Trip report: Borneo (July 2017) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Ken Behrens. This was a set-departure tour that included the highlands extension.

Borneo lies in one of the biologically richest areas on Earth – the Asian equivalent of Costa Rica or Ecuador. It holds many widespread Asian birds, plus a diverse set of birds that are restricted to the Sunda region (southern Thailand, peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, and Borneo), and dozens of its own endemic birds and mammals. Although there has been rampant environmental destruction on Borneo, mainly due to the creation of oil palm plantations, there are still extensive forested areas left, and the Malaysian state of Sabah, at the northern end of the island, seems to be trying hard to preserve its biological heritage.

This tour certainly demonstrated why Borneo is such a well-established and popular destination for travelling birders. On the bird front, we racked up 331 species, one of the best ever totals for this tour. Although the island’s endemic birds are just one of many reasons to visit Borneo, we certainly did well on that front, tallying 42 endemics according to current Clements taxonomy, plus another 19 taxa that are very likely to be split in the future. Some of the avian highlights were Bornean Crested Fireback, endangered Storm’s Stork, the enigmatic Bornean Ground-Cuckoo, Large and Sunda Frogmouths, all three of the “Whitehead’s Trio”: Trogon, Broadbill, and Spiderhunter, all 8 of Borneo’s hornbill species, including great views of Helmeted and White-crowned Hornbills, White-fronted Falconet, 6 species of pittas, of which five were seen well, many superb views of Bornean Bristlehead, White-necked Babbler, Bornean and Black-throated Wren-Babblers, Bare-headed Laughingthrush, Everett’s Thrush, and eight species of Spiderhunters.

Borneo is also one of the richest places on Earth for mammals. Despite being a tropical forest environment, where mammals are difficult to see, there is no other tour outside of Africa where we consistently rack up so many mammal species. On this trip, we recorded 40 species of mammals, again one of the best ever totals for a Borneo tour. Of course, the top mammal was the amazing Orangutan, which saw seven days in a row (more on that below). But there were many other furry sightings including Bornean Pygmy Elephant, Bornean Coluga, Phillipine Slow Loris, Thomas’s and Red Giant Flying Squirrels, Bornean and Whitehead’s Pygmy Squirrels, Proboscis Monkey, Pig-tailed Macaque, Red Langur, Bearded Pig, and five species of treeshrews. Irrespective of the world-class birds, Borneo is worth visiting for its mammals alone!

Click this link to view the full report in PDF format (7 MB file).