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Published on January 4, 2010

Southeast Asia is perfect those who enjoy watching birds. Not only is it one of the most biologically diverse regions, and home to over 15% of the Earth’s ornithological species, it is also an easy place to get around and for the most part generally inexpensive to do so. Whether it’s northern track countries like Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; or the southern countries, which include Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei; a bird watching expedition in the region can be extremely rewarding for those willing to put in the time and effort to take advantage of all the region has to offer.

With over 950 species of birds, Thailand is not only one of the hottest bird watching destinations in the North, but one of the most popular in all of Asia as well. Home to many endangered species including the Spoon-Billed Sandpiper, Siamese Fireback and Coral-Billed Ground Cuckoo, any trip here will be enhanced by the country’s warm hospitality, unique infrastructure and topography and varied locales which include grasslands, mountainous terrain, rainforest jungles, islands and mangroves.

Considered the top birding site in Vietnam, the Cat Tien National Park is home to 16 globally threatened and near-threatened bird species including the Orange-Necked Partridge, Grey-Faced Tit Babbler and Green Peafowl. Other sites throughout the country offer similar encounters with many other species whose existence is in jeopardy.

Cambodia is home to the largest remaining contiguous block of deciduous dipterocarp forests, a critically important habitat for a wide variety of bird life (these areas have largely disappeared from places like Thailand and Vietnam). Expect any bird watching expedition in Cambodia to include encounters with over 250 species including Red-Breasted Parakeets, the Asian Barred Owlet and Black-Headed Bulbuls.

Over in the South, Malaysia can dominate the bird watching scene due to the fact that it is home to some of the oldest and most biologically diverse rain forests on the planet. Popular species in Malaysia include the Large-Tailed Nightjar, Barred Eagle Owl, Milky Stork and Lesser Fish Eagle.

Not to be forgotten are the Philippines, a place that has over 180 unique birds like the Philippine Eagle, Red-Crested Malkoha, Rufous Hornbill and Black-Chinned Fruit Dove. Unfortunately, the effects of human influence are taking its toll on some of the natural habitats scattered throughout the myriad of islands that make up the Philippines and interested birders are urged to visit them now before progress takes its toll.

On the other side of the coin, Singapore offers well-maintained parks and reserves dedicated to providing the best conditions for many different species of birds. Rare migratory birds such as the Nordmann’s Greenshank, Pacific Golden Plover and the Chinese Egret are just some of the species on display in Singapore.

Obviously, this just skims the surface about birding in Southeast Asia. With such a large and diverse set of species spanning the entire region, there is so much to see that it would literally take the hardcore enthusiast years to cover. Fortunately, there are many locally organized, professional tours to help make this pursuit as easy and fulfilling as possible.

Matt Totsky is a recovering advertising copywriter. Since leaving his native Detroit, he has lived in places like Bangkok and London while endlessly pursuing his next freelance writing assignment.