A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Borneo II 2023

June 20-July 7, 2023 with Megan Edwards Crewe, Jonathan, Ali, and Adrian guiding

On most tours, we only hear the Great Argus. Actually seeing one making that evocative call was a real treat! Video by participant John Rounds.

The island of Borneo has long been a magnet for those interested in natural history. Cloaked in magnificently tall Dipterocarp forests (which are now being nibbled away by ever-increasing palm plantations), it teems with life: an awe-inspiring blend of regional and island endemics and more widespread Asian species. In addition to some of the world's tallest trees, it boasts a bewildering variety of plants (more than 6000 species on Mount Kinabalu alone), and "flying" representatives of everything from squirrels and lizards to snakes and centipedes. Though we faced some challenges this year -- including very uncooperative Bornean Bristleheads, the unfortunately still-closed swiftlet caves, a runaway golf cart and far too much rain -- we still managed to intersect with a fine variety of the island's flora and fauna.

We started with a morning at Sepilok's Rainforest Discovery Centre, where our early discovery of a mama Orangutan and her frolicking youngster got things off to a good start. After several productive hours, we continued on to the famed Danum Valley, where the virgin, uncut forest held a multitude of treasures. Top among these had to be the male Great Argus we found resting near his display ground; while he wasn't dancing, his ear-splitting calls were certainly impressive -- as was his lengthy "train". A Bornean Crested Fireback quick-stepped across the road (and later snoozed above it), Black-bellied Malkohas bounced along branches, and a snow globe's worth of Whiskered Treeswifts swirled around our vehicles in a gorgeous "bird blizzard". Yellow-breasted and Yellow-rumped flowerpeckers investigated roadside blossoms. Rhinoceros Hornbills gobbled figs and Wreathed Hornbills flapped past in a flurry of noisy wings. A Black-crowned Pitta hopped across a quiet track in the company of a confiding Chestnut-naped Forktail. A plethora of woodpeckers -- Orange-backed, Rufous, Buff-necked, Buff-rumped, Olive-backed and Crimson-winged, as well as Rufous Piculet -- hitched their way up tree trunks and bewildering array of babblers and bulbuls twitched through roadside bushes. Our night outings brought us a goggle-eyed young Horsfield's Tarsier, Red Giant Flying Squirrels, Malay and Common Palm civets, Sambar and a roadside Sunda Frogmouth, as well as some truly huge tree frogs.

At Sukau, we traded golf carts and feet for a boat with a quiet electric motor, which allowed us to glide almost noiselessly along the swollen waters of the Kinabatangan and its tributaries. While the darn bristlehead continued to elude us, we did have fine encounters with many other specialties. Storm's Storks circled against blue, blue skies or posed elegantly in leafless trees near the river. A Straw-headed Bulbul (rare now, no thanks to the caged bird trade) poured its melodious song into the morning from a riverside perch. A trio of Great Slaty Woodpeckers shouted wing-flapping challenges. White-chested Babblers danced along tree roots while sapphire-hued Malaysian Blue-Flycatchers winked among the branches over their heads. A Large Frogmouth called from a hidden perch -- which took a surprisingly long time to find -- in tall trees near the lodge's staff quarters. A pair of White-crowned Hornbills, looking for all the world like a couple of "glam rockers", posed in some scruffy riverside trees. A Sunda Scops-Owl peered wide-eyed from a rapid succession of perches. A hunting Bat Hawk made multiple passes right above our boat as dusk descended over a quiet stream. Troops of Proboscis Monkeys solemnly watched our passage, their long, white tails dangling, while noisier gangs of Long-tailed Macaques groomed each other, gobbled hyacinth bulbs or bounded through vegetation along the river. And who will soon forget that Bornean Pygmy Elephant ripping up an entire palm tree to get to that oh-so-desired palm heart?!

We also ventured to the nearby Gomantong Caves area for a couple of visits. While the caves themselves were still sadly off-limits (due to the refurbishment of its wooden boardwalk taking far longer than planned), we were given permission to bird along the closed entrance road, where we tallied some nice additions, including a perched Blyth's Hawk-Eagle (rare this low down, though known to nest along the road), showy Black-throated and Rufous-crowned babblers, and our only Gray-chested Jungle Flycatcher. And the mass exodus of millions of Wrinkle-lipped Free-tailed Bats, skywriting their way across the sky as dusk fell, was pretty impressive too -- as was the prowess of several successfully hunting Bat Hawks.

Then it was off to the cool, misty highlands of Mount Kinabalu National Park, where most of the island's endemics are found. In the Crocker Range (on the way to the park), we found a number of new species, including a pair of Mountain Barbets ferrying mouthfuls to a nest, a gang of Bornean Leafbirds and the tour's only Golden-bellied Gerygone, Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike, Scaly-breasted Munia, and Bornean and Cinereous bulbuls. At the park's Timpohon Gate, where all but the summit's climbers have to turn back, we had a multitude of great sightings. A couple of just-fledged Fruithunters begged insistently as their harried parents brought mouthfuls. A Bornean Whistling-Thrush fluted from a mossy perch. Mountain Black-eyes and Flavescent Bulbuls gobbled berries while a Bornean Black-banded Squirrel tried to coax us into providing handouts. Confiding Aberrant Bush-Warblers twitched through roadside vegetation. Bornean Treepies, Sunda and Chestnut-hooded laughingthrushes and Bornean Green-Magpies cartwheeled noisily past. Everett's Thrushes and Eyebrowed Jungle-Flycatchers hunted along the park road's leaf-strewn edges. Lower down, we found a handsome pair of Whitehead's Trogons, surely among the family's prettiest, prospecting for nest holes. A Whitehead's Broadbill moved through the canopy, a gleaming emerald among the leaves. Temminck's Sunbirds dazzled on treetop perches.

Thanks so much to all of you for joining me for the adventure. It was good fun sharing two weeks with you, despite the various mishaps. Thanks too for coping with the various hiccups and for sharing your knowledge of mammals and herps and cameras and thermal scopes; it all helped to add flavor to our outings. I hope to see you all in the field again somewhere, someday. Meanwhile, good birding!


One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

WANDERING WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna arcuata)

Small numbers along the very swollen river at the Telipok bridge on our final rainy afternoon, paddling upstream against the current or flying past overhead.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The uncut primeval forest of Danum Valley is the focus of our time at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge -- a haven of luxury along the Danum River. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

RED-BREASTED PARTRIDGE (Arborophila hyperythra) [E]

The briefest of views for some of a trio that tried several times to cross the Kinabalu park road on a rainy afternoon, chickening out and retreating back upslope two or three times before finally disappearing for good.

BORNEAN CRESTED FIREBACK (Lophura ignita nobilis)

Our first were a pair sprinting out of a field near the first pit stop on our drive in to BRL, and a second quick-stepped across the entrance road on our first morning's walk there. But our best views came on our first BRL night drive, when we found one perched right over the road.

GREAT ARGUS (Argusianus argus)

WOW!! We often hear this huge pheasant, but only rarely see it. This year, we definitely saw it! Ali led us down to a known display ground at BRL, and we found a male preening quietly on a nearby log. After a few minutes, he started calling loudly, and then walked out to his (open) display ground and called again -- incredibly loudly. Unfortunately, there was no female nearby, so we didn't get to see him dance, but he was pretty darned impressive none-the-less. And to top it off, we found a female perched in an eye-level tree (though she was well off the ground down the hill) from the start of the canopy walkway later in the day.

SABAH PARTRIDGE (Tropicoperdix graydoni) [E]

After hearing many calling in the forests around BRL, we finally connected with one along the Menanggul on our first morning there -- great spotting, Brian! It was calling from the ground only 15 feet or so from our boat, but so still (other than that vibrating white throat) that some had real trouble finding it until it finally moved away -- and even then some folks never spotted it! Needless to say, they're well camouflaged...

CRIMSON-HEADED PARTRIDGE (Haematortyx sanguiniceps) [E*]

We heard the rollicking songs of this highland species daily in Kinabalu park, but never laid eyes on any of the (many) singers.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

LITTLE GREBE (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

A couple of birds actively hunted on a little roadside pond amidst the vast palm plantation we drove through on the way to the Gomantong Caves road. These birds (a rare species in Borneo) first showed up at the pond in 2018 and have been there ever since.

Field Guides Birding Tours
There are definite advantages to birding on lightly traveled roads! With the Gomantong Caves sadly STILL out of reach (due to a refurbishment of the cave's dilapidated boardwalk taking far longer than projected), we had to get special permission to walk the road. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Abundant around cities and towns, particularly Kota Kinabalu.

SPOTTED DOVE (Spilopelia chinensis)

Especially nice looks at one -- with a rather messy bill -- on a wire across the road from the Sepilok Nature Resort on the first evening of the tour, with plenty of others seen on other wires along various lowland roadways.

LITTLE CUCKOO-DOVE (Macropygia ruficeps)

Lovely views of several birds in and around Kinabalu park, including one in a fruiting tree near "Fruithunter corner" that allowed us see its colorful plumage in the scope.

ASIAN EMERALD DOVE (Chalcophaps indica)

One flew in and landed on the grassy slope next to the parking lot at the Rainforest Discovery Centre, trundled across to the edge, then dropped down into the lot itself, giving us some great views.

ZEBRA DOVE (Geopelia striata) [I]

A few of these little doves around the BRL office in Lahad Datu, seen while we waited for our SUVs to arrive, and another very close bird investigating the pavement at a little park near our Kota Kinabalu hotel. We saw others on wires along the roads on some of our transfer days.


Dozens and dozens swarmed through a fruiting fig tree on the grounds of the Sepilok Nature Resort, letting us study them from just about every conceivable angle. We saw others perched up in a dead tree near the entrance to the Rainforest Discovery Centre, along the Kinabatangan and its tributaries, and atop fruiting trees on the hill behind our KK hotel.

THICK-BILLED GREEN-PIGEON (Treron curvirostra)

Two sat at the top of a dead snag along the BRL entrance road, showing us first their fronts, then their backs before being chased off by an arriving Green Imperial-Pigeon.


Regular in small numbers in the lowlands, mostly in flight. We did see two perched in a snag along the BRL entrance road on our second morning there and others perched up in dead trees along the Kinabatangan and its tributaries.

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Eight species of hornbill are found on the island. Participant Eileen Keelan snapped this picture of the smallest -- a Bushy-crested Hornbill. This one's a male; a female would have a largely pale bill and less of a throat patch.


Regular in small numbers in the highlands, including some near the Tambunan Rafflesia Centre and others in fruiting trees along the Kinabalu park road.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

BORNEAN GROUND-CUCKOO (Carpococcyx radiceus) [E*]

We heard one calling repeatedly from the distance in the forest along the Sukau River, but couldn't entice it any closer.

