Welcome to Vietnam Bird News

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

27 April 2014

Northern Boobook on passage / Hanoi - 25 April 2014

During an afternoon stroll at Bai Da near the Red River/Hanoi in search of the famous Silver Oriole seen by Florian, I flushed an owl at close range, roosting a few meters amid the thick foliage of a small tree. After 30 minutes or so of hide and seek I finally managed to put my bins on it and immediately recognized a Northern Boobook.

This is my second record in the city - the previous one 2 years ago, interestingly also the 2nd week of April (1 individual seen very well from 19th to 23th April 2012, at Lenin Park, here).

Last week was rainy and overcast, so few photos opportunities. Just got some ok-ish shots of Ashy Drongos, Forest Wagtail and Radde's Warbler.


Three races of Ashy Drongos coming from China pass through Hanoi during spring & autumn passage periods: hopwoodi (the darkest, blue-grey), leucogenis (pale grey, large white patch around the eyes) and salangensis (darker than leucogenis, less white on face). 


26 April 2014

Bach Ma, 10.-13.04.2014

Bach Ma National Park is open again, since it was closed for several years because of reconstruction of the road.

One still feels that the park has been abandoned for a while. The only facilites working currently are the ones of the national park administration (but that's all you need). The private hotels in the summit area are all closed down and pretty run down. One builing is being renovated and will probably re-open soon with big restaurant and pool as it looks. The pagoda on the top is also pretty dilapidated, but I guess all these things will soon be revamped to cater for the local tourists, who were already quite numerous during daytime.

Summit building

The park administrations allows cars or taxis to drive up the mountain, but not motorbikes. Visitors coming by bus and xe om need to hire transportation from the park. I went there by taxi, which dropped me off at the facilites of the summit area (Villa Do Quyen), and also left by taxi, which the guy from the park facilities arranged for me. I birded around the paths of the summit area, one morning I arranged with the park people to bring me down to the pheasants trail and pick me up again by noon.

I stayed 3 nights. One day I was with a guide, Nhan, who was very good with his birds and also good company. You can contact him directly or via Vietnambirding. One morning I was with world travelers Marie and Olivier. The rest of the time I went by myself, which is easy as trails are easy to find and also well marked in the map the park provides. I did a mix of birding from the road and on the trails. The trail mainly used by tourists is the one from the park facilites (Villa Do Quyen, restaurant) to the water falls and should best be avoided after the early morning hours. On the other trails I didn't meet other people.

 View from the summit towards the road to the mountain and the coast

Weather was fine, sunny and not a drop of rain, almost no wind.

Still birding was very hard. Very quiet, little activity. It was really hard to find birds, let alone interesting ones.

On my first afternoon, I went the trail from the glasshouses near the restaurant to the summit. It took me more than an hour to find the first bird at all, but it was a nice one, a Silver-breasted Broadbill. Further on I found a few flycatchers: the resident Blue-throated Flycatcher and White-gorgeted Flycatcher, and a nice passage migrant, a Feruginous Flycatcher.

Feruginous Flycatcher

On the summit there where a pair of Black Eagles close overhead, which remained the only raptors seen (I head brief views of Sparrowhawks and a likely Hawk Eagle as well, but too short to ID).

It was very quiet all afternoon, only Common Cuckoos were calling constantly, later in the evening replaced by Large Hawk Cuckoos.

At dusk I saw two Nightjars in the sky near the restaurant, not sure which species that could be. Otherwise I did not hear or see nightbirds, despite going out on the roads a bit at night. The moon was very bright, probably that's why it was quiet.

Next morning, started well: I got nice views, with coffee in hand, of Black-throated Laughinthrush, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, White-browed Scimitar Babbler and Ratchet-tailed Treepie just below the restaurant. Later, with Nhan, we tried hard to find the Short-tailed Scimitar Babblers (now called Indochinese Wren Babbler), we had a few singing but they refused to show. Only with the last light of the day, we finally got to see a pair, in the gully right below the stairs of the trail learding from the restaurant to the waterfalls. We were lucky with Silver Pheasant and had nice views of a male and female down the slope from the road. Indochinese Green Magpie was seen well several times, but the Red-headed Trogons were surprisingly difficult to see.

