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  • Where to watch BIRDS and

  • other wildlife in the world
  • Photograph of Schneider's Pitta

    An amazing image of a female Schneider's Pitta, once one of the hardest birds to see on Earth, taken by Lars Petersson at Gunung Kerinci in April 2019.

  • Where to watch birds and wildlife in

    Photograph of Sumatran Cochoa

    One endemic which is not a forest-floor skulker is the Sumatran Cochoa, here captured by Mark Harper at Gunung Kerinci.

    Best Birds and other wildlife in Sumatra


    Endemics 42
    Mainland 30
    Tan-breasted (Roll’s) Partridge, Sumatran Partridge, Red-billed Partridge, Bronze-tailed Peacock-pheasant, Salvadori’s Pheasant, Short-tailed (Sumatran) Frogmouth, Sumatran Ground-cuckoo, Sumatran Trogon, Sumatran (Black-naped) Woodpecker, Graceful Pitta, Schneider’s Pitta, Sumatran Drongo, Sumatran Treepie, Crimson-striped Bulbul, Sumatran (Sunda) Bulbul, Spot-necked Bulbul, Aceh (Orange-spotted) Bulbul, Sumatran (Sunda) Warbler, Sumatran Babbler, Rusty-breasted Wren-babbler, Sumatran Wren-babbler, Sumatran Laughingthrush, Sumatran Mesia, Sumatran Cochoa, Sumatran Shortwing, Shiny Whistling-thrush, Sumatran Whistling-thrush, Sumatran Leafbird, Blue-masked Leafbird and Sumatran Flowerpecker.

    (There have been no recent records of Ruck’s Blue (Jungle)-flycatcher known only from four specimens, two of which were collected near Medan in 1917-1918)

    Offshore islands 12

    Widespread off west coast 2
    Silvery Pigeon and Barusan Cuckoo-dove.

    Simeulue Islands 2 (accessible from Medan)
    Simeulue Scops-owl and Simeulue (Blue-rumped) Parrot.

    Nias Islands 1 (accessible from Medan)
    Nias Hill Myna (Nias and Banyak).

    Mentawai Islands 2 (accessible from Padang)
    Mentawai Malkoha and Mentawai Scops-owl.

    Enggano Islands 5 (accessible from Bengkulu)
    Enggano Imperial-pigeon, Enggano Cuckoo-dove, Enggano Scops-owl, Enggano (Chestnut-capped) Thrush and Enggano Hill Myna.


    Sumatra and Borneo 10
    Bonaparte’s Nightjar, Sunda (Collared) Owlet, Rajah Scops-owl, Hook-billed Bulbul, Blue-wattled Bulbul, Black-capped White-eye, Sunda Laughingthrush, Rufous-vented (Indigo) Flycatcher, Large-billed (Sunda) Blue-flycatcher and Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker (Kalimantan in Borneo).

    Sumatra, Borneo and Java 1
    Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker.

    Sumatra, Borneo, Java and Sulawesi 1
    Black-backed Swamphen.

    Sumatra and Java 6
    Sumatran (Green-spectacled) Green-pigeon, Salvadori’s Nightjar, Javan Woodcock, Sunda Minivet, Sunda Blue Robin and Sunda Forktail.

    Sumatra, Java and Bali 5
    Pink-headed Fruit-dove, Bar-winged Prinia, Ruby-throated Bulbul, Orange-spotted Bulbul and Sangkar White-eye.

    Sumatra, Java, Bali and Lombok (Lesser Sundas) 2
    Cave Swiftlet and Javan Munia.

    Sumatra, Java and Lesser Sundas (including Timor) 2
    Javan Plover and Cerulean (Small Blue) Kingfisher.

    Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi 1
    Mountain Serin.

    Sumatra, Java and Malay Peninsula 1
    Waterfall Swift.

    Sumatra, Borneo and Malay Peninsula 1
    Grey-breasted Babbler.

    Sumatra and Malay Peninsula 6
    Chestnut-necklaced Partridge, Malay Crestless Fireback, Black-browed Barbet, Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush, Black Laughingthrush and Rufous-vented Niltava.

    Sumatra, Malay Peninsula and Thailand 4
    Fire-tufted Barbet, Malay Banded Pitta, Cinereous Bulbul and Marbled Wren-babbler.

    Sumatra, Malay Peninsula, Thailand and Myanmar 4
    Malay Crested Fireback, Malay Brown Barbet, Malay Black Magpie and Buff-vented Bulbul.

