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MikeBirder - Malaysian Birds


Welcome to my Malaysian Birding Blog. I migrated to as my blog at closed shop in 2012. I wish to showcase all Malaysian birds that I have photographed whether here or overseas. My countdown of lifers started in 2005. Coming to May 2020 my countdown of lifers photograph has reached
539/688 species of birds of Malaysia in photos.

My shooting gear was a EF400mm f4 DO lens and Canon 7D body which to me is the ideal setup for mobility and bird chasing at that time. Eventhen the weight over my shoulder is more that 5.5 kg. As of June 2016 I have also acquired a Fuji XF 100-400mm OIS lens to complement my travelling cum birding trip overseas. The Fuji X-T2 is now in hand ; the weight over my shoulder is much lighter now by 30%. In December 2018 I acquired the Nikon Coolpix P1000 as supplementary camera for distance shooting of 3000mm.
Meantime I am hoping Sigma or Fuji will come out with with a 200-600mm lens for my Fuji body. As for a new body I will only consider an upgrade when the megapixel hit 30..........

I am a weekend birder. Do feel free to drop me a line at and I see whether you can tag along in my outings. My usual day trip is just an hour ride away to Hulu Langat, Lancang, Kemensah, Krau, Awana, Hulu Kali, Gombak Ole Road, Fraser's Hill , Bukit Tinggi and KSNP & Coastal Sg Janggut Jeram side of the coast . Overnite trip to Merapoh & Cameron, Air Hitam and further north to Kuala Sidim is a seldom affair but for lifer we travel. Panti in Johor is another good birding site that I yet to go. Then there are the Borneo birds of Sabah and Sarawak of Malaysia which I seriously much go to chalk up more lifers. This I did in 2018 to Sepilok Sandakan and Kinabalu Park. Next Danum and LahatDatu.......

WARNING Birding is an addiction once you started its hard to stop. The wifey and children are now birding widow and orphan.



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Thursday, 13 December 2012

CUCKOOSHRIKE 2/3 - Javan Cuckooshrike

Javan cuckooshrike

Thought I have listed this one in my blog when I sighted in Fraser's Hill few years back. This one is a montane bird upto 2,500m . I have yet to come across picture record of the Javan in Cameron though.

The other subspecies is the Lesser CS which is more common at lowland broadleaved jungle like Sg Congkak Ulu Langat. Anyway the Javan is a large bird ; size slightly short of a foot. It likes to hang around on high canopy like sentinel of the hill le. Mostly grey in color with a dark grey eye mask and darker wing coat. Feeds on insects especially moths and also fruits and berries.

They breed and nest form the months of Mar-May; building cup like nest on high canopy of 15 m. So tough to see.
This female came very close to me & Yen during a outing at Ulu Kali. It was attracted by the playback of the Minla I was calling. It also responded with its scrolling yerrking call for a period of time. Size a footer. It can be mistaken for a house crow from its silhouette looking from afar. The male have darker feathers to its head and body minus the barring

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

CUCKOOSHRIKE 1/3 - Lesser Cuckooshrike

Lesser Cuckooshrike
A lifer for the day in Sg Congkak Ulu Langat. Greyish bird with bar breasted for the female The male is the plainer guy this time round.

BARBET 10/12 - Black-browed Barbet

Black-browed Barbet

This is Barbet no 10 and a lifer. It was hanging out with a pair of Fire-tufted Luckily it was not shy and feed on the berries without any concern as I and Lim kept snapping at it for a good 10-15 mins . It got tired of eating or is it our flashing.... and just perched on a branch hidden inconspiciously. We left for Awana trail to try to catch the Trogon

BARBET 9/10 - Blue-eared Barbet

Blue-eared Barbet

A terrible shot from 40ft up. The bunch of them feeding on ficus fruit high up.