SHORT-TOED COUCAL (Centropus rectunguis) [*]

Ali pointed out the song of one calling in the forest along the BRL entrance road one morning.

GREATER COUCAL (Centropus sinensis)

After hearing their deep hooting calls at spots around BRL and along the Gomantong Caves road, we finally connected with one singing from the top of a viny tangle along the Kinabatangan one afternoon -- head down and throat pumping with its effort.

RAFFLES'S MALKOHA (Rhinortha chlorophaea) [N]

Regular in the lowlands, with particularly nice views of a group of four working through some tall trees over the Pitta trail at the Rainforest Discovery Centre our first morning, and one with a nest along the BRL entrance road. Like the rest of the tour's malkohas, this is a Sundaland specialty.

RED-BILLED MALKOHA (Zanclostomus javanicus)

At least three rummaged through some of the taller trees along the BRL entrance road one morning, periodically posing where we could get them -- and their distinctively colored bills -- in the scopes.

CHESTNUT-BREASTED MALKOHA (Phaenicophaeus curvirostris)

Best seen along the Danum Valley entrance road, typically in close proximity to other malkoha species. This Sundaland specialty is the largest of the tour's malkohas.

BLACK-BELLIED MALKOHA (Phaenicophaeus diardi)

Three bounced through several of the tall, emergent trees along the BRL entrance road, showing their black bellies as they went. This is probably the least common of the tour's malkohas.

VIOLET CUCKOO (Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus)

We heard the distinctive "pee-wit" calls of this handsome species doing its display flights from the very first day of the tour, but it took to the penultimate day to finally lay eyes on anything more than a dot bounding past in the sky. In the end we found two, which took turns perching in trees above the steaming pools at Poring Springs, where we could study them in the scope. Definitely a stunner!

Field Guides Birding Tours
Storm's Stork is probably the rarest bird we saw on the tour. There are estimated to be fewer than 500 left in the world, with about 150 in Malaysia. The Kinabatangan River system is its island stronghold. Photo by participant John Rounds.

PLAINTIVE CUCKOO (Cacomantis merulinus)

Regular in the lowlands, though far more often heard than seen. Our best views came off the BRL dining deck, when we spotted a couple of singing birds perched up in treetops along the river.

SQUARE-TAILED DRONGO-CUCKOO (Surniculus lugubris) [*]

We heard the distinctive rising song of this species -- which can be transliterated as "I'm a drongo-cuckoo" -- regularly in the lowlands, but the birds were never close enough to see.

MOUSTACHED HAWK-CUCKOO (Hierococcyx vagans)

One called (and called and called) from a wooded hillside along the BRL entrance road, then zoomed back and forth across the road a few times. Unfortunately, it always dove into the deepest, darkest patch of vegetation once it got across, so we never really got much of a look -- other than to admire how accipiter-like its flight profile looked, that is.

SUNDA CUCKOO (Cuculus lepidus)

A singing bird along the Kinabalu park road sat nicely not far overhead, giving us the chance to study it in the scope -- great spotting, Eileen! We saw what was probably the same bird in flight over the Hill Lodge parking lot several times on our last morning in the park.

Podargidae (Frogmouths)

LARGE FROGMOUTH (Batrachostomus auritus)

It took some patience -- and an unfortunately close encounter with a fire ant colony for a few -- but we all eventually got great views of one of these hard-to-see nightbirds near the Sukau staff quarters. We also got to hear it, repeatedly, as it called from its perch in the forest.

SUNDA FROGMOUTH (Batrachostomus cornutus)

Ali spotted one perched in a roadside tree on our last night drive at BRL, right before "the incident" with the electric cart. In the aftermath, the walking wounded somehow managed to get good looks anyway!

Apodidae (Swifts)

SILVER-RUMPED NEEDLETAIL (Rhaphidura leucopygialis)

Small numbers in the early part of the tour, with especially nice views of those skimming low over the pond at the Sepilok Nature Resort. This species is often found near water.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Of course, it's not just birds that Borneo is famous for -- it has a host of special mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates as well. Participant Terry Harrison captured this portrait of a pensive female Proboscis Monkey, one of the island's endangered endemics.

BORNEAN SWIFTLET (Collocalia dodgei) [E]

Daily in the highest parts of Kinabalu park that we were able to reach, right around the Timpohon Gate. This swiftlet differs from Plume-toed by the green (rather than bluish) gloss to its plumage (an unreliable feature, like the gloss on the heads of Greater & Lesser Scaup) and by the absence of a feather tuft on its hind toe, a feature seen only in the hand. Thanks to bird research teams working at Kinabalu (who've been catching and banding the swiftlets there) we now know that the birds nesting around the gate are all Bornean Swiftlets.

PLUME-TOED SWIFTLET (Collocalia affinis cyanoptila)

Easily the most common swift of the trip, seen daily, often in good numbers. We had especially nice views of the boiling mass of them in the breeding cave along the Kinabatangan, where some still-fuzzy chicks were nearly bursting out of one nest.

WHITE-NEST SWIFTLET (Aerodramus fuciphagus)

Two chasing each other low over the Sukau dock were making the distinctive chipping calls of this species. Undoubtedly we saw Mossy-nest and Black-nest swiftlets too among the many thousands of Aerodramus swifts we saw during our tour, but without their nests to verify which is which, they're nearly impossible to tell apart.

GERMAIN'S SWIFTLET (Aerodramus germani)

One of the Aerodramus swifts in a mixed flock over the Menanggul -- noticeably paler underneath with a distinctly pale rump -- appeared to be this species.

HOUSE SWIFT (Apus nipalensis)

Scarce this year, with only a handful over the steaming pools at Poring Springs during one of the showers.

ASIAN PALM SWIFT (Cypsiurus balasiensis)

One with a handful of swifts along the BRL entrance road one morning, first spotted by Brian.

Hemiprocnidae (Treeswifts)

GRAY-RUMPED TREESWIFT (Hemiprocne longipennis)

A handful, looking large compared to the omnipresent swiftlets, glided back and forth over the lake near the entrance of the Rainforest Discovery Centre our first morning.

Flycatchers in Borneo are rather more colorful than those found in the Americas! The Indigo Flycatcher is a common species in the highlands of Sabah. Video by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

WHISKERED TREESWIFT (Hemiprocne comata)

Fabulous views of a small flock all around our vehicles on the drive in to BRL. At some points, various individuals were perched within feet of some of us. What a gorgeous bird!

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

WHITE-BREASTED WATERHEN (Amaurornis phoenicurus)

Our best looks came en route to the Gomantong Caves road, when we found one scrounging along the edge of the same pond where we found our Little Grebes. We heard the loud calls of others along the Kinabatangan and its tributaries.

Ciconiidae (Storks)

STORM'S STORK (Ciconia stormi)

Our first was a distant bird that Jonathan spotted circling over the Gomantong Caves road. That was an exciting start, but we had much closer views of several others along the Menanggul on ensuing days. This is the rarest of the world's storks, with fewer than 500 thought to remain in the world, about 150 of which are in Malaysia. The Kinabatangan and its tributaries are the stronghold of the species in Borneo.

LESSER ADJUTANT (Leptoptilos javanicus)

Three or four in flight over the Menanggul on our first morning's visit there.

Anhingidae (Anhingas)

ORIENTAL DARTER (Anhinga melanogaster)

One rested on a tangle of branches along the edge of the pond at the Rainforest Discovery Centre, and a few flew past along the Danum River while we watched from the BRL dining deck.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

PURPLE HERON (Ardea purpurea)

One flew in and landed near the top of a little tree at the mouth of the Menanggul, seen as we headed back to the Sukau Rainforest Lodge at the end of our first morning's outing there. We saw lots of others flapping over towards dusk each day on the Kinabatangan and its tributaries.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The caged-bird trade has decimated the populations of some of Borneo's special birds, including the Straw-headed Bulbul, which is prized for its beautiful song. Photo by participant Eileen Keelan.

GREAT EGRET (AUSTRALASIAN) (Ardea alba modesta)

Regular in small numbers along the edges of the Kinabatangan and its tributaries, and from the Telipok bridge. The subspecies found in Borneo (modesta) differs from that of the Americas by having a black beak in breeding plumage.

INTERMEDIATE EGRET (Ardea intermedia)

Another species seen in small numbers along various waterways, including one on the edge of the canal beside the Lahad Datu airstrip. This is smaller and shorter-billed than the previous species, and its gape does not extend beyond its eye.

PACIFIC REEF-HERON (Egretta sacra)

A couple of dark birds (or the same one going back and forth) flew past us on the KK waterfront, and another sat atop a channel marker further away.

CATTLE EGRET (EASTERN) (Bubulcus ibis coromandus)

Two seen from the Telipok bridge in the pouring rain, balanced on the masses of Water Hyacinth floating in the river.

STRIATED HERON (Butorides striata) [*]

We heard one calling along the Tenangang River as dusk fell, on the night we found the owls. They sound very like Green Herons.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

One flushed repeatedly ahead of our boat along the Resang as we made our way back towards the Kinabatangan. Brian spotted another on our drive back to KK at the end of the tour. This is a resident species on the island, though numbers may be bolstered by visiting migrants.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

BLACK-WINGED KITE (Elanus caeruleus)

One on a roadside wire, seen by some as we drove towards Lahad Datu. This species was split some years ago from the New World's White-tailed Kite. This one is far shorter tailed.

ORIENTAL HONEY-BUZZARD (Pernis ptilorhynchus)

One soared briefly over the BRL entrance road.

JERDON'S BAZA (Aviceda jerdoni)

All-too-brief views of one as it flapped across the Kinabatangan.

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Crested Serpent-Eagles are common and widespread in forests throughout southeast Asia. This youngster was warming up early one morning. Photo by participant Eileen Keelan.

CRESTED SERPENT-EAGLE (Spilornis cheela)

Our first was a calling bird in trees near the entrance to RDC, but we had better views of others -- including an immature bird drying its wings -- over and along the Kinabatangan and its tributaries. This is typically the most common forest-edge raptor in Sabah.

BAT HAWK (Macheiramphus alcinus)

At least four hunted the swirling ribbons of bats as they exited the Gomantong Caves, some more successfully than others, and some with a great deal of noise! We had even closer views of one strafing the Resang River as dusk fell -- so close we could clearly see its distinctive white throat, even without binoculars.

WALLACE'S HAWK-EAGLE (Nisaetus nanus)

The commonest of the tour's raptors, widespread across the lowlands, including the fuzzy crown of a chick in a nest near the RDC's Hornbill tower, and several perched along the Kinabatangan and the Menanggul.

