For anyone interested in doing some bird watching in Langkawi Island, I have come up with a rough guide on everything you need to know before heading to this beautiful island.
As it is called in Malay, Pulau Langkawi is home to over 230 species of birds. It is one of the best bird watching locations in Malaysia because of the facilities and infrastructure on the island.
If this is your first time planning a trip here, you should know that Langkawi is one of the top tropical islands for a vacation in Malaysia. It is also a duty-free island and home to numerous luxurious resorts.
Bird Watching in Langkawi Island
Langkawi is located in northwestern Malaysia and is part of the Kedah state. The island’s infrastructure is perfect, creating one of the most desirable locations for a holiday for locals and many foreigners.
Because the island’s infrastructure was planned and built well over the last three decades, many tourists look forward to visiting this island because of the beautiful beaches and the landscapes, nature, culture, and food.
The actual number of birds in Langkawi varies as there has yet to be an official count done to date. The last official number of bird species is 230, while some other websites have claimed that Langkawi has 267 bird species documented.
The beauty of bird watching in Langkawi is that you can do it at numerous locations around the island and spotting or photographing birds from the mountains to rainforests to even islands.
You can even do some basic bird watching at your resort grounds or at some of the island’s tourist locations for those who prefer to relax. At the end of the day, there are multiple choices available for all kinds of birders.
What Are the Popular Birds to Spot in Langkawi Island?
From the 230 species of birds in Langkawi Island, some migratory species make their way to the island from October to April. However, the island’s beauty is rich with rainforest and mangroves, which provides many different species to be spotted.
Below is a general breakdown of the bird species of Langkawi;
Hornbills – Three species; Great Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill and Wrteathed Hornbill.
Munia – Four species that include the beautiful White-headed munia.
Woodpeckers – Four species, including the Great Slaty Woodpecker, known to be the largest of the woodpeckers.
Sunbirds – Five species, including the vibrant Crimson Sunbird.
Kingfishers – Eight species that include the endemic Brown-winged Kingfisher.
Birds of Prey – Over 20 species have been spotted all over the island, including the rare Mountain Hawk Eagle.
Do note that there is also a spillover of birds from the Southern islands of Thailand, namely from the Tarutao National Park. These birds include the European Oriole, Jerdon’s Baza, and the Plain-backed Sparrow.
What are the Endemic Birds of Langkawi Island?
Because the island is well spaces in terms of bird species, there are some specialised locations where you can easily spot some of the endemics here. Among the most popular endemic bird if Langkawi is the Brown-winged Kingfisher, which is easily seen at the northeastern mangroves.
Another is the unique Mountain Hawk Eagle, which makes its home at Gunung Raya. If you go there on your own, you will probably never encounter it, but if you hire a good guide, he or she may know where it is often spotted.
Where are the Best Places to See Birds in Langkawi?
Because of the multiple types of terrains and landscapes all over Langkawi, there are, of course, different places where you will spot different types of birds. Therefore, below is a breakdown of places to spot the different birds.
Mangroves Birds in Langkawi
The mangroves are one of the most popular locations for visitors to Langkawi. They also provide an amazing ecosystem for birds, including the endemic Brown-winged Kingfisher, Collared Kingfishers Egrets, Sandpipers, Bhraminy Kites, White-bellied Sea Eagles even Herons.
Notable Locations for mangrove birds are Kilim Geoforest Park, Tanjun Rhu Geosite and the new Kubang Badak BioGeo Trail Mangrove.
Rainforest Birds in Langkawi
Home to rainforests over ten million years old, you can be assured of healthy flora and fauna in Langkawi. Birds thrive all year through, and in the various rainforests here, you can easily spot Bulbuls, flower Peckers, Sunbirds, Dollarbirds, Woodpeckers, Babblers, Pigeons and many more.
Some of the recommended places to see rainforest birds are Darulaman Sanctuary, Datai Bay, Gunung Raya foothills, Gunung Matcincang foothills. And I also hear that Bukit Malut dam is also one of the new places.
Mountain Birds in Langkawi
There are only two mountains in Langkawi. Gunung Machinchang and Gunung Raya, where you can see some of the islands mountain birds like the very rare Mountain Hawk Eagle, Large Green Pigeons, Greater-flameback Woodpecker, Wreathed Hornbill and many others.