Size is terribly small slight 6 inches and commonly found in highlands upto 1500m. The Malaysian one has black eared covert with red patches; black eye band and black collared

May 2019 Bukit Tinggi Pahang 

BARBET 8/12 - Sooty Barbet

Sooty Barbet

Amongst the barbets in my collection this is by far the dullest and plainest .....kind of the ugly duckling. Looks like a crow but brown in color and half the size. It name changed when it splitted form the Borneo Brown Barbet of late.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

BARBET 7/12 - Coppersmith Barbet

Coppersmith Barbet

My Barbet on 4. One of the smallest of barbet; size of a myna but broader. Of cause the tail is short like a woodpecker's. They feed on berries and fruits as well as insects on trees. Seldom come done to the ground. A bird of mangrove forest like in Kuala Selangor Nature Park or Port Klang

Its features are its miniature size witha distinct yellow eye ring, crimson breast with red tufted crown and it has streaked lower breast and body.Both sexes of CB looks alike. CBcan be seen singly or in loose parties on banyan trees. It is arboreal and fly afar where ever there are fruiting trees especially the various species of wild fig.

Its nesting season is from January to June. Its nesting is a hole excavated in a snag ot dead softwood branch such as the drumstick trees at moderate height. they actually peck their own hole like woodpecker with their large beak. Their pecking however are soft,twist and peeling of bark and stem untul a cavity to hold itself and 2-3 eggs. At times the dominant chick will kill its sibling when food is scathe and the parent select the fittest to feed....  Its eggs are non glossy white in colour.
Their courting ritual is usually an offering of fruits to its spouse like hornbill before mounting her. Go to http:/ for   a photo narration


BARBET 6/12 - Fire-tufted Barbet

Fire-tufted Bartbet
Two barbet in one Cameron outing......... double wow!!! The haze subsided on Sat the 7th and the Sunday morning was clear. The Fire Fufted are resident in Peninsula and Sumatra Found only in hill above 800m.

The bird is known to follow bird watcher who mimic their cicada like call. That I did not try le It called a fire tufted because of its red whiskers at its forehead

Anything about Birding 1/100 - Using Playback when Birding

I like to share this article by a David Sibley on the proper use of playback when birding. Don't think that birds are brainless. They are cautious and yet curious creatures. I have encounter birds that like to socialise and duet especially Large Scimitar Babblers and our friendly Shamas whilst remaining safely in the undergrowth. There are many species like them that stays alone when not in breeding season. These are the ones that are territorial and thus response to your birdcall. Babblers are much friendlier lot as they would mope you in numbers and follow you around in the open. Then there are the ones that feed together in birdwave of various species which are a delight to watch.

BTW I do use playback of birdcalls in search for I morally wrong?

The Proper Use of Playback in Birding by David Sibley

Swainson's Warbler, an uncommon and elusive species often subject to playback efforts by birders. Gouache painting copyright David Sibley.
With the recent surge in the availability of digital audio devices, the use of playback to attract birds into view has increased exponentially. This has fueled an ongoing debate among birders about the ethical issues surrounding the use of recorded bird songs in the field.
There is no debate that playback (playing a recording of a bird’s song) is one of the most useful tools in a birder’s struggle to see birds in the wild. Birds that might otherwise be too shy to come into the open can be lured into view by the sound of a potential rival. Whether this trickery has any significant impact on the birds is not so clear. Most of the debate has focused on the ethical question of whether or not playback should be used. In this post I assume that it will be used, and instead focus on suggesting some best practices to allow birders to enjoy the birds while minimizing the impact of playback, on birds and on other birders.