BLYTH'S HAWK-EAGLE (Nisaetus alboniger)

Our best views came along the Gomantong Caves road, where we found one perched not far from where we spotted our Long-tailed Parakeets. This species is normally found at higher altitudes (from hill to upper montane forests), but recently was recorded nesting near the caves. The black and white plumage, without any hint of brown, helps to separate it from the Wallace's Hawk-Eagle, as does the wide white band on its tail.

CHANGEABLE HAWK-EAGLE (CHANGEABLE) (Nisaetus cirrhatus limnaeetus)

A couple of birds -- one dark, one much paler -- soared over the Menanggul one morning.

CRESTED GOSHAWK (Accipiter trivirgatus)

A pair along the BRL entrance road on our first morning's walk there.

BESRA (Accipiter virgatus)

Our best looks, by far, came along the Menanggul, where we found one with prey perched right beside the river -- a bit surprising, since it's supposed to be a "hill and lower montane" species! We saw what was probably the same bird flapping over the nearby Kinabatangan on several days, and also saw another one along the BRL entrance road.

BRAHMINY KITE (Haliastur indus)

Single adults above the Sepilok Nature Resort, the Lahad Datu airport, and the Kinabatangan.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Borneo's forests are home to some of the tallest trees on earth -- the mighty dipterocarps. Their height has led to the evolution of many "flying" species, including squirrels, snakes and lizards. Photo by participant Terry Harrison.

WHITE-BELLIED SEA-EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucogaster)

After seeing single birds soaring over the Kinabatangan on a couple of days, we found an adult perched in a dead tree right beside the river one wet afternoon.

GRAY-HEADED FISH-EAGLE (Haliaeetus ichthyaetus)

An adult perched beside the Tenangang let us drift quite close before taking flight, where its black and white banded tail helped separate it from the similar Lesser Fish-Eagle (which would have had an all-dark tail).

Tytonidae (Barn-Owls)

ORIENTAL BAY-OWL (Phodilus badius)

One perched along the Resang River was a finale to our late afternoon outing there. We even got to hear it singing! This forest species is only rarely seen.

Strigidae (Owls)

SUNDA SCOPS-OWL (Otus lempiji)

We heard the "dripping water" calls of a couple along the Tenangang on our post-elephant visit and saw one fly back and forth across the river multiple times. Unfortunately, though it perched several times where we could see it, it seldom stayed put for long.

BUFFY FISH-OWL (Ketupa ketupu)

A couple around the soccer field in the BRL staff quarters, with even closer views of others along the Kinabatangan and its tributaries. As its name suggests, this one specializes in fish, though it also eats frogs, crabs, small reptiles, insects, birds and carrion.

BROWN WOOD-OWL (Strix leptogrammica) [*]

We heard the quiet hoots of this big forest owl from high in the tall trees near the BRL staff quarters, but couldn't locate the singer.

Trogonidae (Trogons)

RED-NAPED TROGON (Harpactes kasumba)

Our best views came on our final walk along the BRL entrance road, when we found a responsive male calling from a branch right over the road. We also had a female along the same road, and heard another calling from the forest along the Gomantong Caves road.

Field Guides Birding Tours
In order to reach those heady heights -- and see some of the special birds that tend to hang out there -- we visit a number of canopy towers and walkways. Participant Terry Harrison took this shot of some of the group crossing one of the walkways in the Danum Valley.

WHITEHEAD'S TROGON (Harpactes whiteheadi) [E]

When the Singapore photographers began sprinting up the Kinabalu Park road, we knew they'd found something good! We spent long minutes with a pair that appeared to be prospecting for potential nest sites.

SCARLET-RUMPED TROGON (Harpactes duvaucelii)

A pair in a fruiting tree along the BRL entrance road put on a nice show, moving from perch to perch as they plucked berries and eventually showing us just about every conceivable angle of their snazzy plumage.

Bucerotidae (Hornbills)

WHITE-CROWNED HORNBILL (Berenicornis comatus)

Our first were a pair that flapped their way across the Kinabatangan on the morning we headed towards the Gomantong Caves road. The male quickly disappeared from view, but the female sat right up at the top of a riverside tree. We had even closer views of another pair along the Tenangang; they look like the bird version of glam rockers. Unlike Borneo's other hornbills, this species regularly feeds on or near the ground.

HELMETED HORNBILL (Buceros vigil) [*]

Unfortunately, we only heard the distant, hooting laughter of this species echoing from far hillsides around BRL. Heavily poached for its solid ivory casque, this endangered species is often the hardest hornbill to find.

RHINOCEROS HORNBILL (Buceros rhinoceros)

This handsome species, on the other hand, was seen gratifyingly well on many days in the lowlands, with some in fruiting trees around BRL and others along the banks of the Kinabatangan and its tributaries. The colorful casque of this Sundaland endemic is really quite extraordinary.

BUSHY-CRESTED HORNBILL (Anorrhinus galeritus)

A little group along the Menanggul perched obligingly in a dead tree, giving us good opportunity for studying them. This Sundaland endemic is the smallest-casqued of Borneo's hornbills, showing little more than a bump on its upper mandible.

BLACK HORNBILL (Anthracoceros malayanus)

Regular in the lowlands, including a white-browed male in a treetop near the Sepilok Nature Resort. As its name suggests, this is the darkest overall of the island's hornbills.

ORIENTAL PIED-HORNBILL (Anthracoceros albirostris)

Reasonably common and widespread in the lowlands, though missing from the hilly forests around BRL. They are typically found at elevations below 200 meters.

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Whitehead's Trogon is the island's only true montane trogon, restricted to undisturbed forests above 900m. After considerable searching, we found a pair nest prospecting in Kinabalu NP. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

WREATHED HORNBILL (Rhyticeros undulatus)

Several pairs in flight over the forests at BRL, including a pair that swished their way over our heads while we birded from the canopy walkway. But our best views came at Mount Kinabalu's Kiau View overlook, when Cal spotted us a pair rowing over the forest below.

WRINKLED HORNBILL (Rhabdotorrhinus corrugatus)

A pair perched along the Kinabatangan late one afternoon gave us a great chance for study. Like most of the other hornbills in Borneo, this Sundaland speciality is considered to be Near Threatened -- badly impacted by habitat loss.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BLUE-EARED KINGFISHER (Alcedo meninting)

One low along the edge of the pond near the entrance to the Rainforest Discovery Centre slipped away before everybody got a look, but we certainly caught up with them well along the various smaller tributaries of the Kinabatangan.


Spectacular views of one sitting on a railing around the BRL frog pond, seen as we headed out for our first afternoon's walk there.

STORK-BILLED KINGFISHER (Pelargopsis capensis)

Good looks at perched and flying birds along the Menanggul. The beak on this one is impressively large!

COLLARED KINGFISHER (Todiramphus chloris)

Regular on roadside wires through palm oil plantations and other open areas in the lowlands, but our best views came on the banks of the Kinabatangan, when we found one perched on a palm stump right beside the river.

RUFOUS-COLLARED KINGFISHER (Actenoides concretus) [*]

We heard one calling -- and calling and calling -- from the forest upslope of the BRL entrance road near where we spotted our Black-crowned Pitta, but we just couldn't entice it in for a view.

Meropidae (Bee-eaters)


Common and widespread in the lowlands, with some super views of these stunners as they hunted along the Menanggul.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Our nightwalks and drives always turned up something interesting. This File-eared Tree Frog, which can measure up to a whopping 4 inches from nose to vent, was hanging on branches near the frog pond at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Photo by participant John Rounds.

RAINBOW BEE-EATER (Merops ornatus)

This one was certainly a surprise! A subadult bird, seen very well along the Tenangang River, was only about the tenth record for Borneo. It was first discovered two days before our arrival at the Sukau Rainforest Lodge. Normally, this species breeds in Australia and winters in New Guinea, the Solomons, and the Greater and Lesser Sunda Islands.

Coraciidae (Rollers)

DOLLARBIRD (Eurystomus orientalis)

Several pairs sprinkled on treetops along the Kinabatangan and its tributaries.

Megalaimidae (Asian Barbets)

BROWN BARBET (Caloramphus fuliginosus tertius) [E]

Our first were rather distant views of a family group in a fruiting fig visible from BRL's canopy walkway. Fortunately, we got much closer to others along the Menanggul and Kinabatangan. This is a relatively new Bornean endemic, split from the Sooty Barbet of Sumatra and peninsular Malaysia.

BLUE-EARED BARBET (BLACK-EARED) (Psilopogon duvaucelii duvaucelii)

After hearing the distinctive bar-BET calls of this little treetop dweller for days at RDC and BRL, we finally connected -- in spades -- with them at a fruiting tree along the Menanggul. A gaggle of fairly plain youngsters were trumped by a couple of very colorful adults. The subspecies in Borneo (duvaucelli) has black, rather than blue, "ear" patches.

BORNEAN BARBET (Psilopogon eximius) [E*]

Heard calling incessantly from the hillsides in the Crocker Range, but never seen.

RED-THROATED BARBET (Psilopogon mystacophanos) [*]

Another species that was only heard -- nearly every single day in the lowlands, despite our best repeated efforts to actually see one.

GOLDEN-NAPED BARBET (Psilopogon pulcherrimus) [E]

Unlike most of the rest of the tour's barbets, this one was a real showoff, posing regularly in the open as it gobbled berries in various trees in the higher reaches of Kinabalu Park.

Field Guides Birding Tours
After seeing some distant soaring birds, we were pleased to find a perched White-bellied Sea Eagle right beside the Kinabatangan River one gloomy afternoon. Photo by participant John Rounds.

YELLOW-CROWNED BARBET (Psilopogon henricii)

One excavating a hole at the very top of a dead tree over the BRL entrance road late one afternoon. It eventually disappeared into the hole, never to be seen again. We heard the distinctive synchopated, rolling songs of plenty of others there.

MOUNTAIN BARBET (Psilopogon monticola) [E]

A couple of birds seen well, ferrying food to a nest hole along the road in the Crocker Range, with another (or possibly one of the pair) seen later in the morning.

GOLD-WHISKERED BARBET (GOLD-FACED) (Psilopogon chrysopogon chrysopsis) [*]

We heard one singing distantly several times at Poring Springs, but didn't manage to call it in any closer.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

RUFOUS PICULET (Sasia abnormis)

A couple of these tiny, aberrant woodpeckers -- which lack the stiff tail feathers of their larger cousins and instead glean their way along vines, branches, and fern fronds -- at eye level along the BRL entrance road.

MAROON WOODPECKER (Blythipicus rubiginosus) [*]

This must be one of the least cooperative woodpeckers out there. We heard them well on a couple of days, but actually seeing it proved rather more difficult. Even though we were within yards of the one along the Kinabalu Park road, it was always just out of view.

ORANGE-BACKED WOODPECKER (Reinwardtipicus validus)

One seen by most in one of the tall trees around the BRL communications tower construction site, seen while we tried to find the bristleheads.