    Other specialities
    Great Argus, White-winged Duck, Cinnamon-headed Green-pigeon, Blyth's, Gould's, Large and Sunda Frogmouths, Helmeted Hornbill, Malay Honeyguide, Fiery Minivet, Blue Nuthatch and Temminck's Sunbird.

    Red Junglefowl, Ferruginous Partridge, Oriental Darter, Brahminy Kite, Grey-headed Fish-eagle, Black and Rufous-bellied Eagles, Black-thighed Falconet, Blue-crowned Hanging-parrot, malkohas, Oriental Bay-owl, Reddish Scops-owl, Barred Eagle-owl, Malay Eared-nightjar, Grey-rumped and Whiskered Treeswifts, Diard's, Red-headed, Red-naped and Scarlet-rumped Trogons, Banded, Malay Blue-banded and Rufous-collared Kingfishers, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Rhinoceros, White-crowned and other hornbills, woodpeckers, Black-and-red, Black-and-yellow, Green and Long-tailed Broadbills, Green Iora, bulbuls, Greater Racquet-tailed and Lesser Racquet-tailed Drongos, Black-and-crimson Oriole, Common Green Magpie, Crested Jay, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, babblers, Chestnut-backed Scimitar-babbler, Long-tailed Sibia, White-rumped Shama, tailorbirds, flycatchers, fantails, Asian Paradise-flycatcher, Asian Fairy-bluebird, spiderhunters and flowerpeckers. Also a chance of Storm's Stork and Rail-babbler.

    (Sumatran) Orang-utan, Siamang, White-handed (Agile) Gibbon, Mitred (Banded) (Sumatran Surili), Silvered and Thomas's Leaf Monkeys (Langurs), Long-tailed (Crab-eating) and (Sunda) Pig-tailed Macaques, (Sunda) Slow Loris, Colugo (Sunda Flying Lemur), Pale Giant Squirrel, Red Giant Flying Squirrel, Black and Cream-coloured Giant Squirrels, Prevost's Squirrel, tree shrews including Pen-tailed, Sambar, and Greater and Lesser Mouse Deer. Also a chance of Leopard and Marbled Cats, civets including Otter Civet, and an outside chance of (Sunda) Clouded Leopard, (Asian) Golden Cat, Asian Tapir, Sun Bear, Malayan Porcupine and Sumatran Striped Rabbit.

    Mentawai Islands Endemics (accessible from Padang)
    Mentawai (Kloss) Gibbon, Mentawai and Pig-tailed Langurs, and Mentawai and Siberut Macaques.

    Other Natural Wonders of Sumatra

    Krakatoa This volcano is famous for one of the most massive eruptions known to man, an explosion which appears to have been heard as far as about 5000 km (3000 miles) away, on the island of Rodrigues near Mauritius, and about 3000 km (2000 miles) away in Perth, Western Australia! It occurred in 1883 and destroyed two-thirds of the island. Eruptions since have built a new island in the same location, already over 300 metres (1000 ft) high.

    Lake Toba This is the largest lake in Indonesia and the largest volcanic lake in the world. It is about 100 kilometres (60 miles) long and 30 kilometres (20 miles) wide, and up to 505 metres (1666 ft) deep, and the result of a supervolcanic eruption that occurred 70,000–80,000 years ago, and which is believed to have been the largest eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years.

    Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in Sumatra

    Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in Sumatra

    May to September is normally the driest time of the year and July to September is the peak month to visit in search of most birds. Pittas are of course a different matter and February-March and July are arguably the best times for them.

    Recommended Bird Books etc. for Sumatra

    Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago by J Eaton et al. Lynx Edicions, 2021 (Second Edition).

    A Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali by J MacKinnon. OUP, 1993.

    A Field Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore by A Jeyarajasingam. OUP, 2012. (Second Edition).

    Birds of South-East Asia by C Robson. Helm, 2018. (Second Edition)

    Birds of South-East Asia Concise Edition by C Robson. Helm, 2015.

    A Field Guide to the Mammals of South-East Asia by C M Francis. New Holland Publishers, 2008.

    A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia by I Das. Bloomsbury, 2015.

    Birding Indonesia edited by P Jepson and R Ounsted. Periplus Editions, 1997.

    Where to watch birds in Asia by N Wheatley. Helm, 1996.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Asia? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for Sumatra

    Many trip reports, some for Sumatra, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Sumatra. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Sumatra' below.

    Local bird and wildlife guides in Indonesia

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation for birders in Sumatra

    Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to Sumatra

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Sumatra include the following.