First, it is important to point out that the use of playback is prohibited in many parks and refuges. It is also illegal to disturb any endangered or threatened species (and playback can be interpreted as disturbance). Any potential negative impacts of playback are more likely to occur in areas with a lot of birding pressure, so avoiding playback entirely in those places is a good idea. Where and how to use it in other situations is up the individual birder.
To be most effective and to minimize disturbance to the birds:
  • have a plan (choose your spot and know your quarry, don’t just play sounds)
  • play snippets of sound – no more than 30 seconds at a time, then a long pause before the next snippet (more silence than playback) and after five minutes or so give it a rest (but stay alert).
  • be subtle – you are trying to tease the bird into the open, not stir up a fight
To minimize disturbance to other birders:
  • No surprises – Announce your intention to play a recording, and hold the device above your shoulder while it plays (to avoid any confusion or false alarms)
  • Keep the volume low, and use only occasional snippets of sound. Do not broadcast loud or continuous sound.
How does it work?
Playback works best on territorial species during their nesting season, when the real bird thinks the recording is a rival threatening to encroach on either its territory or its mate. The territorial male will then (ideally) come out to confront the intruder by patrolling the edge of its territory and singing, or it may stay silent and close to its mate to guard against an adulterer. For her part, sometimes the female will approach the recording to assess the “new guy” and may even solicit some attention. Playback will arouse the curiosity of any species at any time of year, but the response is most dramatic from a territorial bird in breeding season, and weakest from non-territorial birds such as migrants.

The debate

Arguments in favor of playback:
These are speculative and/or subjective, and assume that you accept the self-centered premise that as birdwatchers we need to see birds (that is a separate debate):
  • Playback allows people to enjoy birds more fully (in this way it is analogous to bird feeding). It attracts birds into view that would otherwise be difficult to see well.
  • Playback reduces the need to physically invade the bird’s habitat, and therefore (presumably) reduces damage to the habitat and disturbance to the birds. For example, playing a recording from a roadside so that twenty people can see a bird is likely to be better for the bird than having those twenty people walking through the habitat.
  • Playback targets a single species, without disturbing other species, which is presumably better than physically walking through a bird’s territory, or using broad-spectrum attractants like pishing, which affect all species.
  • It’s possible that in some circumstances playback may increase the social standing of a male bird among its peers (see Research below)
Arguments against playback
Most of these arguments are speculative, only the first one listed is documented by research on one species, and the last two are aesthetic impacts on other birders:
  • Aggressive playback (with the real bird coming away as the “loser”) can cause a male bird to lose status with rivals and its mate, leading the female to seek extra-pair copulations (see Research below)
  • Playback causes unnatural stress on the bird – the territorial male wastes energy chasing a phantom intruder
  • Playback lures birds into the open, exposing them to predators
  • Playback distracts birds from other more useful activities, such as foraging.
  • Birders dislike hearing an electronic recording, as it detracts from the “natural” experience of birding
  • Birders experience increased stress from confusion and false alarms when the song of a sought-after species turns out to be a recording.


No research has demonstrated a negative impact of playback on birds. That doesn’t mean the practice is benign, it just means that no negative effects have ever been documented. Effects that have been documented include raised testosterone levels in males, and increased maternal behavior (nest-building, etc) in females exposed to playback.
One study found an impact on the status of males. When song is played in a bird’s territory, that bird’s response to the “intruder” is watched attentively by neighboring males and by females. In one study (Mennill et al 2002) high-ranking male Black-capped Chickadees exposed to aggressive playback lost status as their mates and neighbors apparently perceived them as losers, unable to drive away the phantom intruder. This led to a loss of fitness as their mate went to other males to seek extra-pair copulations. That study found no change in the status of low-ranking males, but presumably birds exposed to infrequent playback could potentially gain status when they “win” the confrontation and drive away the intruder.
It is important to stress that this is a single study, of a single species, and the results (if typical) may not be applicable to other species. Researchers generally agree that the effects of playback are poorly-known, but are probably (paradoxically) both far-reaching and small.
There is evidence that birds quickly become habituated to recordings, responding less strongly over time, and eventually ignoring the recordings entirely. Think of the loud distress calls sometimes played to keep birds like gulls or starlings from roosting on buildings. Additionally, playback has been used very effectively to attract birds to suitable nesting habitat (for example, puffins and terns in Maine, Black-capped Vireos in Oklahoma). In those cases, at least, playback does not drive birds out of their territories, and instead signals a suitable breeding site.