RUFOUS WOODPECKER (Micropternus brachyurus)

Two chased each other back and forth across the BRL entrance road during our first morning's walk there, calling as they went.


One clung to some vines just above eye level along the BRL entrance road, giving us a great chance to study its buffy neck patches (and subtly banded plumage) in the scopes. It was later joined by a second bird.

BUFF-RUMPED WOODPECKER (Meiglyptes tristis)

One perched on a dead snag visible from the BRL entrance road, giving us some nice scope views of its namesake rump. We saw others on the Gomantong Caves road and along several tributaries of the Kinabatangan.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Olive-backed Woodpecker is one of Borneo's scarcest woodpeckers, so getting such good views along the Borneo Rainforest Lodge's entrance road was a real treat. Photo by participant Rhys Harrison.

OLIVE-BACKED WOODPECKER (Dinopium rafflesii)

Super views of one hanging on branches right over the BRL entrance road, showing nicely its stripey face.


One hitched its way up a succession of trees around the under-construction communications tower at BRL, giving us multiple views of its distinctive red wings.


Fantastic views of a couple of birds hitching their way up a dead branch along the Kinabalu Park road, so close that we could clearly see those namesake checkers.

GREAT SLATY WOODPECKER (Mulleripicus pulverulentus)

Fabulous views of two of these huge woodpeckers -- largest in the world -- performing their noisy, spread-winged territorial display in a treetop along the Menanggul.

Psittaculidae (Old World Parrots)

LONG-TAILED PARAKEET (Psittacula longicauda)

Regular in the lowlands (often in flight) with our best views coming on our second visit to the Gomantong Caves road, when we found a small group perched in a dead snag.


It's a good thing we found the perched bird in the gardens of the Sepilok Nature Resort -- otherwise, you might not have believed me that they had legs! Most of the birds we saw were little bullets, rocketing past overhead.

Calyptomenidae (African and Green Broadbills)

WHITEHEAD'S BROADBILL (Calyptomena whiteheadi) [E]

One uphill from the Kinabalu Park road was being harassed by a couple of Bornean Green-Magpies, a plethora of bright green! It eventually fled across the road, where we found it again. Yowza -- what a bird!

The enigmatic Fruithunter is easily missed; it's scarce and its thin, high-pitched call is easily overlooked. But they turned up in spades this year -- including this youngster that guide Megan Edwards Crewe video'ed food-begging from its parents near Mount Kinabalu's Timpohon Gate.
Eurylaimidae (Asian and Grauer's Broadbills)

DUSKY BROADBILL (Corydon sumatranus)

A quartet showed very nicely as they foraged in trees along the Kinabatangan early one morning, seen as we headed towards the Menanggul.

BLACK-AND-RED BROADBILL (Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos)

Our first quartet pinwheeled through a fruiting tree in the RDC parking lot, but our best looks came along the Menanggul, where one -- carrying several green leaves in its neon-blue beak -- waited patiently for us to move along so that it could add to its growing (and nearly under water) nest.

BANDED BROADBILL (Eurylaimus javanicus)

Two or three noisy birds in the mid-story of tall trees near the Kipungit waterfall at Poring Springs -- a highlight of our very quiet afternoon there.

BLACK-AND-YELLOW BROADBILL (Eurylaimus ochromalus)

Easily the most common broadbill of the tour, though far more often heard than seen. Our first good looks came at the RDC, and we saw others along the Menanggul and at Poring Springs.

Pittidae (Pittas)

BLACK-CROWNED PITTA (Erythropitta ussheri) [E]

After scuttling back and forth along roads and trails in failed attempts to see this handsome species, we lucked out on our second afternoon's walk at BRL when we watched one in the road for several minutes. What a gorgeous creature!

BLUE-HEADED PITTA (Hydrornis baudii) [E]

A male, perched and singing on an eye-level branch along BRL's Shortcut trail, was a stunning consolation prize when we missed the bristlehead.

HOODED PITTA (Pitta sordida)

One calling bird along the Menanggul flew in and landed on a branch right near the boat. Too near, as it turned out, as after a few too-brief seconds it flew off again, before everyone had a good look. We found another along the Sukau, though that one required much maneuvering of the boat, and peeks through tiny gaps in the foliage to see. With patience, I think most were able to piece together a whole bird!

Field Guides Birding Tours
Danum Valley is a prime place for hornbills, with most of the species possible. Here the gang checks out a Rhinoceros Hornbill. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.
Acanthizidae (Thornbills and Allies)

GOLDEN-BELLIED GERYGONE (Gerygone sulphurea)

A single bird in a close open tree at the Rafflesia Centre in the Crocker Range.

Campephagidae (Cuckooshrikes)

FIERY MINIVET (Pericrocotus igneus)

One flock along the BRL entrance road (in the same trees as our Bronzed Drongos) with others along the Gomantong Caves road. Most years, this is the more common minivet in the lowlands. This is another Near Threatened Sundaland specialty.

GRAY-CHINNED MINIVET (Pericrocotus solaris)

Regular in the highlands, where we found multiple small, active groups. As usual for minivets, females are far easier to tell apart; their gray chins were readily apparent. Of course, altitude also helps...

SUNDA CUCKOOSHRIKE (Coracina larvata)

Particularly nice views of a trio near the Timpohon Gate on a couple of early mornings, with others near the Upper Silau-Silau trailhead. As its name suggests, this montane species is another Sundaland specialty.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

WHITE-BROWED SHRIKE-BABBLER (BLYTH'S) (Pteruthius aeralatus robinsoni)

Daily in Kinabalu Park, though heard more regularly than seen. A male near the Timpohon Gate crawled along a branch, investigating, one morning. A female (his mate?) proved far less confiding, flicking in and out of view in a fruiting tree beyond the generator building.

WHITE-BELLIED ERPORNIS (Erpornis zantholeuca)

A couple of birds with a big mixed flock near BRL's frog pond. This one used to be called White-bellied Yuhina, but DNA studies have proved it to be more closely related to the New World vireos than the Old World yuhinas.

Field Guides Birding Tours
And here's the beastie in question! The shape of the Rhinoceros Hornbill's casque can vary considerably between individuals. Photo by participant John Rounds.
Pachycephalidae (Whistlers and Allies)

BORNEAN WHISTLER (Pachycephala hypoxantha) [E]

Daily in small numbers in the highlands, almost always with mixed flocks -- including a few with the busy family of Yellow-breasted Warblers along the Kinabalu Park road near Hill Lodge one morning.

Oriolidae (Old World Orioles)

DARK-THROATED ORIOLE (Oriolus xanthonotus)

Scattered individuals (and one pair) along the BRL entrance road, stuffing themselves on berries in various fruiting trees. This Sundaland specialty is considered to be Near Threatened.

BLACK-AND-CRIMSON ORIOLE (Oriolus cruentus) [*]

One heard calling from the hillside above the road in the Crocker Range, with another doing the same along the park road on Mount Kinabalu.

Artamidae (Woodswallows, Bellmagpies, and Allies)


Most common along the Kinabatangan (where they perched on the high tension wires over the river) and on roadside wires through the palm plantations, with others around Lahad Datu and over the Telipok bridge.

Vangidae (Vangas, Helmetshrikes, and Allies)


A single bird high over the road in the Crocker Range proved somewhat elusive, though everybody got some kind of look in the end.


The lowland cousin of the previous species, this one is relatively common throughout the lowlands. We had looks at a pair at the RDC, another pair on the Gomantong Caves road and more along the Kinabatangan.

RUFOUS-WINGED PHILENTOMA (Philentoma pyrhoptera)

Brief looks for some at one that went back and forth across the road a few times just before our Ferruginous Babbler came into view. This one was dark, rather than pale, underneath. We heard another a couple of days later, but couldn't pull it into view.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The Scarlet-rumped Trogon is the smallest -- and typically the most regularly seen -- of the trogons we find on this tour. Photo by participant John Rounds.


A female fly-catching from a tree along the BRL entrance road, followed by an uncooperative pair along the Shortcut trail, seen poorly by some as we searched for the bristlehead.

Pityriasidae (Bristlehead)

BORNEAN BRISTLEHEAD (Pityriasis gymnocephala) [E*]

Arg. We heard them calling -- repeatedly -- from trees along the BRL entrance road, but just couldn't get into a position where we could see them past closer vegetation.

Aegithinidae (Ioras)

COMMON IORA (Aegithina tiphia)

One near the start of the Resang River flicked across in front of our boat -- good spotting, Cal! We saw another along the Kinabatangan the following day, and heard more along the Menanggul.

GREEN IORA (Aegithina viridissima)

Our first were an eye-level trio in the canopy of the huge trees beside the RDC's Hornbill tower, and we saw others along the BRL entrance road. This is another Sundaland specialty, and another species threatened by habitat loss.

Rhipiduridae (Fantails)

SPOTTED FANTAIL (Rhipidura perlata)

One singing near the BRL frog pond on our first morning sat for long minutes in one spot, allowing us nice scope views. Its spotted chest band quickly separates it from the other fantails possible on this trip.

MALAYSIAN PIED-FANTAIL (Rhipidura javanica)

Very common in the lowlands, including a busy pair hunting over the lawn below the dining deck at BRL each day and one snoozing on a tiny, pale cup nest in the reeds along the Kinabatangan, seen on our first night float there.

WHITE-THROATED FANTAIL (Rhipidura albicollis)

Regular in small numbers in the highlands, typically fan-dancing its way along branches with mixed flocks.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The dining room of the Sukau Rainforest Lodge perches right above the Kinabatangan River -- which can mean some great looks at passing birds. Photo by participant Rhys Harrison.
Dicruridae (Drongos)

ASHY DRONGO (BORNEAN) (Dicrurus leucophaeus stigmatops)

Regular in the highlands, with particularly nice studies of a pair gobbling up moths from vegetation around the lights at Kinabalu Park's generator station each morning. The endemic subspecies found on Borneo (stigmatops) is gray rather than black.

BRONZED DRONGO (Dicrurus aeneus)

Two hunted from tall trees up the hill from the BRL entrance road, not far from the end of the canopy walkway. In the scopes, their forked tails showed nicely.

HAIR-CRESTED DRONGO (BORNEAN) (Dicrurus hottentottus borneensis)

Two with a big mixed flock (mostly laughingthrushes) along the Kinabalu Park road, with another near the Upper Silau-Silau trailhead on our final morning. Unfortunately, we never REALLY got that definitive look; they were always just flashing out from the canopy after prey, then disappearing back into the leaves.

GREATER RACKET-TAILED DRONGO (Dicrurus paradiseus brachyphorus)

One, its distinctive rackets rather the worse for wear, flicked back and forth through trees along the Pitta trail at RDC, accompanying a big group of Raffles's Malkohas.

