Bird Races in Malaysia

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Malaysia Bird Race

For those who want to participate in some of the Bird Races in Malaysia, this article will highlight where and when these birding events will be held throughout the year. The only difference is that for some bird races, the dates may change yearly, but it still gives you an idea of where and where they are being held and other information needed to participate.

Bird Races in Malaysia

The original bird race that started in 1988 was the Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race and has been running for 33 years since 2022. The Sarawak Mini Bird Race in Kuching was next, followed by the Borneo Bird Festival, which had a bird race, bird photography race, and many other activities.

In recent years, many other states and national parks in Malaysia have also shown interest in organising their bird races; therefore, this list will provide all the information you need to start planning.

Below is a summarised list of all the bird races in Malaysia, with some no longer active or on hold. I will note those non-active ones in brackets. This list was edited in February 2024 to add some of the new bird races developed over the last few years since the pandemic.

  1. Selangor Bird Race (Wings of KKB)
  2. Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race
  3. Rompin State Park Bird Race
  4. Sarawak Bird Race
  5. Borneo Bird Race
  6. Taiping Bird Race
  7. Sabah Bird Race
  8. Putrajaya Bird Race
  9. Perlis Bird Race (Wang Kelian Bird Race)
  10. Panti Bird Race in Johor


Malaysia Bird Race
Bird race teams are getting ready for the Borneo Bird Festival.

What is a Bird Race?

Before I continue, some new birders may want to know what a bird race is. It is a team event, usually in groups of three that race each other in a given time to see which team spots the most species of birds.

At the end of the race, it is not about the prize money but the spirit of participation and the experience that makes it all worthwhile. However, some may think otherwise, but it should be about the experience and not the money or prizes. Anyway, let us get on with the Bird Races in Malaysia, which are listed according to the month of the year;

Selangor International Bird Race 2019 (Wings of KKB, Pesta Sayap)

Selangor Bird Race

This particular series was known as the Wings of KKB, and in 2018, it was rebranded to be known as the Selangor International Bird Race. They have conducted two series, which were in 2018 and 2019. Since the pandemic is over, the next event would be the Selangor International Bird Race 2023, which should be in April.

In 2022, they organised the Selangor Bird Race at Kuala Selangor on 22 October, which clashed with the Borneo Bird Festival 2022. Sometimes, this happens because the organisers did not check the information first. A good start would be working with Birdwatching Asia, as we constantly update information on birding events in Malaysia.

Strangely, the last Selangor Bird Race 2023 was done in July, which also was unpredictable as the organisers had selected this month for the birding event. For now, there is no confirmed news on what month the next bird race in Selangor will be held.

Selangor Bird Race

  • Date: July
  • Venue: Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB), Selangor

Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race 2022

Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race

This is the oldest and longest-running bird race in Malaysia, and in 2022, it was the 33rd time the event was held here at Fraser’s Hill in Pahang. Anyone who is into birding or birdwatching knows of this world-class birding event here in Pahang.

I have been following the FHIBR events for over ten years now, and just being an observer, I document the birding event for my publication. More birders will attend this event each year due to the minimal publicity done, and after 33 years, the event needs to be on a world-class birding map, but sadly, it has not reached this status.

The Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race is highly recommended for beginner birders due to the easy logistics and cool climate here. If you have never joined a bird race in Malaysia, this is the one to start with.

Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race

  • Date: June
  • Venue: Fraser’s Hill, Pahang

Rompin State Park Bird Race 2022

Rompin State Park Bird Race

This is the first time the state park on the Pahang side of Endau-Rompin has organised its inaugural bird race. Five teams took part, four local and one from Singapore, where each team spent a good eight hours spotting the most number of birds around the park.

The Rompin State Park Bird Race started at 8.00 AM and ended by 4.00 PM, and everyone was a winner, considering that this was the first time a privately managed state park had organised it. In 2023, there was no bird race here because no one could organise it.

However, I heard a rumour that there may be a Rompin Bird Race 2024 in the making, and it should be held somewhere in August or September at the state park. But whoever is organising it must do an impressive job to get participants to join.

Rompin State Park Bird Race

  • Date: September
  • Venue: Rompin State Park, Pahang Side (Not the National Park side in Johr)

Bird Race Sarawak

Sarawak Bird Race

This particular race is organised by the Ministry of Tourism Sarawak and the Malaysian Nature Society Sarawak Branch. Not much information is available on this because it is usually done without shouting. The first time I heard about the Sarawak Bird Race 2015, I was interested in attending, but I never got the chance.

The next time the event was held, it was unheard of because back then, there were not many birders around compared to now. So, the last event held was the Sarawak International Bird Race 2016. After that, no other bird races were conducted.

Update: In a twist of events, the Sarawak Bird Race 2023 was held at the Tun Ahmad Zaidi Nature Reserve in Sibu, organised by Sarawak Forestry and held in November 2023. This came as a shocker that Sarawak suddenly announced a bird race out of the blue. I guess this is positive news for everyone.

Sarawak Bird Race

  • Date: November
  • Venue: Tun Ahmad Zaidi Nature Reserve (last known in 2023)

Bird Race Borneo

Borneo Bird Race

The Borneo Bird Race was done only twice; the last time was in 2014; the international bird race covered three destinations – Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei with participants from around Asia. This is probably the biggest and most challenging bird race ever held in this part of the world.

This incredible race saw teams travel over 1000 kilometres around the island of Borneo, spotting birds with marshalls following along. It is unknown whether a follow-up Borneo Bird Race will come in 2023 or 2024.