What Not to do

Under no circumstances should you play a recording continuously or at very high volume. The epitome of bad playback etiquette is the birder who walks around with a device continuously and loudly broadcasting sound. This is ineffective, unnecessary, and is the kind of playback most likely to be harmful to birds and disturbing to other birders.
A note on volume: I have found that the built-in speaker on the iPhone 3G is adequate for every playback situation I have tried, even though it is not as loud as an actual bird. If you are using a device with a built-in speaker, there is probably no need for an added, powered speaker. Whatever device you are using, your starting volume should be lower than the sound you imagine the bird would produce.

Respect for the birds

Plan carefully and understand your quarry so that you can guess where the bird is, or where it is likely to be. If you have already heard it or seen it, consider those locations when deciding where to play audio. You must be in (or very near) the bird’s territory to get a useful response.
Choose your spot and set the stage – Visualize the scenario of the bird coming into view. How will it approach the recording, and where will it sit so that you can see it? You should play the recording from a location that offers the bird a comfortable approach through its preferred habitat, and also has openings, edges, and/or prominent perches where it will come into view. Many playback efforts are unsuccessful either because the bird will not cross unsuitable habitat, or because dense vegetation allows it to approach closely while remaining hidden.
Begin by playing the recording quietly for just a few seconds – for example just two or three songs, then stop, watch, and listen.
Use short snippets – If there is any response, try very short snippets of song after that, even stopping the recording after half of a normal song, to try to tease the bird into the open without posing a serious challenge to its self-esteem.
Watch for a response – If there is no obvious response after 30-60 seconds, play another 15-30 seconds of sound. Remember that the bird may respond by approaching silently, or by guarding its mate, so a lack of song is not necessarily a lack of response, and you can assume that you are being watched. Watch the vegetation carefully on all sides for an approach, and also watch and listen for a response from neighboring males.
Remain calm – If you still don’t detect any response, play the recording again, watch and wait, and repeat. But don’t keep this up longer than about five minutes, and resist the urge to finish with a prolonged, loud barrage of song.
Check back later – Many birds will remain silent in the immediate aftermath of the playback, and then begin singing vigorously minutes later. Males in other territories might monitor the playback, and the challenge to their neighbor, and also be stimulated to sing minutes later. If you can wait around, or circle back to check on the area after 10 to 30 minutes, you may find that the desired response to playback is occurring then.

Respect for fellow birders

Be courteous – Before starting, ask your fellow birders if anyone objects to using playback.
Don’t surprise people – Before each burst of playback, announce to the group that you are about to start playback (just quietly saying “playback” will do), and hold the device up above your head during playback so other birders can see at a glance the source of the sound.
Be unobtrusive – Keep the volume low and play only short clips of sound – 30 seconds or less – then pause to watch and listen for a response.

In conclusion

With playback, you are effectively teasing a bird into the open, just like trying to get a fish to bite a lure. If a fish makes a pass at your lure on one cast, you wouldn’t switch to a bigger, more colorful lure and throw it right on top of the fish. No… you would use the same lure, cast it carefully and gently beyond the fish, and retrieve it with as much finesse as you can muster. In the same way, if you are trying to attract a bird into the open and it shows some interest in what you are doing, your next move should be the same thing again but lighter, with more finesse, trying to pique the bird’s curiosity.
As in all things related to birds, there is a lot that is unknown about their response to playback. More research on the effects of playback, including varied species with different social systems, would be very helpful. In the meantime, being courteous and respectful to the birds and to fellow birders should avoid most of the potential conflicts and allow us to continue to enjoy birding with minimal impact on the birds.