Monarchidae (Monarch Flycatchers)

BLACK-NAPED MONARCH (Hypothymis azurea)

A male, looking stupendously blue in the early morning sunshine, along the Menanggul River on our first boat trip there, with a somewhat browner female for some later in the morning.

Laniidae (Shrikes)

LONG-TAILED SHRIKE (Lanius schach)

A couple on wires along the road to our hotel near Kinabalu, seen as we made our way back and forth to the park each day. This species was formerly resident only in southern Borneo, but appears to be rapidly expanding its range northwards into more open areas.

Field Guides Birding Tours
A Black-and-red Broadbill working on its nest along the Menanggul River paused for a while in the open, while it decided where to add its mouthful. Photo by participant Eileen Keelan.
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BORNEAN GREEN-MAGPIE (Cissa jefferyi) [E]

WOW! We had some spectacular looks at these gorgeous corvids, including a pair bouncing around on the Kinabalu park road early one morning and another pair screeching at each other while they gleaned moths from vegetation near Timpohon Gate.

BORNEAN TREEPIE (Dendrocitta cinerascens) [E]

Common and widespread -- and noisily apparent -- in the highlands, often in association with other large birds (including laughingthrushes, drongos and Bornean Green-Magpies.


Thanks to Eileen, we probably paid a bit more attention to these typical crows that we might have otherwise! We had nice looks at a calling bird perched high in a tree from the BRL canopy walkway, and dozens of others in flight at various places throughout the lowlands.

Stenostiridae (Fairy Flycatchers)

GRAY-HEADED CANARY-FLYCATCHER (Culicicapa ceylonensis)

Two flicked around in the huge trees near the BRL frog pond on our first morning's walk there; unfortunately, they never sat still long enough to get them in the scopes.

Cisticolidae (Cisticolas and Allies)

DARK-NECKED TAILORBIRD (Orthotomus atrogularis)

A little family group swirled through low vegetation along the BRL entrance road, with the adult male eventually sitting right up on top to sing challenges. We saw another well over the Gomantong Caves road towards the end of our morning visit there, and heard many others trilling in the lowland forests.

ASHY TAILORBIRD (Orthotomus ruficeps)

Very common in the lowlands, with especially nice views of two gleaming in the early morning sunshine from the canopy walkway at the RDC. Their simple, plinking songs were a regular -- and repetitious -- part of the tour's soundtrack.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Many of Borneo's endemics -- like this Bornean Whistling-Thrush -- are found in the hills or highlands. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

RUFOUS-TAILED TAILORBIRD (Orthotomus sericeus)

Though we heard them regularly, our only views came when we birded from the BRL dining deck on our first rainy afternoon there. One flitted its way up through a nearby tree several times, posing regularly in the open.

YELLOW-BELLIED PRINIA (Prinia flaviventris)

One singing from the top of some tall grasses below the garden near the BRL dining deck proved particularly obliging, and we had nice looks at another doing the same in reeds along the Kinabatangan one afternoon.

Locustellidae (Grassbirds and Allies)

STRIATED GRASSBIRD (Cincloramphus palustris)

One perched on a roadside wire with a large insect sticking out like a giant mustache, seen as we made our way to Sandakan for our flight back to KK. This uncommon species is found only in the coastal stretches at the northern end of the island.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

PACIFIC SWALLOW (Hirundo tahitica)

One of our very few "every day" birds, with some good studies of birds perched on a wire over the pond at the Rainforest Discovery Centre on our first morning.

Pycnonotidae (Bulbuls)

PUFF-BACKED BULBUL (Brachypodius eutilotus)

Some of the group spotted one or more in the top of the huge fruiting fig visible from the BRL canopy walkway, but we had better views along the entrance road. The combination of brown back, whitish underparts and pointy crest is distinctive.

BLACK-HEADED BULBUL (Brachypodius melanocephalos)

A little group flicked through treetops along the Menanggul one morning, seen by most. We had another handful even closer in trees right over the path at Poring Springs, before the rain started.

SPECTACLED BULBUL (Rubigula erythropthalmos)

Regular along the BRL entrance road, where we had some good, close views of their distinctive yellow eye rings. We had others along the Menanggul and at Poring Springs. This was formerly thought to be closely related to the "brown bulbuls", but DNA evidence proved otherwise.

We delighted in a snow globe's worth of Whiskered Treeswifts soaring all around us -- and sometimes landing right next to us -- as we made our way towards BRL. Video by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

GRAY-BELLIED BULBUL (Rubigula cyaniventris)

One showed nicely for the few of us birding from the deck following the downpour on our first afternoon at BRL. This is an uncommon resident across much of Borneo.

SCALY-BREASTED BULBUL (Rubigula squamata)

Dozens swarmed over the top of a fruiting fig visible from the BRL canopy tower, outclassing the nearby "brown bulbuls" by a mile. This uncommon resident is generally found in hill and montane forest.

BORNEAN BULBUL (Rubigula montis) [E]

Several small groups seen well along the road through the Crocker Range. This species was split from the Black-crested Bulbul.

STRAW-HEADED BULBUL (Pycnonotus zeylanicus)

Yippee! This is a seriously declining species across its entire range -- a victim of the unfettered caged bird trade -- so finding one singing along the Menanggul, and getting long views of it, was a real treat. Great spotting, Eileen!

FLAVESCENT BULBUL (PALE-FACED) (Pycnonotus flavescens leucops)

Great views this year of a species we sometimes struggle with; that fruiting tree near the bus turnaround spot on Mount Kinabalu really helped our sightings!

YELLOW-VENTED BULBUL (Pycnonotus goiavier)

Common around the Sepilok Nature Resort, with a few others around the BRL dining deck, along the Kinabatangan and in open areas around our lunch restaurant and hotel at Mount Kinabalu.

CREAM-EYED BULBUL (Pycnonotus pseudosimplex) [E]

One along the BRL entrance road was a surprise; this newly-described endemic is an uncommon resident of old-growth hill forest, so far known only from Malaysian Borneo. Recent DNA studies have shown that these pale-eyed bulbuls, formerly thought to be merely an uncommon iris color variant of Cream-vented Bulbuls, are not even sister species! Their closest relative is the Ashy-fronted Bulbul of Palawan (in the Philippines).

CREAM-VENTED BULBUL (RED-EYED) (Pycnonotus simplex perplexus)

Regular along the BRL entrance road, with others along the Gomantong Caves road. This nondescript brown bulbul is separated from the next species by its creamy (rather than buffy-brown) undertail coverts, and by its gray (rather than pinky-brown) legs and feet. Birds on Borneo are red-eyed; those found elsewhere are often white-eyed.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Flavescent Bulbul is a species we sometimes struggle to find -- but not this year, thanks to a fruiting tree near Timpohon Gate! The local subspecies (leucops), found only in northern Borneo, is a good candidate for a future split. Photo by participant Rhys Harrison.

RED-EYED BULBUL (Pycnonotus brunneus)

Another regular in the Danum Valley and along the Gomantong Caves road, with a handful at Poring Springs as well. Like the previous species, this one is common at elevations ranging from sea level up to about 4000 feet.

HAIRY-BACKED BULBUL (Tricholestes criniger)

A couple of these pale-faced, yellow bulbuls flicked along the edge of the Menanggul. The long back plumes which give them their common name are rarely visible in the field.

GRAY-CHEEKED BULBUL (Alophoixus tephrogenys tephrogenys)

A little group of two or three bounced through trailside vegetation at the Rainforest Discovery Centre, and we spotted a single wet bird in the forest at BRL that had me thinking briefly that it was a Yellow-bellied Bulbul.

PENAN BULBUL (Alophoixus ruficrissus ruficrissus)

Fine views of several small groups on Mount Kinabalu. This is one of Borneo's newest endemics, recently split from the Ochraceous Bulbul of the mainland. The subspecies in Sabah is "ruficrissus".

CHARLOTTE'S BULBUL (Iole charlottae) [E]

Seen particularly well at the Rainforest Discovery Centre, where we found a pair low along one of the paths, and another bird just over our heads at our Raffles Malkoha spot. The pale eye and long bill of this new endemic (split a few years ago from the Buff-vented Bulbul) are distinctive.

CINEREOUS BULBUL (GREEN-WINGED) (Hemixos cinereus connectens)

One or perhaps two seen briefly along the road in the Crocker Range.

STREAKED BULBUL (Ixos malaccensis)

A few among the hordes of Scaly-breasted and "brown" bulbuls ravaging a fruiting fig tree visible from BRL's canopy walkway. These big bulbuls aren't particularly common in Borneo.

Phylloscopidae (Leaf Warblers)

YELLOW-BREASTED WARBLER (Phylloscopus montis)

Some fabulous up-close-and-personal encounters with family parties of these endearing little "pumpkin heads" along the road in Kinabalu Park.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Wallace's Hawk-Eagle was the most common raptor of the trip, seen well on many days. Participant John Rounds got this nice shot along the Kinabatangan River.

MOUNTAIN LEAF WARBLER (Phylloscopus trivirgatus kinabaluensis)

Very common on Mount Kinabalu, where we saw the drab endemic subspecies "kinabaluensis". Their twittering warbles were a regular part of the mountain soundtrack.

Scotocercidae (Bush Warblers and Allies)

BORNEAN STUBTAIL (Urosphena whiteheadi) [E]

Superb views of one little charmer singing his heart out -- a very high-pitched song -- on the edge of the Silau-Silau trail.

YELLOW-BELLIED WARBLER (Abroscopus superciliaris)

Unfortunately, I think only Brian and I spotted this one working with a big mixed flock on the hillside behind the Hill Lodge at Mount Kinabalu.

MOUNTAIN TAILORBIRD (Phyllergates cucullatus)

Regularly heard in the highlands. Our best views came near the Timpohon Gate, where we watched one singing bird twitch its way through some nearby vines, part of a big mixed flock.

ABERRANT BUSH WARBLER (Horornis flavolivaceus)

Super views of this endearing "little brown job" when it approached to within feet of us along the edge of the Kinabalu Park road. This subspecies was formerly part of the Sunda Bush Warbler complex, but the latter has now been lumped.

Zosteropidae (White-eyes, Yuhinas, and Allies)

CHESTNUT-CRESTED YUHINA (Staphida everetti) [E]

Abundant in the highlands, with chattering flocks bounding over regularly. A little gang swarming through the trees near the Fairy Garden entertained us while we waited for lunch to be served one day, and others near the Timpohon Gate also showed nicely.

PYGMY WHITE-EYE (Heleia squamifrons) [E]

As opposed to these little stinkers, who showed briefly for some and left the rest of the gang to chase them (unsuccessfully) up the hill at the Zen Garden.

