Trip report: Sulawesi and Halmahera Aug-Sept. 2017 by Tropical Birding

Guided by Sam Woods. This was a set departure tour.

The oddly-shaped islands of Sulawesi and Halmahera boast many endemic birds, so are must visit destinations for big listers, people interested in finding all the families (i.e. Hylocitrea on Sulawesi), or those looking to see some of Asia’s best-looking birds. This year’s tour was unusually wet, with landslides and flooding impacting us on both Sulawesi and Halmahera. Conversely, we ended up with more species than ever before, 292 species, including 131 regional endemics (89 on Sulawesi and 42 on Halmahera; depending on taxonomy), and featured 27 Pigeons and Doves, 17 parrots and cockatoos, 17 raptor species (including all 4 of Sulawesi’s endemic accipiters and Moluccan Goshawk), 16 kingfishers, 12 cuckooshrikes, 9 starlings and mynas, 8 owls, 6 white-eyes, 5 nightjars, 4 megapodes, 3 pittas, and 2 birds-of-paradise.

We covered South, Central and North Sulawesi, with highlights including Black-ringed White-eye, Sulawesi Brown (Streaked) Flycatcher, and Piping Crow in the south; excellent views of Great Shortwing (Heinrichia), Small Sparrowhawk, Scaly-breasted Kingfisher, as well as Hylocitrea, and Purple-bearded Bee-eater in the center; and daytime Minahassa Masked Owl, and Ochre-bellied Boobook, Red-backed Thrush, a Technicolor male Knobbed Hornbill at a nest, Sulawesi (Sahul) Pitta, and Green-backed, Sulawesi Dwarf, and Lilac-cheeked (Sulawesi Lilac) Kingfishers, and another Scaly-breasted Kingfisher in the north of Sulawesi, in addition to some great mammals, like Celebes Crested Macaques around us at Tangkoko, tarsiers peering out from a large fig tree, and Sulawesi Bear Cuscus looking down on us. Not to mention the unique, rose-breasted Maleo that was watched on a perch for some time during our time on the Minahassa Peninsula.

Once we moved to Halmahera, parrots and pigeons took over; Eclectus Parrots were omnipresent, White (Umbrella) Cockatoos showed well, as did Violet-necked Lory, Moluccan King-Parrot, and Gray-headed, Blue-capped and Scarlet-breasted Fruit-Doves. The nocturnal visit to the beach for Moluccan Scrubfowl was again popular, following views down to 15 feet, and getting to see a pair of copulating Moluccan Scops-Owls! We also scored both Wallace’s Standardwing (Standardwing Bird-of-paradise), Ivory-breasted Pitta, North Moluccan Pitta (phenomenal looks this year), Purple Dollarbird (Azure Roller), Moluccan Owlet-Nightjar, and even a confiding Ornate Cuscus providing a formidable supporting cast on the extension. 74 new species, including 42 Moluccan endemics were added on the extension.

    Top 5 Birds on SULAWESI and MOLUCCAS EXTENSION (HALMAHERA):

1 Moluccan Scrubfowl Galela, HALMAHERA
2 Purple-bearded Bee-eater Watu Dau, (near Wuasa), SULAWESI
3 Red-backed Thrush Tangkoko, SULAWESI
4 Ivory-breasted Pitta Weda, HALMAHERA
5 Minahassa Masked-Owl Tangkoko, SULAWESI

Other birds that were mentioned during the voting were: Maleo, Scaly-breasted Kingfisher, North Moluccan Pitta, Knobbed Hornbill, Scarlet-breasted Fruit-Dove, Ashy Woodpecker, Halmahera Swiftlet, Finch-billed Myna (Grosbeak Starling), Hylocitrea, and Wallace’s Standardwing (Standardwing Bird-of-paradise).

Full Sulawesi and Halmahera 2017 report in PDF format (12.1 MB).