BARBET 5/12 - Golden-throated Barbet

The Cameron trip Oct 2006 was capped with this Barbet no 4....... another lifer for me. I must say its a handsome croaker and by far the most colourful amongs the 20 odd species. A loner unlike the Fire-turfed Barbets and I think its also a montane specie. It was feeding on the same fig tree at Tapah-Cameron road down from Camelia apartment. They take their turns among the mesia, bulbul, sibia etc feeding on the small berries.

BARBET 4/12 - Golden-whiskered Barbet

Golden-whiskered Barbet

On Sun 100906 woke up late 9am and decided to go to Rimba Ampang to snap the blue banded. Again dissapointed. Met fellow birder Yeoh from MU who is a regular there. He saw a Drongo and rush me to the spot but nope its gone. Tell me to come at 3-5pm upstream amongst the pondage clearance. Good chance it will be there. It need some good light to catch its prey of tadpole and guppies

Very quiet day until I notice a large green bird flew into the nearby palm and I was across the other side still looking for the elusive kingfisher. Came up zilt so waded across shalow stream to the road ..........and then my lifer for the day

It the biggest amongst the 4 green species about 30cm (1 feet). GWB have distinct grey throat grey bluish red flecked crown & large yellow patch cheek. Call a loud repeated Ku-took in repetition often in minutes.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

BARBET 2/12 - Red-throated Barbet

Red-throated  Barbet
Finally an encounter with a family of Red-throated Barbet in Bukit Lancang side of the world. There is about five of them. This subspecies is gregarious bird like the Brown and Red Crowned which they flock together. Other Barbets are more or less on their own until mating time.

The Red-throated is medium built coming in at 8 inches or 23cm. They say it is a common bird but I doubt that is true cos this is the first time I am sighting it in low land forest of Peninsula Malaysia. Many sighting up north though............

BARBET 1/12 - Yellow-crowned Barbet

Yellow-crowned Barbet

Sighting up in the canopy following a dozen or so Brown Barbets They commune?.... I really wonder. Uncommon in Malaysia forest. Got this blue throat IDed by Alagan immediately........he must has seen plenty.

Lousy photos but lifer for me just as well.. Too high in the canopy

Monday, 29 October 2012

CUCKOO 10/14 - Drongo Cuckoo

 Drongo Cuckoo

Aptly called "drongo" cuckoo I think because of the similarity of its same shape & slender tail. Slightly larger than a pigeon. Can compare with a Bronze Drongo later. The glossy bluish feathers are almost the same. Only difference is in the shape of the beak and head features. You wonder it a mixed breed..........

They are very approachable and not easily spooked unless you move exaggerately. They are curious bugger too and will come 20-25 feet. near u which I did encounter the specie at ISI Rimba site in Kemensah last week.

CUCKOO 9/14 - Banded Bay Cuckoo

Banded Bay cuckoo

A lifer if it is correctly id as the BB Cuckoo Size about a Rock Pigeon 8-9 inches long. This adult just popped infront of me whilst I was shooting a couple Chestnut Chested Malkoha at close quarters.

Found in broadleaved forest in open area. Just have to call them in. Surprisingly this is a resident of Malaysia but can be found in open parkland in the city and suburbs.

CUCKOO 8/14 - Chestnut-winged Cuckoo

  Chestnut-winged Cuckoo

This  is a migrant Cuckoo to our jungle in Peninsula Malaysia. As usual Cuckoo are easier to photog as they frequent low vegetation and do come out in the open to look for insects. In fact the rainy season is the best period to see them.
This is a large size cuckoo as long as 41cm or 18 inches. This is the only Cuckoo that has a crested head that you can see in here. Thailand's also have a vagrant  Pied Cuckoo that has a crest too. You never know one will just extend its visit down to Peninsula.

CUCKOO 7/14 - Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo

Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo
The splitting of subspecies of the migratory Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo (HHC) and Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo (MHC) has caused much confusion amongst birdwatchers in Peninsula Malaysia. Actually the differences is there when comparing mature adult birds. It is only when you want to id the immature or subadult HHC based on poor photos like mine here.

