Bird watching in Bali

by Chris O’Connor on 2013-10-12

The Bali Starling at the Bali Bird Park: This fantastic starling is critically endangered. It has an extremely small range and a tiny population that has suffered from illegal poaching for the bird trade. The small wild population is maintained by captive release programs.The Bali Starling at the Bali Bird Park: This fantastic starling is critically endangered. It has an extremely small range and a tiny population that has suffered from illegal poaching for the bird trade. The small wild population is maintained by captive release programs.

Bali has some wonderful native and non-native birds all year around, and it always surprises that more bird watchers don’t take advantage of this fact.

The island has a number of superb raptors, herons, waterfowl, kingfishers, jungle and woodland birds, as well as a huge number of finch-like birds, pipers and waders; in fact, 168 distinct species are recognized. And despite urbanization and a strong trade in birds, many can be easily seen frequenting hotel gardens, the paddy fields and along the coast.

Travelling north, the lakes Danau Batur, Danau Tamblingan, Danau Buyan and Danau Beratan all have an excellent variety and abundance of birds, especially waterfowl. Bird spotting walks are not uncommon around Ubud and there are local guides who specialize in this wonderful nature trek.

For most tourists, it takes more time and effort, but a visit to the West Bali National Park at the northwest tip of the island can pay real dividends. There are several established walking trails and many excellent local guides who can more or less ensure a trip is rewarding.

Despite the great returns Bali offers, many bird watchers would not be totally happy unless they had spotted the island’s most endearing feathered inhabitant and one of the rarest birds on earth,the Leucopsar Rothschildi, or as it is more commonly known, the Bali Starling.

A Great Egret at low tide off Sanur: The elegant Great Egret is a dazzling sight in the mangroves, but is common in the rice fields and shallow seas. They hunt in classic heron fashion, wading through shallow water and mud to capture fish with their deadly spear-like yellow bill.A Great Egret at low tide off Sanur: The elegant Great Egret is a dazzling sight in the mangroves, but is common in the rice fields and shallow seas. They hunt in classic heron fashion, wading through shallow water and mud to capture fish with their deadly spear-like yellow bill.
At about 25-centimeters, this medium-large and quite stocky starling is almost totally white with a long, drooping white crest and black tips to the wings and tail. Perhaps its most striking feature is its dark eyes surrounded by naked blue skin. It is a feature of much Balinese art, but sadly is not a feature of its landscape.

It is critically endangered and the small wild population has only been maintained by the release of captive-bred birds. However, signs from the reintroduced colony on Nusa Penida and in West Bali National Park are hopeful, with reports of both populations breeding and increasing. The success of these programs is critical to the future, but numbers are still so small that spotting one is still extremely tough.

For those constrained by time, Bali Bird Park offers the best opportunity to see these and many other rare indigenous birds. There are several small aviaries with pairs of starlings, but the show piece is a vast walk through Bali Birds section where many indigenous birds live and breed in a fairly natural open jungle setting, including at least a dozen starlings.

The park offers a good range of birds from all over the world, but surely the Bali Starling steals the show and their breeding program is one of the most important conservation efforts on the planet.

The Olive Backed Sunbird: Commonly seen all through urban and rural Bali, this beautiful little bird was originally a mangrove dweller but has adapted well to humans, and is now common even in fairly densely populated areas wherever nectar and small insects can be found.The Olive Backed Sunbird: Commonly seen all through urban and rural Bali, this beautiful little bird was originally a mangrove dweller but has adapted well to humans, and is now common even in fairly densely populated areas wherever nectar and small insects can be found.

A lesser adjutant hunting: Once widespread, this odd looking large stork with its distinctive bone head and bald neck is today listed as vulnerable mainly as the result of hunting pressure and habitat loss.A lesser adjutant hunting: Once widespread, this odd looking large stork with its distinctive bone head and bald neck is today listed as vulnerable mainly as the result of hunting pressure and habitat loss.

Nervous or impressed?: This subspecies of the very large and aggressive Crested Serpent Eagle is unique to the island of Borneo, where its main food is ground and tree snakes. Its call is loud and very piercing, seen here at the Bali Bird Park prior to the raptor display.Nervous or impressed?: This subspecies of the very large and aggressive Crested Serpent Eagle is unique to the island of Borneo, where its main food is ground and tree snakes. Its call is loud and very piercing, seen here at the Bali Bird Park prior to the raptor display.

The adaptable Javan Pond Heron: Although the population is relatively small, this gorgeous little heron is widespread and has learned to take advantage of human encroachment. A regular at hotels or golf courses or where water is present, such as rice fields. Seen here at the Grand Hyatt in Nusa Dua checking out the ornamental ponds.The adaptable Javan Pond Heron: Although the population is relatively small, this gorgeous little heron is widespread and has learned to take advantage of human encroachment. A regular at hotels or golf courses or where water is present, such as rice fields. Seen here at the Grand Hyatt in Nusa Dua checking out the ornamental ponds.
photos by Chris O’Connor

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