

These were much more common than expected, and not difficult to see, although gaining good views is not always easy, since they keep to the depths of the tree foliage, and are usually constantly on the move, when they frequently fan and cock their tails. 1 was seen next to the Orchid Garden Hotel in Brunei, 1 at the Sabandar Bay Hotel, 3 in Sabandar Bay village, 3 separate birds at Tanjung Aru, and about 8 were in the Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary

Bornean Whistler 

A pair of birds were seen well in the forest at Mount Kinabalu National Park, during the late morning group walk

Sunda Laughingthrush

2 shy individuals were together in the dense tree foliage, seen while studying the much less evasive Chestnut-capped Laughingthrushes

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush 

This species tends to hunt for fruit in flocks, and that is how we found our small collection in the Mount Kinabalu National Park. They were in berry trees alongside one of the park buildings, and moved through quite slowly, usually feeding on the outside of the foliage

White-chested Babbler 

2 babblers were seen on the tiny Sapi Island, and both were in the same area – behind the cooking area. One of the Babblers was either Rufous-crowned or Scaly-crowned, but couldn’t be specifically pinned down due to the potential for the latter to regularly show smooth rufous crown. The White-chested Babbler, however, showed very well, while skulking amongst the leaf litter for food

Striped Tit-Babbler

These birds proved quite difficult to identify at first. What seemed to be a pair, and then turned out to be 4, birds, were making their way reasonably noisily through the trees alongside the road at the far end of Sabandar Bay village. They were pinned down as they were about to cross to the trees on the opposite side of the road

Chestnut-capped Yuhina  

A small group of these birds were seen a couple of times, flying around one of the clearings in Mount Kinabalu National Park

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch  

A pair of birds was seen in the trees above the accommodation area in Mount Kinabalu National Park

Plain-throated Sunbird  

These birds were only on the Sapi and Mamutik islands, where they were hard to miss, coming back regularly to trees alongside the beach, and calling constantly. The males were the first and easiest to identify, but once the species was known, the broken yellow eye ring of the females was also quite characteristic. They could also be seen to be larger than the more common Olive-backed Sunbirds seen on the mainland

Olive-backed Sunbird

These are amongst the most regularly encountered birds, partly due to numbers, but also because of their habits of calling constantly and feeding on flowering bushes including ornamentals in gardens. They were seen in almost all areas on the mainland, from coastal to montane, with numbers of up to ~15 on any particular day

Crimson Sunbird  

This bird was a little bit of a surprise, since it was a male which fed briefly on the flowering shrub next to the coffee patio at the Orchid farm. After seeing Temminck’s Sunbird in the mountains, the blue tail of this bird, which may at one time been lumped as the same species, was diagnostic

Temminck's Sunbird 

Plenty of these were heard calling tantalisingly in flight (all females) at the clearings of Mount Kinabalu National Park, before a stunning male alighted on the top of a low tree for a short time. It was followed shortly after by a much closer female overhead

Little Spiderhunter

The single bird seen was found at the Orchid farm just before the Crimson Sunbird was found, and was in the adjacent bush next to the coffee patio. First glances put the bird as a large female sunbird, but the more powerful bill and stouter body confirmed Spiderhunter, with the grey unmarked throat pointing to Little

Black-capped White-eye 

A couple of these picked out by Jason on the morning at Mount Kinabalu National Park were missed by myself, but the 4 seen on the late morning group walk through the forest trail were unmissable, since they landed on bushes right next to the track at first, and then flew down on the path only metres in front of us

Black-and-crimson Oriole 

The single bird seen at Mount Kinabalu National Park landed briefly on wires in front of us, then flew on

Brown Shrike

Up to 2 birds were around the Sabandar Bay hotel, with one seen a couple of times in bare trees at the perimeter of the grounds. A third bird was seen in Sabandar Bay village

Hair-crested Drongo

A single bird was seen early on in Mount Kinabalu National Park

White-breasted Woodswallow 

These were another very common and obvious bird, with the best numbers in late evening, when over 200 birds came noisily to roost in a few of the trees in the grounds of the Sabandar Bay hotel. They were present in most lowland areas

Bornean Treepie

2 birds were seen in Mount Kinabalu National Park while watching the Hair-crested Drongo, with one alighting briefly on the tarmac road

Asian Glossy Starling

These were very common throughout the lowland areas, with the greatest numbers being seen early evening when they gathered noisily to roost with White-breasted Woodswallows at the tops of trees in Sabandar Bay Hotel grounds. They were at their showiest during strong early morning light, when the green sheen of their feathers almost glowed, and the red eye looked almost too large for its socket

Crested Myna

Despite being a native Asian species, the 10 or so birds in the vicinity of the Tanjung Aru Hotel were probably a feral population

Eurasian Tree Sparrow 

Very common throughout. This species has a wide Eurasian distribution, but has probably only colonised Borneo in the recent past (during the 20th Century)

Dusky Munia

A small flock of ~12 birds was seen in the clearing at Poring Hot Springs while waiting for the Orang Utan to show

Black-faced Munia

This is a regularly seen species on Borneo, and they are usually found in small flocks. ~15 were seen in 2 or 3 small groups in Brunei in transit, and up to 20 were around the gardens of the Sabandar Bay Hotel. A small group was also present in the grounds of the Tanjung Aru Hotel

Nutmeg Mannikin

This was another of the surprises of the trip, since they are not supposed to occur with any regularity on Borneo. However, after noticing that they were on the Sabandar Bay bird list, I subsequently found 3 juveniles breaking into adult plumage together towards the end of the track through Sabandar Bay village

Java Sparrow

A pair of birds were seen very briefly from the taxi alongside the seafood restaurant at Tanjung Aru while returning from the Kota Kinabalu Bird Sanctuary


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Content

Introduction

Brunei

Otter

Mountain

Sandakan

Village

Sapi

Sanctuary

Species list

Text only