Yong Ding Li did a superb writeup on the differences of features of the birds. For the adult bird; the easy tell tale is that the HHC has rufous wash on its neck to breast (like the Large Hawk Cuckoo) whilst the MHC has a cleaner and heavy vertical streaking. The MHC also have more puffy white throat to go; see my shot at :

A summary of visible immature features between the species are as follows:

Immature Features Comparison

a. White nape patch MCC - Present / HHC - Absent
b. Wings Fringes MCC - Pale whitish & faint / HHC - Buffy to Rusty
c. Innermost Tertial feathers MCC - More Brownish / HCC - Paler & very faint
d. Bands on underside primaries MCC - broader / HHC - Less broad
e. Underparts MCC - Whiter & cleaner / HHC Rufous orangy wash
f. Plumage Color MCC - Darker Brown / HHC lighter and true brown

Further to that timing of sighting of the HHC should be during the period between the coming of northern wintering period initiate the migratory period starting as early as October and the arrival of Spring/Summer call for the return trip back to northern hemisphere as late as May of the year. Another fact is according to Craig Robson's bird guide MHC is a resident lowland bird and seldom go higher than 500m whilst the HHC prefers the cooler coastal lowland to highland upto 1500m.

CUCKOO 6/14 - Large Hawk Cuckoo

 Large Hawk Cuckoo

Still hunting for my elusive Speckled Piculet last weekend in the month Oct 2011. Instead got 2 lifers. One of them is this large bird of 15 inches or 40cm at the Telekom loop left of the junction.

Large Hawk Cuckoo is found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. The resident subspecies of the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Borneo is sometimes considered a separate species, the Dark Hawk-cuckoo (C. s. bocki ). It feeds on insects, mainly caterpillars, spiders, birds eggs and berries. In Peninsula they can be seen at highland tropical forests at altitude upto 2,500m like Fraser's Hill. LHC can also be seen in Awana side but may be the migrant ones.

It has a greyish-brown back, a grey head and a tail with broad bars. The throat is white and the breast is rufous and both have dark streaks. The belly has broad black bands on white. The eyering is yellow and the iris is orange to buff in colour.

It is a brood parasite and its hosts tend to be Laughingthrush, Barwings and similar. Its scientific specific name sparverioides means "resembling a Sparrowhawk" and, in flight, it looks just like a Sparrowhawk. It is possible that this may cause potential hosts to flee allowing the Large Hawk-cuckoo to lay its eggs.

CUCKOO 5/14 - Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo

Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo

Keeping pace with Madi I got the Malaysia Hawk Cuckoo in the deep side of Kemensah Hill whilst waiting for bird wave. The bugger just flew out and perch on a branch of the large tree in the ravine. Against the glaring background I only manage poor shot. The distance from Madi catch and mine is about 3 klicks. Comparing the birds It is unlikely the same bird though cuckoo do move around. Mine looks like a juvenile.

This is a resident of Malaysia wherelse there is another subspecies Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo which winter over here from China - Nepal side. Similar in size and shape. The separation is the Malaysian has a cleaner black streak marking over whitish chest whilst the visitor have buffy rustic chest and the latter have darker grey overall. Both have a bit of puff throat and flatten tail. Calls is almost the same. During the same time of my sighting a Hodgson's was sighted in Singapore. Very rare to see the latter......

It is a medium size cuckoo reaching less that a foot with a flattened out tail.

CUCKOO 4/14 - Oriental Cuckoo

Oriental Cuckoo

Caught it in FRIM Kepong during a rainy morning. With its greyish coat and clear barred white chest The Indian Cuckoo have a more brownish and distinct coat.

The other two photos inbetween here; are the Hepatic breed I can only deduce that cuckoo with yellow eye ring is this two. This shots were taken at Rimba Kemensah a week after the Banded Bay Cuckoo was sighted at the same spot.