The next morning I went to the pheasants trail, but found very few birds. A Blue-rumped Pitta was calling around half way to the end of the trail, but I could not find it. Gibbons were singing until about 8 am, that was nice. Otherwise there were a couple of Babblers, Flycatchers and Rufous-throated Fulvettas. No Blyths Kingfisher at the river, but a Striated Heron. The best sighting was back on the road, when I went up the road a bit while waiting to be picked up. I heared some noices from down the valley, was lucky to stand in a point where I could find views down, and could watch at least four Brown Hornbills moving through the canopy. Great!

Also near from the road I saw a group of Stump-tailed Macaques, the only mammals seen apart some Pallas Squirrels and two Giant Black Squirrels.

Rufous-throated Fulvetta

The remaining time I spent again around the summit area, saw mostly more of the same, but also found the Long-tailed Broadbills and two species of Forkail: a family of Slaty-backed Forkails and a breeding pair of White-crowned Forkails, which I inadvertently flushed from the nest while crawling up a stream.

In the evenings, Rufous-throated Partridges where calling from everywhere. I did not try for Annam Partridge, which according to Nhan is best found around the entrance to the park at the bottom of the mountain. Nhan also said that he hasn't heard Crested Argus for some years now.

Family of Slaty-backed Forktail and nest of White-crowned Forktail

I also saw a Red-billed Leiothrix, shouldn't this one be only in northern Vietnam?

Red-billed Leiothrix

Red-shanked Douc Langurs are apparently difficult to see in Bach Ma, and I didn't see any. However I was so lucky that my plane from Danag was delayed for 4 hours, just perfect to find the Doucs at Son Tra Peninsula.

Dad and kids having dinner

Below the park map, which is good enough to find all the trails (click the map to see it bigger), and the full (but rather short) list.

Florian Klingel


Rufous-throated Partridge (heard only) Indochinese Yuhina
Red Junglefowl Mountain Fulvetta
Silver Pheasant Rufous-winged Fulvetta
Striated Heron Abbott's Babbler
Black Eagle Buff-breasted Babbler
Barred Cuckoo-Dove Scaly-crowned Babbler
Large Hawk-Cuckoo Short-tailed Scimitar-Babbler
Indian Cuckoo Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush
Common Cuckoo Black-throated Laughingthrush
Red-headed Trogon Silver-eared Mesia
Brown Hornbill Red-billed Leiothrix (escapee?)
Golden-throated Barbet Golden Babbler
Long-tailed Broadbill Pin-striped Tit-Babbler
Silver-breasted Broadbill White-browed Scimitar-Babbler
Blue-rumped Pitta (heard only) Oriental Magpie-Robin
Dalat Shrike-Babbler White-rumped Shama
White-throated Fantail White-gorgeted Flycatcher
Black-naped Monarch Hainan Blue-Flycatcher
Asian Paradise-Flycatcher Blue-throated Flycatcher
Indochinese Green Magpie Hill Blue-Flycatcher
Ratchet-tailed Treepie Blue-and-white Flycatcher
Gray-headed Canary-Flycatcher White-crowned Forktail
Sultan Tit (gayeti) Slaty-backed Forktail
Grey-crowned Tit Mugimaki Flycatcher
Stripe-throated Bulbul Blue-winged Leafbird
Puff-throated Bulbul Orange-bellied Leafbird
Yellow-browed Warbler Fork-tailed Sunbird
Eastern Crowned Warbler Crimson Sunbird
Gray-cheeked Warbler Olive-backed Pipit

23 April 2014

Silver Oriole in Hanoi

At the morning of April 20th, I went once more to the small forest patch at Bai Da at the Red River to look for migrants.

Around the northern end of the little forest, I noticed a bird that perched openly with some of the Drongos present. I could manage a quick look and take some record pictures. I saw the bird later again nearby, again perched together with a Black-winged Cuckooshrike. Distance was higher this time and quality of pictures therefore even worse. The birds were shy and both times I could only observe them shortly. But it was enough to note the following characteristics:
- whitish belly with strong streaks, also on throat
- dark cap and face
- upper mantle brownish, back and rump clearly very light grey
- beak rather long and light color, almost blueish

In the field I guessed a female Maroon Oriole but wondered about that grey back. Later (in the plane flying home) consulting the Robson field guide, I realised that it must be a female Silver Oriole. Still doubting a little, because the upper more brownish part of the mantle did not seem a perfect match of the description and drawing, I sent the pictures to some people. Simon Mahood and John Pilgrim confirmed that it is indeed a Silver Oriole.

As far as I know this must be the first record for Vietnam, and also the first record on passage from the wintering grounds in Thailand and Cambodia to the breeding grounds in China. Looking at maps of the (still poorly) known range, Hanoi lays pretty much on a potential migration route: Birdlife species fact sheet with range map. 

