Bird watching in Bali
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.
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.
photos by Chris O’Connor