BLACK-CAPPED WHITE-EYE (Zosterops atricapilla)

Another gratifyingly common species in the highlands, with many little groups seen well as they worked through roadside trees. This is another Sundaland specialty.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We had nice views of Sunda Cuckooshrike on Mount Kinabalu -- including this one on a soggy morning near the Timpohon Gate. Photo by participant Rhys Harrison.

MOUNTAIN BLACK-EYE (Zosterops emiliae) [E]

Fine studies of this montane species around the Timpohon Gate -- about the lowest it gets in Kinabalu Park. Fortunately, the many fruiting trees seemed to be attracting little gangs of them down.

Timaliidae (Tree-Babblers, Scimitar-Babblers, and Allies)

BOLD-STRIPED TIT-BABBLER (Mixornis bornensis)

Very common in the lowlands, including a noisy pair wing-waving in small trees around the buildings where we stopped to use the restrooms on our drive into Danum Valley, and another busy gang along the banks of the Resang River. The heavily streaked underparts and bright yellow eyes of this species are distinctive.


A noisy party of 3 or 4 bounced through the undergrowth along the BRL entrance road on a couple of mornings, giving us particularly nice looks at their bright blue eye rings on our first encounter.

GRAY-HOODED BABBLER (Cyanoderma bicolor)

Regular in the lowlands, typically in small, noisy groups. This Sundaland specialty was formerly known as the Chestnut-winged Babbler.

RUFOUS-FRONTED BABBLER (Cyanoderma rufifrons)

The back end of the line saw a group having a noisy contretemps as we climbed back up to the BRL entrance road from the Great Argus display ground. One of the birds involved got thrown right off its perch!

SUNDA SCIMITAR-BABBLER (Pomatorhinus bornensis)

A single bird along the BRL entrance road spent several minutes working low and in the open. Recently split from the Chestnut-backed Scimitar-Babbler complex, this is now a Sundaland endemic.

BLACK-THROATED BABBLER (Stachyris nigricollis)

A couple along the Gomantong Caves road played hard to get, showing well for some and hardly at all for others. Even in flight though, we could see their rusty backs and gray underparts; their distinctive white face spot was harder to get a look at. This is still another Near Threatened Sundaland endemic.

CHESTNUT-RUMPED BABBLER (Stachyris maculata)

A trio along the BRL entrance road -- noisy, as usual! This is still another Near Threatened Sundaland endemic.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Certainly the most unexpected bird of the trip had to be the immature Rainbow Bee-eater we found along the Tenangang River. It's one of only a handful of records for the island. Photo by participant Rhys Harrison.

GRAY-THROATED BABBLER (Stachyris nigriceps)

Regular in the mountains, with our best looks coming at a group swirling through a big tree-fall along the Silau-Silau trail.

GRAY-HEADED BABBLER (Stachyris poliocephala)

One of our former Borneo guides would have called these "bad babblers" -- that is, one that lurks in the deepest, densest vegetation and either seldom shows or only shows in the briefest of flashes. And that's exactly what ours did!

Pellorneidae (Ground Babblers and Allies)

BLACK-THROATED WREN-BABBLER (Turdinus atrigularis) [*]

Darn! We heard at least one (and maybe two) from just off the BRL entrance road, but couldn't get them to come close enough to see.

SOOTY-CAPPED BABBLER (Malacopteron affine)

Definitely one of the "good babblers",giving us some super views as we made our way towards Danum Valley, with others along the BRL entrance road. The dark cap on this one helps to quickly separate this common and widespread lowland species from the other members of its genus.

SCALY-CROWNED BABBLER (Malacopteron cinereum)

One showed briefly but well along the BRL entrance road -- and fortunately was singing as well, which helped clinch the ID.

RUFOUS-CROWNED BABBLER (Malacopteron magnum)

We had to work hard for this one, catching only glimpses and bits and pieces on most of our encounters -- though it sang and sang and sang on several days in the lowlands. The little group along BRL's Shortcut trail showed best for many.

MOUSTACHED BABBLER (Malacopteron magnirostre) [*]

A noisy gang of them came all the way down a densely-vegetated hillside, nearly to the edge of the BRL entrance road, but never moved out to a place where we could see them.

BLACK-CAPPED BABBLER (Pellorneum capistratum)

Fabulous views of this handsome species when we found a trio, including one strolling along the edge of the BRL entrance road, on our first morning's outing there. Their loud "THREE EIGHT" calls were a regular part of the tour soundtrack in the lowlands.

SHORT-TAILED BABBLER (Pellorneum malaccense) [*]

Darn. As with the Moustached Babblers, we had a noisy little group approach us near the start of the Hornbill trail, but they never quite came close enough for us to see.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Borneo is home to a couple of primitive primates. Horsfeld's Tarsier, a bug-eyed carnivore, is one of them. Participant John Rounds photographed this one during a night walk in the Danum Valley.

TEMMINCK'S BABBLER (Pellorneum pyrrogenys)

A rather reclusive group along the Kinabalu Park road was definitely topped the following morning by a confiding gang working the vegetation around the lights at the Hill Lodge.

WHITE-CHESTED BABBLER (Pellorneum rostratum)

Regular along the banks (such as they were!) of the Menanggul, with others heard from the far side of the Danum River (while we birded from the dining deck in the rain) and along the Gomantong Caves road. The ones we saw were seldom more than a foot or two above the water.

FERRUGINOUS BABBLER (Pellorneum bicolor)

One along the BRL entrance road (not far from the far end of the canopy walkway) made us work for a look, but we got there in the end. This is an ant specialist, typically found in the forest's understory.

STRIPED WREN-BABBLER (Kenopia striata)

Fine scope views of one singing his head off along the BRL entrance road. Even after he hopped off his perch, he continued to whistle as he scuffled about in the undergrowth, looking for tasty morsels.

HORSFIELD'S BABBLER (Malacocincla sepiaria)

Great views of one of these short-tailed, rusty-flanked babblers at eye level along the BRL entrance road, at the start of our first morning's walk there.

MOUNTAIN WREN-BABBLER (Gypsophila crassa) [E]

A busy group rummaged in a tangle of dead branches just upslope from the Kinabalu Park road, giving us repeated chances to study them in the scope.

Leiothrichidae (Laughingthrushes and Allies)

BROWN FULVETTA (Alcippe brunneicauda)

Two flitted through mid-canopy branches in some of the huge trees near the far end of the BRL canopy walkway, seen as we searched in vain for the singing Rufous-collared Kingfisher.

SUNDA LAUGHINGTHRUSH (Garrulax palliatus)

Bigger -- and far noisier -- than the next species, with some especially fun encounters along the Kinabalu Park road. Their rollicking duets are incredibly loud! Like the next species, this one is often found in sizable groups.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Sunbirds, like this Brown-throated Sunbird, are the Old World equivalent of hummingbirds. They feed primarily on nectar (and pollen) and take the occasional insect for added protein. Photo by participant Eileen Keelan.

CHESTNUT-HOODED LAUGHINGTHRUSH (Pterorhinus treacheri treacheri) [E]

Common and regularly encountered in the highlands, with many fine views -- some from mere yards away. The birds around Timpohon Gate were particularly approachable. This species is often part of mixed-species flocks.

Sittidae (Nuthatches)


Our first were a pair crawling around in the big fruiting fig tree visible from the BRL canopy walkway. John T spotted another along the BRL entrance road the following day, and we had brief views of another along the Gomantong Caves road. But our best views came at the head of the Upper Silau-Silau trail, when two birds came barreling into a tree right over our heads.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

ASIAN GLOSSY STARLING (Aplonis panayensis)

Abundant in the lowlands, with lots of stripey youngsters accompanying their darkly glossy parents.

COMMON HILL MYNA (Gracula religiosa)

Two flew in and landed at the "bus stop" (that very productive set of dead snags) along the BRL entrance road, showing nicely their distinctive yellow wattles. We saw others along the Resang River.

JAVAN MYNA (Acridotheres javanicus) [IN]

Common along the coast, including a nesting pair ferrying mouthfuls to their chicks in a hole in a palm trunk at the Sepilok Nature Resort. Contrary to what it says in Susan Myers' Birds of Borneo field guide, it is this species (and not the Crested Myna) which is common along the coast near Sepilok.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

EVERETT'S THRUSH (Zoothera everetti) [E]

It took some patience -- and a few day's worth of early mornings -- but we eventually all got nice looks at one bouncing around in the predawn half-light on the Kinabalu Park road. This Bornean endemic, which has a tiny world range, spends much of its time foraging on the ground for snails, insects and earthworms.

When a Bornean Pygmy Elephant is hungry for a palm heart, there's no stopping him -- even if he has to destroy the entire tree to get it! Video by participant John Rounds.

FRUIT-HUNTER (Chlamydochaera jefferyi) [E]

WOW!! This is a species we often struggle to see, so to have TWO extended encounters with two different showy groups was a real treat. Our first were a pair in fruiting trees right across from the Liwagu Restaurant. But our best encounter came near the Timpohon Gate, where we found a noisy pair of fledged youngsters being attended by an adult male.

Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers)

ORIENTAL MAGPIE-ROBIN (BLACK) (Copsychus saularis adamsi)

A male sat on a wire over the parking lot at the Rainforest Discovery Centre our first morning, a study in black and white. Males of the endemic subspecies adamsi (found only in Sabah) are jet black with a white vent and wing stripe.

RUFOUS-TAILED SHAMA (Copsychus pyrropygus)

A singing bird flicked through the midstory of trailside trees along BRL's Hornbill trail.

WHITE-CROWNED SHAMA (Copsychus stricklandii stricklandii)

One singing from the forest at the Rainforest Discovery Centre eventually deigned to be seen and perched out on a big horizontal branch. This handsome songster is threatened by the caged bird trade.


Lovely looks at handsome males low over the water on several trips along the Menanggul. This species is usually seen along rivers and streams.

BORNEAN BLUE FLYCATCHER (Cyornis superbus) [E]

A female perched briefly by the group while we stood in the forest just off the BRL entrance road, trying to get a look at our first Black-crowned Pitta. Unfortunately, she flew deeper into the forest before everybody found her.


One surprised us along the Gomantong Caves road by responding -- strongly and repeatedly -- to the Bornean Blue Flycatcher's song. While it wasn't the species we expected, we got fabulous views of it!

INDIGO FLYCATCHER (Eumyias indigo)

Repeated lovely views of this common montane flycatcher in Kinabalu Park, some little more than arm's length away. The family group around Timpohon Gate was very cooperative, as was the singing bird right over the road at "Fruithunter Corner".

Field Guides Birding Tours
Black-capped Babblers are among the "good" babblers -- regularly flaunting themselves right out in the open as they stride about in the undergrowth. Photo by participant John Rounds.

VERDITER FLYCATCHER (Eumyias thalassinus)

One flew in to a tree near the far end of the BRL canopy walkway late one afternoon, when seeing its pale blue color was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, it eventually moved down low enough that we could see it against background foliage, which helped considerably.