For Gunung Machinchang, you can go on your own and spot the birds by walking some of the mountain trails and for Gunung Raya, you can also go on your own by self-driving. A bird guide will know where the exact locations to spot some of the mountain birds.
Paddy Field Birds in Langkawi
Paddy fields are a common sight all over the island, especially in the inner areas. It is here where you can spot water birds such as Plovers, Egrets, Bitterns, Sandpipers, White-throated Kingfishers, Lapwings, Pond Herons, Spotted Doves, Munias, Plain-backed Sparrows.
Padang Matsirat and Ulu Melaka are popular areas to spot paddy field birds. Other paddy field areas include Padang Wahid, Makam Mashuri and along Jalan Teluk Yu.
Scrubland and Mudflats Birds in Langkawi
When the tide recedes at some of the beaches or mudflats around Langkawi Island, you can notice many types of waterbirds be spotted. They include the common Sand Pipers, Arctic Warblers, Pacific Golden Plovers, Sand Martins.
Scrubland forests are places where you can spot birds like the unique Chestnut-breasted Malkohas, the rare Blue-winged Pitta and Black-hooded Orioles.
Shorebirds, Waterbirds, Wetland and Pond Birds in Langkawi
You will need to go down to a village area, and you will find many different types of birds near the pond area. You can spot birds like Moorhens, Little Grebes, Pond Herons, Egrets, Little Herons, Swallows etc.
Best Time to Visit Langkawi for Bird Watching
This is probably the most important questions as you do not want to go there and find out that the timing is off. Therefore, you can plan your trip to Langkawi anywhere from October to May as these are the recommended months.
However, because Langkawi is on the west coast of Malaysia, the island is not affected by the monsoon season, so any time of the year is considered ok to visit for bird watching.
Take note that there is a rainy season in Langkawi from September to November and occasional showers from April to August. During these months, it is advisable to bring a poncho or raincoat when you go birding here.
Please DO NOT Support Eagle Feeding Tours or Eagle Spotting Tours
This has to be highlighted because, over the years, tourism has made eagle feeding or spotting one of the main attractions at the Kilim Geoforest Park in Langkawi. The practice has been condemned by many naturalists and NGOs, including birders and bird watchers.
The Langkawi Eagle Feeding tours see local guides bring tourists by the boatloads to a spot along the mangrove rivers and throw chicken innards into the waters. They then start revving their boat engines to call the eagles, which are only two species – The Bhraminy Kite and White-bellied Sea Eagle.
The eagles then come by the dozens and swoop down to catch the floating chicken innards, which in return becomes a circus show for the unsuspecting tourists, who are excitedly taking photos and videos of this bad tourist practice.
Tourism Langkawi (LADA) and other relevant governmental bodies have been informed of this bad practice for over a decade. Yet, nothing has been done to stop this because it is an attraction that provides the local guides and boatmen with tourism income.
Many ethical nature guides and nature tour companies in Langkawi do not promote this tour in their services. Therefore if you book a proper nature or bird watching tour, you will not experience the eagle feeding tours.
How to Go to Langkawi Island?
From Kuala Lumpur, there are numerous flights to Langkawi via multiple airlines and AirAsia or Firefly Airlines being the ones with the most frequencies. Malaysia Airlines has direct flights but with much less frequencies to the island.
From Petaling Jaya, you can take FireFly Airlines turboprop planes from Subang SkyPark Airport, which is only a 40-minute flight and with less travel time. You can also get direct flights from other major cities around Malaysia, but please check if there are flights because sometimes it could be only one or two flights a day.
From Kedah or Penang, there are ferry services to Langkawi Island and even one where you can bring your car along.
At the end of the day, the information shared here is mostly personal as I have been bird watching in Langkawi for a few years now. I also love to stay at the Tanjung Rhu Resort because of the seclusion from the main tourist areas and the vast mangrove land around the resort.
Apart from Tanjung Rhu, there are many other areas to stay at, and accommodations on the island range from homestays to budget hotels to luxury resorts, so you have choices when you come here.
I also hope you found this article on bird watching in Langkawi Island helpful, and if you have questions, please do ask me in the comment form. Happy birding, and always remember to be ethical and safe out there.