With over 800 species recorded to date and new species being added to the country list regularly, Laos is one of the most exciting and least known birding locations in the world. In recent years as the country has embraced ecotourism, opportunities are expanding rapidly for visitors to see a variety of beautiful and rare species as well as to contribute to the country's growing ornithological knowledge.
The Northern Highlands of the country hold numerous species associated with Northern Thailand and the North Eastern Himalayas. A huge diversity of babblers species such as Blyth's Kingfisher, the Rufous-necked Hornbill, Beautiful Nuthatch, Short-tailed Parrotbill and Yellow-vented Warbler can be found in the forests of the north.
The Mekong Plain supports areas of dry deciduous forest inhabited by Rufous-winged Buzzards, Black-headed Woodpeckers and Small Minivets. Ban Sivilai is a community owned and operated bird conservation zone in this area.
The Mekong itself provides an important flyway for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl as well as localized sandbank species such as Small Pratincole, River Lapwing, Great Thick-knee and River Tern. The southern portion of the Mekong Plain along the Cambodian border is home to the incredibly rare White-shouldered and Giant Ibis as well as small populations of White-rumped and Red-headed Vultures, Lesser Adjutants, Sarus Cranes and White-winged Ducks. The most exciting discovery in the area in recent years has been the description of a new species to science, the Mekong Wagtail. This species was found, within the past decade, to live on sandbanks in the Mekong and a few of its tributaries in southern Laos and Cambodia .
Perhaps the most exciting area for birding in the country is along the Annamite Range that marks the border with Vietnam. In recent years many species once thought to be found only in Vietnam have been discovered in Laos. Species such as the Short-tailed Scimitar Babbler, Yellow-billed Nuthatch and the recently described Black-crowned Barwing are all readily found. Slightly more widespread species include White-winged and Indochinese Green Magpies as well as the shy and difficult to see Crested Argus and the Blue-naped Pitta.
Another area worthy of mention is the impressive strip of limestone karst that divides the Mekong Plain from the Annamite Range in central Laos. This beautiful landscape is home to the enigmatic Sooty Babbler. Despite being locally common this species went unseen for decades until birders returned to the region in the 1990's.
Laos' diverse and poorly known avifauna is ripe for exploration and is sure to provide many more surprises in the years to come.
Ban Sivilay (“Nong Nok”)