Here the two pictures (cropped and slighly lightened). Coordinates of the sighting (taken from google maps) are: 21.081355, 105.832847

Sebastien will try to find the bird again, and if the bird is still present, we'll certainly see better pictures.

Besides this phantastic bird, there were some other interesting birds present as well, many of them already observed by Sebastien in the previous days (see his previous post): Dollarbird, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, many Dusky and Radde's Warblers, Black, Ashy and Hair-crested Drongos, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (female), Mugimaki Flycatcher (male and female), Taiga Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarchs, Blue Whistling Thrush, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, etc.

There was also a Forest Wagtail, an Orange-headed Thrush and a Common or Oriental (Himalayan) Cuckoo. I tend towards Oriental because of the somewhat bold barrings and the grey of the head constrasting with the dark back.

Florian Klingel

10 April 2014

Spring Migration : Some Hanoi Stuff

Spring migration is in full spring, and Hanoi’s parks & wooded/scrubby patches are great places to experience this. In large forests, things are much more “diluted”, I must say... Any park or garden can provide a stopover point for migrating birds and as the city continues to swallow up patches of greenery, these oases of habitat will become ever-increasingly important to passage migrants, making it even more likely that rare migrants can be found....

3-4 strolls (7-10 April) produced a nice selection of migrants/winter visitors, among them 2 lifers*, with highlights being (all at Bãi đá sông Hồng, northern tip of the Red River Island):

-1 male Narcissus Flycatcher (PM)
-1 Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo (PM)*
-1 Chestnut-winged Cuckoo (PM)
-1 Ruby-cheeked Sunbird (? Status uncertain but certainly not R)*

PM : passage migrant
W: winter visitor
R: resident

And all the usual stuff at this period of the year:

-Blue Whistling Thrush (PM+W), Eye-browed (PM) and White’s Thrushes (PM+W). Wintering Thrushes numbers have mostly decreased rapidly since mid-March
-Small flocks of Ashy and Spangled Drongos (both PM), Ashy Minivets (PM)
-Black-naped Monarch (PM), in mixed flocks with many phylloscs (“Blyth” (lato sensu), Eastern-crowned, Yellow-browed...)
-In the understorey, some Radde’s, Dusky Warblers, Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf-Warblers
- Yellow-rumped (PM) and Mugimaki (PM+W) Flycatchers at all the patches. Numerous Taiga Flycatchers (PM+W), males in summer dress. Surprisingly very few Asian Brown (PM+W) and Hill/Chinese Blue Flycatchers.
-2 Large Hawk Cuckoos (PM) (with the Hodgson’s, nice surprise – 1st sighting for me at Hanoi! Much more difficult to see and photograph in forest!)
- 1 Dollarbird, certainly (scarce) PM here.
- In the open fields, a surprising Indian Roller around Vinh Thuy Bridge (rare sight in East Tonkin), flocks of Red-throated Pipits (PM+W), lone Burmese Shrikes (PM).
- Around water bodies, numerous Black-browed Reed-Warblers (PM), nice males Citrine Wagtails (PM+W) in summer dress et Eastern Yellow Wagtails (PM+W).

Black-browed Reed Warbler

Spangled Drongo

showing its erectile crest

 Black-naped Monarch, male

  Black-naped Monarch, female

 Dollardbird - scarce passage migrant at Hanoi (my 2nd record)

Eastern-crowned Warbler showing well its yellow vent

 Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf-Warbler

 Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo

 Large Hawk Cuckoo

 Asian Brown Flycatcher

A juicy male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher - Botanical Gardens. 

better background...

 Ruby-cheeked Sunbird

 Eye-browed Thrush

Ashy Minivet

Another highlight of my strolls was this mating pair of Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) found in a carambola orchard.

This species is interesting for two reasons: first, it is listed (as Rare) in Vietnam's Red Data Book of threatened species (Vietnamese: Sách đỏ Việt Nam). Secondly, it is a magnificent creature with a wingspan of around 25-30 cm! It is the world's biggest moth, not by wingspan but by wing surface area. This mating pair was an amazing sight. To have an idea of its size, click here.

The caterpillars feed on the leaves of a wide range of trees, from the carambola to cinnamon, lime, pomelo, rambutan, guava, citrus fruits.
The wing tips are hooked and some say resemble a snake's head complete with eye, to scare off predators!

Its name in Vietnamese is Bướm khế (= carambola tree butterfly).