Asian Bird Fair 2023 Field Trip to Kinabalu Park – Trip Report

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Asian Bird Fair 2023 field trip

The 12th Asian Bird Fair 2023 recently concluded in Sabah, Malaysia. The Asian Bird Fair (ABF) is an annual international birding event that is held in a different Asian city each year. The 12th iteration was hosted by the city of Kota Kinabalu from the 13-17th October, 2023.

Aside from the exhibition booths, educational forums and talks, a highlight for every ABF is the field trip. For the Asian Bird Fair 2023 field trip, the delegates would be visiting Kinabalu Park HQ, which was an easy choice due to its close proximity to Kota Kinabalu and ease of access. Moreover, visiting delegates would get a high chance of seeing star birds and Bornean endemics there.

Asian Bird Fair 2023 Field Trip to Kinabalu Park – Trip Report

On 16 October 2023, the Birdwatching Asia team was fortunate enough to join the Asian Bird Fair 2023 field trip to Kinabalu Park. There, we would be joining delegates and participants from 19 countries around the world. The day started at an ungodly 4 am, as we wanted to be at Kinabalu Park before the delegates arrived. We arrived at 6.30 am, just in time to meet ABF 2023 keynote speaker Noah Strycker and president of the Sabah Birdwatchers Association Ron Pudin. They had the same idea as we did – arrive early to see the birds! 

The rest of the delegates departed the IBIS Styles Hotel at Kota Kinabalu around 5.30 am and arrived at 7.30 am.

Briefing and birding

A short introductory briefing was presented to the visiting delegates, informing them about the biodiversity of Kinabalu Park, among other things. Following this, the Asian Bird Fair 2023 field trip officially begins! The delegates are led along the picturesque trails and roads at Kinabalu Park HQ to look for birds. The sunny, cool and crisp weather was a nice bonus. 

Many of the delegates are first-time visitors to Malaysia, let alone Sabah. Understandably, everyone was excited to see as many star birds and Bornean endemics as possible! The delegates were guided by a group of expert birdwatchers, many of whom are organisers for the ABF themselves. These include Mr. Ron Pudin, Mr. Roger Rajah, and Mr. Alexander John.

Of course, the ABF executive committee members, Mr. Andrew Sebastian, Mr. Victor Yu, and Mr. Michael Lu, were there to join in the fun!

ABF 2023 delegates looking at field guide
Delegates use a field guide to identify birds seen during the field trip.

The Whitehead’s Trogon

Fortunately for the visiting delegates, the star birds of Kinabalu Park decided to show themselves. First up was the Whitehead’s Trogon. This show-stopping Bornean endemic is high on every delegate’s wish list. A male trogon was spotted, perched conveniently just next to the power station road. It was initially a bit obscured, but after a bit of finger-pointing, pretty much everyone got a good view of it. A great start to the Asian Bird Fair 2023 field trip!

Asian Bird Fair 2023 field trip Whitehead's Trogon.
This male Whitehead’s Trogon was initially seen partially obscured. Subsequently, the bird perched on a more open branch, thus giving everyone great views.
Delegates looking at Whitehead's Trogon.
The stunning Whitehead’s Trogon was high on everyone’s wish list. Needless to say, everyone wanted to see and photograph it!
Delegates pointing at the Whitehead's Trogon
Where is the Trogon? There!!

The Whitehead’s Broadbill

This massive, luminous green broadbill was another highly sought-after species. Thankfully, a pair of these birds were busy looking for suitable nesting sites right next to the main road. The broadbills preferred to perch amongst the foliage; nevertheless, everyone got good looks at them. The size of the Whitehead’s Broadbill surprised many delegates, many of whom are veteran birdwatchers!

Asian Bird Fair 2023 field trip Whitehead's Broadbill
This male Whitehead’s Broadbill decided to perch right in front of the delegates! It was only there momentarily; nevertheless, many delegates got their shots.
Delegates trying to get clear view of Whitehead's Broadbill
The participating delegates are trying hard to get a clear view of the broadbills!