It took a few days, but we finally all got great scope views when one perched up in some dead sticks beside a Kinabalu Park guard rail early one morning. The other members of this genus are found only in the Philippines.

BORNEAN SHORTWING (Brachypteryx erythrogyna)

A black male crawled through the undergrowth like a mouse, periodically popping out onto a pile of fallen branches or a tree root. Some of the group spotted a nest-building female with a mouthful of moss while we were looking for the Bornean Stubtail. This is one of Borneo's newer endemics, split from the former White-browed Shortwing complex.

BORNEAN WHISTLING-THRUSH (Myophonus borneensis) [E]

Nicely confiding, with birds seen well every day in Kinabalu Park, often right along the roadsides. A regular pair near the restrooms at the Timpohon Gate proved particularly photogenic.

BORNEAN FORKTAIL (Enicurus borneensis)

Two bounced along a wet ditch on the side of the KNP road on a soggy afternoon, their striking black and white pattern visible even in the gloom. This species was only recently split from White-crowned Forktail.

CHESTNUT-NAPED FORKTAIL (Enicurus ruficapillus)

One trotted back and forth across the BRL entrance road one afternoon, often in the same scope and binocular view as our showy Black-crowned Pitta. This is another Sundaland specialty.

SNOWY-BROWED FLYCATCHER (Ficedula hyperythra sumatrana)

Great views of a little male in roadside vegetation at Kinabalu Park one morning. Though this is probably an abundant species in the highlands, it can be surprisingly hard to detect.

PYGMY FLYCATCHER (Ficedula hodgsoni)

A female with the mixed flock swirling around the light pole at Kinabalu Park's Hill Lodge on our final morning showed nicely as she searched for morsels among the vegetation. We heard a male singing softly near the Timpohon Gate one morning too, but never spotted it.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Charlotte's Bulbul is one of Borneo's newer endemics, recently split from the Buff-vented Bulbul. Photo by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

LITTLE PIED FLYCATCHER (Ficedula westermanni)

Our best views probably came from the top of the Timpohon Gate at KNP, where we watched a little male flick through trees right at eye level. We saw others from the Liwagu Restaurant's balcony and near the Masakob Waterfall Garden in the Crocker Range.

Dicaeidae (Flowerpeckers)


A scattered few along the BRL entrance road, flitting through trees low on the roadside.

YELLOW-RUMPED FLOWERPECKER (Prionochilus xanthopygius) [E]

A male seen near the BRL dining balcony on several days, with another along the entrance road finally allowing everyone to catch up with this handsome endemic.


One perched conveniently on open twigs at the top of a short tree right beside the Menanggul on our first morning on the river, showing nicely its streaky chest, bright yellow vent and "demonic red eyes" (per the Merlin app).


Very common in the lowlands, including a showy pair with a territory just off the BRL dining deck.

BLACK-SIDED FLOWERPECKER (Dicaeum monticolum) [E]

Small numbers in the highlands, with our best views coming in the hedge along the edge of Kinabalu Park's Hill Lodge parking lot.


A male right over our boat along the Menanggul on our penultimate morning there. What a stunner!

Nectariniidae (Sunbirds and Spiderhunters)

RUBY-CHEEKED SUNBIRD (Chalcoparia singalensis)

Three chased each around in trees along the Tenangang late in the afternoon on our second visit there, drawing our attention -- and confusing the passing boatloads of people who were just SURE we must have been looking at monkeys.

BROWN-THROATED SUNBIRD (Anthreptes malacensis)

Common along the coast, with lots of females/youngsters around the Sepilok Nature Resort, an adult male feeding at flowers near the entrance to the Rainforest Discovery Centre and another eye-level male in a little park in KK.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We saw a plethora of butterflies, some of which we even managed to identify! Participant Terry Harrison photographed this gorgeous Malay Yeoman.

RED-THROATED SUNBIRD (Anthreptes rhodolaemus)

We saw a single male along the BRL entrance road one afternoon. This Sundaland specialist is far less common than the previous, and is typically found only in forest habitats.

VAN HASSELT'S SUNBIRD (Leptocoma brasiliana)

A dark male sang from a treetop along the Menanggul. John's photos showed some of his gorgeous coloring, but those were pretty tough to see for the rest of us.

OLIVE-BACKED SUNBIRD (Cinnyris jugularis)

I can't believe we made it all the way to the mountains before seeing one of these! Fortunately, a showy male outside the Fairy Garden restaurant gave us some great views.

TEMMINCK'S SUNBIRD (Aethopyga temminckii)

Very common in the highlands, including males singing from treetops near the Liwagu Restaurant and around the Hill Lodge parking lot. This Sundaland specialty is the lower montane replacement for the next species.

CRIMSON SUNBIRD (Aethopyga siparaja)

The lowland replacement for the previous species, seen particularly well along the smaller tributaries of the Kinabatangan.

LITTLE SPIDERHUNTER (Arachnothera longirostra)

As usual, the most common of the tour's spiderhunters, regularly seen along the BRL entrance road. The pale face with the dark mustachial stripe is distinctive.

YELLOW-EARED SPIDERHUNTER (Arachnothera chrysogenys)

One spent long minutes in some spikes of red flowers (or were they berries -- it was hard to tell) near the Sepilok Nature Resort's driveway on our first afternoon. Though similar to the Spectacled Spiderhunter, this one has a less boldly-colored eye ring, and a subtly different shape to the yellow tuft of feathers on the side of its face.

BORNEAN SPIDERHUNTER (Arachnothera everetti) [E]

Some got great views of one (or more) around the BRL dining room, and others never spotted it once! They never seemed to hang around for long, perching only for a few seconds before zooming off again.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The hulking batholith of Mount Kinabalu is one of the most biodiverse places on earth, with roughly 6000 (!!!) species of plants found on a recent botanical survey. Many of Borneo's endemics are found here. Photo by participant Terry Harrison.
Irenidae (Fairy-bluebirds)


Our best views came from the BRL's canopy walkway, where we watched a handful gobbling figs from that great fruiting tree. This is typically an uncommon species on our tour route.

Chloropseidae (Leafbirds)

GREATER GREEN LEAFBIRD (Chloropsis sonnerati)

A male sang from the top of one of the huge trees along the BRL entrance road -- out in the open for only a few seconds before he moved to a different branch and disappeared from view. He continued to serenade us for quite a while though.

LESSER GREEN LEAFBIRD (Chloropsis cyanopogon)

Very common at BRL, with others at the Rainforest Discovery Centre, along the Gomantong Caves road, and at Poring Springs. Females are easier to ID than are males. Female Lesser Green Leafbirds are plain-faced except for a thin, iridescent blue mustache. Female Greaters would have a yellow chin and bold yellow eye ring.

BORNEAN LEAFBIRD (Chloropsis kinabaluensis) [E]

It took some patience and persistence, but we got there in the end! Small groups seen three or four times, but often high overhead and tough to see. Eventually though, everyone connected with some.

Estrildidae (Waxbills and Allies)

SCALY-BREASTED MUNIA (Lonchura punctulata)

A surprise! This isn't a species we expect to see in the Crocker Range. A couple of them flew into bamboo along the road near the Rafflesia Centre.

DUSKY MUNIA (Lonchura fuscans) [EN]

Seen on a few days in the lowlands, with our best views coming near the entrance to the Rainforest Discovery Centre, when we found two birds bringing grassy bits to a spherical nest.

Field Guides Birding Tours
White-chested Babblers were plentiful along the smaller tributaries of the Kinabatangan. Photo by participant Rhys Harrison.

WHITE-BELLIED MUNIA (Lonchura leucogastra)

A little group swirled through the tall grasses along the edge of the Danum River, visible from the BRL dining deck on a couple of days.

CHESTNUT MUNIA (Lonchura atricapilla)

A few near the RDC parking lot (seen while we searched for sunbirds in the flowering shrubs), with another pair nesting in the 5-foot tall palm tree near where we loaded onto the bus at the Sukau boat dock.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

EURASIAN TREE SPARROW (Passer montanus) [I]

Very common in the lowlands, with dozens hopping around on the ground and in bushes at each hotel and airport, and singing from the roofs of buildings in town and city centers.

Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

PADDYFIELD PIPIT (Anthus rufulus malayensis)

A handful strode around in the shorter grass at the edge of the runways at the Lahad Datu airport, helping to entertain us while we waited for the vehicles to arrive to take us to the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. This is the only pipit that breeds on the island.


COLUGO (Cynocephalus variegatus) [*]

The startlingly loud call of one boomed out from over our heads while we listened for frogmouths near the turnaround spot on our first night drive at BRL.

LARGE FLYING FOX (Pteropus vampyrus)

A few flapped ponderously over the Sepilok Nature Resort late on our first afternoon, and we saw others -- including one sharing a fruiting tree with our first Slow Loris -- on one of our BRL night drives.


Thousands and thousands streamed out in vast ribbons, writhing like smoke across the skies over Gomantong Caves.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Red Leaf Monkeys, also known as Maroon Langurs, were fairly common around the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Is it just me, or do they all look terribly depressed? Photo by participant John Rounds.

SLENDER TREESHREW (Tupaia gracilis) [E]

One scampered across the BRL entrance road, seen by a few as we birded our way towards the canopy walkway on our first morning there.

SLOW LORIS (Nycticebus cougang)

One dangled from a branch high above the BRL entrance road, nibbling fruits from a long spike, not far from a dangling Large Flying Fox, seen on our first BRL night drive. We found another climbing (faster than we would have expected!) out of the reeds into a tree at the start of the Resang River.

HORSFIELD'S TARSIER (Tarsius bancanus)

A youngster clung (with its improbably long fingers) to a small sapling in the forest along the BRL boardwalk trail, peering around in the dark, and an adult did the same along the BRL entrance road at the start of our second night drive there.

CRAB-EATING MACAQUE (Macaca fascigularis)

Abundant along the Kinabatangan and its tributaries, including a family engaged in some early morning grooming on a branch along the Menanggul on our last morning. This species is smaller than the next, and their long tails give them their alternate name -- Long-tailed Macaque.

PIGTAIL MACAQUE (Macaca nemestrina)

Also common within the Kinabatangan River basin, including one crossing a monkey bridge over the Menanggul. The stumpy tails of these bigger macaques give them their common name.

SILVERED LEAF MONKEY (Presbytis cristata)

A few small troops along the Kinabatangan and its tributaries, including one group with an orange adult -- a much less common color morph.

RED LEAF MONKEY (Presbytis rubicunda) [E]

One eating dirt beside the BRL entrance road on our first morning's walk there was soon joined by a second, while two others lurked in the nearby trees. Eventually, the two from the ground climbed up into a tree beside the road and stretched out on the branches like they were sprawled in a couple of lounge chairs.

