Michael Herr (and other people before him) once stated that “War is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.” When replacing “terror” with “excitement”, this sounds a lot like birding in tropical rainforests to me.

You have probably experienced it yourself: You prepare yourself well for a birding trip, looking at trip reports, eBird lists, bird guides, etc. Then you arrive in a place such as Taman Negara, Malaysia, eager to start birding and possibly getting nice photos of all the beautiful birds you wish to see. And then, not much happens. Birds (like children) should be seen not heard, but rainforest birds clearly have not understood this message. You only see one bird every two hours or so, while the same period of time is enough for 4 or 5 leeches to find your ankle. And you wonder: Aren`t there any more sensible ways to spend your leisure time than searching for but not seeing birds?

Fortunately, much as the soldier probably mostly remembers a war for its brief moments of sheer terror, birders are blessed with similar retrograde amnesia which leaves out the boredom and physical discomfort and focuses on the perhaps 5 minutes during a three- or four-day birding trip that were actually spent seeing beautiful birds. This is the way otherwise sane people start planning for their next rainforest birdwatching trip soon after their last one.

And seeing the photos I got at Taman Negara during a three-day stay in November 2019, this always seems to work – despite not having seen a single Pitta …

Asian Fairy Bluebird

Black-Naped Monarch


Black-and-red Broadbill

Buff-necked Woodpecker

Collared Scops Owl

Crested Flameback

Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo

Grey-cheeked Bulbul

Pale Blue Flycatcher

Raffle`s Malkoha

Rhinoceros Hornbill

Rufous-collared Kingfisher

Scaly-crowned Babbler

Rufous-winged Philentoma

Rufous Woodpecker

Scarlet-rumped Trogon

Stork-billed Kingfisher

Tiger Shrike

White-rumped Shama

Written by Kai Pflug
Kai Pflug has been living in Shanghai for 20 years. He only became interested in birds in China – so he is much more familiar with birds in China than with those in Germany. While he will only ever be an average birder, he aims to be a good bird photographer and has created a website with bird photos as proof. He hopes not too many clients of his consulting company read this blog, as they will doubt his dedication to providing consulting services related to China`s chemical industry. Whenever he wants to shock other birders, he tells them his (indoor) cats can distinguish several warblers by taste.