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Bird news from Vietnam, from Vietnam's resident and visiting birders.

15 November 2012

Leopard Cats at lunchtime

Some lunchtime photo strolls this week (12th ->17th November) around Hanoi produced a good selection of migrants/winter visitors. Pride of place must go to a male Snowy-browed Flycatcher which was chasing insects above a garbage dump inside a hedge of scrubs surrounded by banana plantations! I also picked up 1 male Fujian Niltava, 1 Chestnut-flanked White-eye (in a flock of Japanese White-eyes), 2 females Daurian Redstarts, some Citrine Wagtails and a great mammal : the Leopard Cat.

Snowy-browed Flycatcher. A scarce passage migrant at Hanoi. My 2nd sighting in two years (the first one the 3th November 2010).

Fujian Niltava (lychee orchard - Vinh Thuy).
Uncommon but regular winter visitor at Hanoi

Imm Eastern Marsh Harrier with a very... curious left wing. We could call this "moult with the help of a gun" - or at least, that’s how it seemed to me. I can see no other explanation to that crap...

Temminck's Stints

1st winter Eastern Yellow Wagtail

Citrine Wagtail. At Hanoi we are very lucky with this species : regular as autumn and spring passage migrant. A dozen seen at Vinh Thuy the 16th.

A very cropped image of a Female Daurian Redstart : an uncommon winter visitor/passage migrant in the Hanoi area (5-6 sightings the last 2 years, my second one this autumn).

Yellow-browed Warbler - everywhere now

Another one, which foraged 10 minutes on the ground like a Pipit !
The Yellow-browed who wanted to be a Radde's...

Light-vented Bulbul.
In some cases back-lighting can create interesting effects.

I saved the best for last : Leopard Cat!

As I was searching little brown jobs in a thick scrubby area (a mix of reeds, scrubs and trees) on a slope, not far from the Red River, I bumped into 2 “wild cats”, roughly the size of the domestic cat (a big one) but with longer legs (lanky appearance) and a spotted/streaked coat. In fact, they were chasing each other (I heard them before to see them) and they saw me at the last moment. I raised the camera and got 2 quick shots, then they were gone in a flash. I thought the photos would be really bad. Thanks to my 400mm's quick focus, I was able to get acceptable shots. Sorry for the cut off head, feet etc...but I was just lucky to get anything as fast as this all happened!
I also noticed that the back of each ear was black with a white spot.

I stayed in the area one hour and got again a fleeting glimpse of an individual slipping into the reeds.

Uncropped photos :
One thing's for sure : one of these guys was a male...

A bit later I met an old hunter that I know well. He is hunting birds everyday there and knows the area like the back of his hand. After some questions about its harvest of the day, I asked him if he already saw some mèo báo (Leopard Cat) in the area – of course I didn’t told him : "Hey, I just saw 2 over there !". He answered me that he spotted one last year but none this year.

According to him, Leopard Cats can sometimes be seen around Hanoi after the flooding season which brings them downstream (?!) – later Hung phoned to a local specialist who said exactly the same thing.

With some local farmers, I also asked questions about birds (to cover a bit my tracks...), then about the cat. Two of them gave me a good description (brown fur with black spots/streaks, "like a small tiger") and did not confused it with domestic or feral cats. They also told me that it is now a rare sighting compared to 10-20 years ago (one would have suspected it!).

On the internet I learned that the Leopard Cat occurs in a broad spectrum of habitats, from tropical rainforest to temperate broadleaf and, marginally, coniferous forest, as well as shrub forest and successional grasslands. It occurs commonly in dense secondary growth, including logged areas, and has been found in agricultural and forest (rubber tree, oil palm, sugarcane) plantations. The species can live close to rural settlements – this is the case of my 2 guys.
So its presence around Hanoi does not seem to be so exceptional... I think it may go unnoticed… as long as it does not attack the poultry!

The Leopard Cat is listed as "Least Concern" by the IUCN and is the commonest of the 8 felids found in Vietnam. The 7 others are : Marbled Cat, Jungle Cat, Fishing Cat, Asian Golden Cat, Clouded Leopard, Leopard, Tiger.


  1. Hi Sebastien

    Great stuff as always. I am jealous. I have lost your Email. Please Email me (same Email) as I have friends in Hanoi who just contacted me as they have seen a raptor in a cage for sale. They are even keen to buy and release it. I will put you onto them / the place...


  2. Hi Wayne, I have only your professional Email, which doesn`t work any more.
    Mine : sebastiendlngl40@gmail.com