Borneo Bird Race

  • Date: TBC
  • Venue: All over Borneo

Taiping Bird Week 2022

Taiping Bird Race

Done twice before the pandemic, this birding event in Taiping Perak seems to take an entire week, where many educational programs are conducted on the weekday, while the main bird race will be done on the weekend. Again, the organisers must be more open to contacting specialised media like Birdwatching Asia to cover their events.

The last Taiping Bird Race was held in Ausugt and was part of the Taiping Bird Week 2023 event, which has been running for a few years. The entire event takes a whole week, but the Taiping Bird Race takes place on the weekend.

Taiping Bird Race

  • Date: August
  • Venue: Taiping Botanical Garden/Zoo area, Perak

Borneo Bird Festival 2022

Borneo Bird Festival (Sabah Bird Race)

Malaysia’s second oldest bird race and festival and the largest in Borneo are no other than the Borneo Bird Festival. They have been around since 2007 and are among the most successful bird festivals. The bird race event here is known as the Sabah Bird Race.

The Borneo Bird Festival also sees many birding enthusiasts travelling to this part of Malaysia as birds here differ entirely from the Peninsular. The Borneo Bird Festival 2019 saw an exciting turnout from non-locals due to the popularity of avian tourism here. After the pandemic, it took some time to regain momentum, but thanks to the Sabah Tourism Board, the marketing efforts have greatly helped.

As I attend this bird festival yearly, I have seen the numbers grow at a decent rate, attracting not only local birds but also international birders from around the world. The Borneo Bird Festival is one event to attend if you want to tick off those Bornean endemics during the festival.

Sabah Bird Race

  • Date: October
  • Venue: RainforesT discovery Centre (RDC), Sepilok, Sandakan, Sabah

Putrajaya Bird Race 2022 – Postponed to 2023

Putrajaya Bird Race

Putrajaya’s main birding event was organised by NEST and the Putrajaya Corporation. There have been a lot of complications in organising this Putrajaya birding event, and since the COVID-19 pandemic and other matters, the event was put on hold. NEST’s mission is to educate the younger generation and the public, and its main objective is to develop avitourism in Putrajaya and Malaysia.

Again, due to the 15th Malaysia General Elections (GE15) held on 19 November 2022, the last Putrajaya Bird Race was cancelled, and the organisers could not even postpone it because of the GE. There was no news about the following Putrajaya Bird Race 2023, and rumours speculate that the next event should be held in 2024. But who is organising it is still a mystery. Don’t worry; I will update it here once I get more information.

Putrajaya Bird Race

  • Date: TBC
  • Venue: Putrajaya Wetlands, Putrajaya

Panti Bird Race in Johor

This is a new addition to the bird races in Malaysia, where the MNS Johor branch and the Johor Wildlife Department have teamed up to organise the first Panti Bird Race 2024. The birding event will be held at the Panti Bird Sanctuary, towards the northeast part of Johor.

NEST, an NGO from Malaysia, conducted a test Johor bird race in late 2023, where the findings were presented to the wildlife department, and hence, the Panti Bird Race or Johor Bird Race was born.

Panti Bird Race

  • Date: 28, 29 April 2024
  • Venue: Panti Bird Sanctuary, Johor

Perlis Bird Race

One of the unexpected bird races in Malaysia to develop is the Perlis Bird Race, or Wang Kelian Bird Race, which was held in October 2023 and done on a small scale with invited participants only. It was not an open event, but there are talks to organise a proper Perlis Bird Race 2024.

It’s a waiting game to see when the news is out right now. When they announce it, I will update the information about the first Perlis Bird Race here so those who missed the Dusky Owl sighting at Wang Kelian will have another opportunity to do birdwatching in Perlis.

Perlis Bird Race

  • Date: TBC
  • Venue: Wang Kelain, Perlis

Other Bird Races in Malaysia

As I write this article, several other bird races are being planned in Malaysia, and they will most likely happen in 2023. It also depends on who organises the bird races; through experience, if it is fully state-organised, we won’t hear much about it because of the lack of communication from these bodies.

From what I hear or what the little birds are singing, there are plans for;

  • Panti Forest Bird Race or Johor Bird Race (listed here)
  • Penang Bird Race
  • Langkawi Bird Race
  • Melaka Bird Race
  • Terengganu Bird Race
  • Perlis Bird Race (listed here)
  • Kedah Bird Race
  • Miri Bird Race

From what I observe, it also looks like the Nest Society in Malaysia will be one of those charging ahead to capatilise on birding through education around Malaysia, namely working with the forestry and state departments. But they need to communicate with birdwatching media like me.

Why? Because no one else seems to be interested in developing avitourism in Malaysia, it was a matter of time before someone saw the potential in this genre of tourism. As a birdwatching writer for the last 15 years, I have seen how slow avitourism in Malaysia has grown. Sadly, only Sabah has been the forerunner in this, as the private sector developed it at their own expense.

Malaysia Bird Races
Participants during a bird race in Sabah.


The bird races in Malaysia mushroomed just before the Covid 19 pandemic, and after a two-year break, many are now starting up their campaigns and so on. The only problem is that this genre of avitourism has not fully matured in Malaysia, namely the Peninsular.

I would give it another 3 to 5 years before we see more participation from the tourism ministry, tourism boards, forestry departments and even the local councils. Only then will we see the true potential for bird races in Malaysia.

And even I, as a birdwatching writer, have been the only one in the industry that covers all the birdwatching events in Malaysia. Usually, I have to approach the organisers for any info or to do any coverage.

About Bird Watching Asia

Bird Watching Asia is a self-funded project to promote bird watching in Malaysia and around Asia.

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