Other birds seen during the Asian Bird Fair 2023 field trip

Throughout the Asian Bird Fair 2023 field trip, the delegates were entertained by a kaleidoscope of colourful montane birds. In addition to the two Whitehead’s described above, the delegates also managed to see the following Bornean endemics:

  1. The colourful Bornean Green-Magpie was conveniently seen next to the Whitehead’s Broadbills.
  2. Bornean Forktail. Normally, these birds are reliably seen around the streams at Kinabalu Park HQ. However, during the field trip, these birds decided to be elusive. Consequently, not many delegates managed to see this bird.
  3. Bare-headed Laughingthrush. This is a rather uncommon species; therefore, only a few lucky delegates managed to see it.
  4. The ubiquitous Chestnut-hooded Laughingthrush.
  5. The brightly plumaged Bornean Whistler was a welcome sight.
  6. Bornean Treepie
  7. Penan Bulbul
  8. Black-sided Flowerpecker
  9. Bornean Whistling-Thrush
  10. The diminutive Bornean Stubtail was calling from the dense understory; therefore, the delegates had to look hard for it!

Unfortunately for the delegates, the much sought-after Whitehead’s Spiderhunter was nowhere to be seen. Nevertheless, the excursion was highly rewarding for the visiting delegates. Everybody got lifers for their checklists, and above all, everyone had fun!

Lunch and heading off

After a hard day’s birding, the delegates were treated to a hearty lunch at the Liwagu Restaurant. The food there was great, and the service top-notch. A fantastic way to end the Asian Bird Fair 2023 field trip at Kinabalu Park.

Soon after lunch, the delegates left Kinabalu Park. Some had to go to the airport to catch their flights home. Most delegates, however, headed straight for Shangri-La Rasa Ria near Tuaran. There, the delegates were treated to some afternoon birding at the Rasa Ria Reserve. Following this, everyone attended the sumptuous farewell dinner at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria beach side restaurant. This event marked the end of a successful Asian Bird Fair 2023.

Asian Bird Fair 2023 delegates leaving Kinabalu Park.
All too soon, the delegates had to leave Kinabalu Park. Undoubtedly, everyone had a good time birdwatching here.

Additional photos from the Asian Bird Fair 2023 field trip

Asian Bird Fair 2023 field trip Indigo Flycatcher
The beautiful Indigo Flycatcher isn’t a Borneo endemic; nevertheless, the delegates were still happy to see one.
Kinabalu Park Whitehead's Pygmy-Squirrel.
Right after lunch, the delegates were entertained by the antics of this unbelievably cute Whitehead’s Pygmy-Squirrel.
Shangri-La Rasa Ria Asian Bird Fair 2023 farewell dinner.
To conclude the Asian Bird Fair 2023, the delegates were treated to a sumptuous buffet dinner at Shangri-La Rasa Ria.
Shangri-La Rasa Ria food
The food at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria was fantastic!

Additional information and links

For more information on the  Asian Bird Fair, head over to the links below:

For more information on the destinations of the field trip, check out the following links:

If you would like to go birdwatching at Kinabalu Park, check out our detailed guides on the links below:


The 12th Asian Bird Fair 2023 at Kota Kinabalu was a roaring success. The highly anticipated field trip to Kinabalu Park was a highlight for many delegates, and as always, Kinabalu Park didn’t disappoint.

Everybody in attendance managed good views and/or photos of Kinabalu Park’s biggest stars – the Whitehead’s Trogon and Broadbill. Most importantly, however, is that everybody had fun socialising and networking with fellow birdwatching enthusiasts from around the world.

The next ABF will be in Manila, and everyone is already looking forward to the birdwatching field trip there. The Asian Bird Fair 2024 dates will be announced probably early in the year, and once we get information, we will share it on our birding website.

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