PROBOSCIS MONKEY (Nasalis larvatus) [E]

Regular along the Kinabatangan and its tributaries, including a big-nosed male surrounded by his harem in riverside trees one afternoon. With a population drop of more than 45% over the past few decades, this iconic Bornean endemic is now considered endangered. Fortunately, the Kinabatangan basin is still a stronghold for the species.

GRAY GIBBON (Hylobates muelleri) [E]

As usual, we heard the evocative, melodious whoops and calls of this seldom-seen species at RDC and daily in Danum Valley. However, we lucked into a family group slowly moving through trees along the BRL entrance road, giving us multiple chances to watch them in the scopes.

My, what big eyes you have! We found the favorite perch of a Broad-handed Carpenter Bee along the Gomantong Caves road. Video by guide Megan Edwards Crewe.

ORANGUTAN (Pongo pygmaeus) [E]

A mama with a small youngster were an unexpected reward for having climbed to the top of the Hornbill Tower at the Rainforest Discovery Centre, when we found them waking up at the top of a nearby tree. We had a "teenager" along the BRL entrance road, and another on each of our visits to the Gomantong Caves road.

PALE GIANT SQUIRREL (Ratufa affinis)

One scrambled through trees along the Menanggul one morning, seen by some before it disappeared into thicker vegetation. This squirrel is big enough that it's regularly mistaken for a monkey!

PREVOST'S SQUIRREL (Callosciurus prevostii)

The most common of the tour's squirrels, seen everywhere but the higher reaches of Mount Kinabalu.

KINABALU SQUIRREL (Callosciurus baluensis) [E]

One along the Kinabalu Park road, seen in the same area as a big mixed flock of laughingthrushes, near dusk on our last evening in the park.

PLANTAIN SQUIRREL (Callosciurus notatus)

One just across the road from the Sepilok Nature Resort showed well the distinctive black and white flank stripes of this species. We saw others daily along the tributaries of the Kinabatangan.

BORNEAN BLACK-BANDED SQUIRREL (Callosciurus orestes) [E]

Seen nearly every day in Kinabalu Park, with very up close and personal views of one checking us out on the platform at Timpohon Gate -- and it was very disappointed indeed that we didn't have a single nut for it!

JENTINK'S SQUIRREL (Sundasciurus jentincki) [E]

We saw surprisingly few of these normally common highland squirrels this year, but finally connected with a turbocharged gang of them near the head of the Silau-Silau trail our final morning.


Singles at various places in Kinabalu Park, particularly up near Timpohon Gate. Despite what their name suggests, these all dark-brown squirrels are sometimes found in trees, though never very high.

PLAIN PYGMY SQUIRREL (Exilisciurus exilis) [E]

Another inexplicably rare squirrel this year, with only a single sighting -- a little cutie that scuttled up a tree trunk along the Gomantong Caves road.

Field Guides Birding Tours
There are many species of squirrel on the island, including a fair few endemics. This one, the Bornean Black-banded Squirrel, is found only in the highlands of northern Borneo. Photo by participant Eileen Keelan.

WHITEHEAD'S PYGMY SQUIRREL (Exilisciurus whiteheadi) [E]

Singles of these little squirrels -- only slightly larger than the previous species -- on a couple of days in Kinabalu Park. Like the other "Whiteheads" on this list, the squirrel is named for John Whitehead, an explorer who collected many species in Borneo.

RED GIANT FLYING SQUIRREL (Petaurista petaurista)

One eating fruits high in a tree over the BRL entrance road showed the black tail tip that helps to distinguish this species from the Thomas's Flying Squirrel.

MALAY CIVET (Viverra tangalunga)

Fine views of four different animals on our first night drive at BRL -- including one that looked remarkably like a leopard on Brian's thermal scope!

SMALL-TOOTHED PALM CIVET (Arctogalidia trivirgata)

One clambered through a tree along the Kinabatangan, seen on one of our night floats. The distinctive dark stripes on its back give it its other common name -- Three-striped Civet.

COMMON PALM CIVET (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus)

One rummaging in a Daurian tree near the BRL staff quarters showed well before scuttling off into the night. The all-dark tail helps to distinguish it from the similar Masked Palm Civet.

BORNEAN PYGMY ELEPHANT (Elephas maximus borneensis)

Woohoo! An 11th-hour decision to try for the herd, which had been reported far upriver, turned up a surprise when we found a male (with one very wonky tusk) uprooting a palm tree in somebody's front yard not far beyond the Tenangang. He used front feet and trunk and tusks to systematically strip all of the fronds and bark off the tree and eventually carted the huge palm heart off into the forest. Bornean Pygmy Elephants are considered to be a subspecies of the Asian Elephant. They have proportionately longer tails than other subspecies -- as we saw, nearly reaching the ground.

SAMBAR (Cervus unicolor)

One lying on the ground near the BRL Nature trail (boardwalk) had us initially thinking we'd found a mouse deer when we saw the eyeshine. Obviously, this one is much bigger! Some of the group spotted another along the BRL entrance road on a later night drive, but our best views came in Poring Springs, where a big captive herd allowed leisurely examination.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Cream-vented Bulbuls were regular in the lowland forests. Gray (rather than pink) legs and a creamy (rather than buffy-brown) vent help to separate them from the similar Red-eyed Bulbul. Photo by participant Rhys Harrison.


COMMON HOUSE GECKO (Hemidactylus frenatus)

Very common throughout, particularly around the BRL dining room, where dozens gathered on the ceiling over the shoe racks or chased insects around the lights.

PAINTED BRONZEBACK (Dendrelaphis pictus)

One of these thin snakes coiled around reeds along the edge of the Kinabatangan, seen well in the spotlight as we drifted along beside it on one of our night floats.

HARLEQUIN FLYING TREEFROG (Rhacophorus pardalis (Rhacophoridae))

Fine views of one clinging to a sapling along the BRL nature trail on our night walk there.

FILE-EARED TREEFROG (Polypedates otilophus (Rhacophoridae))

Ali spotlighted one right at the start of our first night drive at BRL. The stripey hind legs on this big species are distinctive.

ROUGH-SIDED FROG (Pulchrana glandulosa)

We found the loud calls of these frogs quite comical as we searched for owls around the Sepilok Nature Resort; it sounded like they were saying "WHAT?!" Eventually, we found one calling from a grassy bank, giving us the chance to put it in the scope.

INTERMEDIATE STICKY FROG (Kalopbrynus intermedius)

We found one of these little frogs along the edge of the BRL entrance road, right near our yellow land crab. We didn't check to see if he was actually sticky.

SALTWATER CROCODILE (Crocodylus porosus)

Regular along the Kinabatangan and its tributaries, including a real monster near the start of the Menanggul one day.


A few on tree trunks at the RDC, including one that sailed across an open gap like a thrown dart.

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Little, but fierce! This small crab, photographed and identified as Isolapotamon ingeri by participant Eileen Keelan, waved us off along the BRL entrance road.

BORNEO ANGLE-HEADED LIZARD (Gonocephalus borneensis) [E]

A female, sprawled out on an eye-level branch near the main building at BRL, got our first evening walk there off to a good start.

SMITH'S GIANT GECKO (Gekko smithii ) [*]

We heard the distinctive calls of these big "barking geckos" on many days in the lowlands.

BORNEO SKINK (Dasia vittata)

We watched several of these lizards, which are boldly striped on the head and "shoulders" and speckled elsewhere, hunting on the trunks of trees at the RDC.

WATER MONITOR (Varanus salvator)

One swam across the pond at the RDC, its tail moving sinuously as it went, and a second big one scurried off the road as we drove towards Danum Valley.

Other Creatures of Interest

BROWN LEECH (Haemadipsa zyelanica)

The more common of the leeches we saw on this tour -- including one or two attached to one or two of us! The primitive anesthetic used by this one means it can attack stealthily; people seldom realize they've been bitten until they find a bloody spot on their clothes.

TIGER LEECH (Haemadipsa picta)

We saw (and felt!) fewer of these endemic leeches. Tiger is appropriate for both their stripey appearance and their prickly bite!

WHITE LANTERN BUG (Pyrops sultana (Flatidae, Hemiptera))

We saw one near the waterfall at Poring Springs when Brian found a "hotspot" with his thermal detector. The rusty "snout" of this sap sucker is distinctive.

GIANT FOREST ANT (Camponotus gigas)

Particularly good looks at a dozen or more congregated around some tasty bit along the service road during our first BRL night walk.


RAJAH BROOKE'S BIRDWING (Trogonoptera brookiana)

Seen a couple of times in Kinabalu Park, with especially nice views of the one that flew right towards us as we birded along the park road.

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The Horned Flying Lizard is one of Borneo's many unique "flying" species, and we saw several zooming past as they sailed from tree trunk to tree trunk. Males use their colorful dewlaps in territorial and courtship displays. Photo by participant Rhys Harrison.


Quite common in Danum Valley, where we watched a few of them trundle slowly across the road -- and roll up into big brown marbles when prodded.

COMMON BIRDWING (Troides helena)

This is a difficult complex of butterflies to identify! According to Brian's research on iNaturalist, it looks like most of the birdwings we photographed are probably Bornean Birdwing (Troides andromache).


One of the tour's most recognizable butterflies, seen regularly throughout the lowlands where they floated, like wisps of windblown tissue paper, through the forest.

CLIPPER BUTTERFLY (Parthenos sylvia)

Regular along the smaller tributaries of the Kinabatangan.


Other species of interest:

Tractor millipede (Barydesmus sp.) - We saw plenty of these along the BRL entrance road; they look a bit like bulldozer treads. They're tough to identify to species unless you're an expert.

Lanternbug (Pyrops heringi) - This was the banded, blue-nosed lantern bug we spotted along the Kinabalu Park road. According to one source that I found online, this endemic species is quite rare.

Malay Yeoman (Cirrochroa emalea) - This was the handsome orange butterfly with dark tips to the forewings and white "eyes" on the leading edge of the hind wings, seen along the BRL entrance road.

Lichen moth (Barsine roseororatus) - This was the orange moth we found on the silver bucket at Liwagu Restaurant during breakfast one morning.

Blue Admiral (Kaniska canace) - This is the butterfly that landed on Cal while we birded from the Kiau View overlook.

Cicada (Unipomponia decem) - We found one of these big cicadas on a trunk along the Kinabalu Park road; the gold edges to its wing sections were distinctive.

Broad-handed Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa latipes) - This was the big bee hunting from the edge of the roadside sign along the Gomantong Caves road.

Crab (Isolapotanom ingeri) - This was the fierce little yellowish crab we found along the BRL entrance drive.

Totals for the tour: 251 bird taxa and 28 mammal taxa