Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Harlequins of the Forest

I got a chance to visit Kaeng Krachan National Park in Petchaburi Province during late May with few of my birding friends. It's been more than 5 years since my last visit to this famous birding site. Located almost in the centre of the country, it is where birds of northern Thailand meet birds of the south. Total number of species recorded within the park has already exceeded 420 species out of roughly 1,000 species recorded in Thailand. No further point is needed to prove that it is one of the best places for birding. April-May is probably the best month for birding at Kaeng Krachan as well, as it is breeding season for most birds. One of the star bird families at Kaeng Krachan is the extremely delightful Broadbills. Kaeng Krachan offers the highest variety of broadbill species in Thailand. The easy ones  which can be found really easily during the nesting season are Silver-breasted Broadbill (Serilophus lunatus) and Long-tailed Broadbill (Psarisomus dalhousiae).

Long-tailed Broadbill

Male  Silver-breasted Broadbill

Female  Silver-breasted Broadbill

Aren't these birds amazing? They're like harlequins of the forest. All broadbills have stunning appearance, either the colours or patterns. It is guaranteed that you wouldn't miss at least the Silver-breasted Broadbill, if you're visiting Kaeng Krachan during the breeding season. Their nests can be found constantly hanging above the road even right after you passed the entrance. They nest all the way from the gate up to the 3rd stream. After that, it's the even more striking Long-tailed Broadbill's turn. The Long-tailed relative prefers higher altitude, building nests along the road up to Pha Noeun Thung summit.

Male Silver-breasted Broadbill

A cute curious look

Another curious look

A video showing both the male and female bird

Silver-breasted Broadbills with Great Orange Tip

Banded Broadbill fledgling

There was a pair of Silver-breasted Broadbill which were nesting right on the roadside. The nest was built hanging from a lower bush even lower than eye-level. The chicks seemed to hatch very recently, since parent birds were still not very actively feeding. Just about a hundred metres away, there's also another nest hanging right above the road. This nest was much more active. Probably the chicks will fledge very soon. I observed parent birds bringing back different kinds of preys including a large and colourful Great Orange Tip butterfly. While I was busyily taking photos of the Silver-breasted Broadbills, a loud and alarming call came from the canopy. I was happy to see that it was a pair of the more canopy-dwelling Banded Broadbills (Eurylaimus javanicus). After a while, I realised that they were calling for their chick. A fledgling was sitting quietly right above my head. Even though it was not as colourful as the adults, it was extremely cute.

Notice the yellow ear tufts

Occasionally cocks its tail when alarmed (?)

Bringing back nesting materials

Profile shot

Click to see how cute it is!

Nesting right above the road

This nest actually fell from the original branch and was tied back to the lower branch by birders.
Amazing how the birds were still using it!

On our way to Pha Noen Thung summit, we observed 2 active Long-tailed Broadbill nests and several more probably abandoned nests just along the road. It is probably my favourite species of broadbills. It is very cartoonish with a black helmet-like pattern on its head, provoking the nick name 'The Helmet' among Thai birders. As you can see from the photos above, the nests were built really close to the road. I believe that these birds intended to use the openness of the road and noises from the passing cars as protections from natural predators which most likely prefer to stay away from human. The nest in the lowest photo actually fell from the original branch, probably by the rain storm, and was tied up to the lower branch by some birders. Quite incredibly, the birds still came back and used it!


  1. "The Helmet" is a great name.... the first time I ever saw these I thought the cap looked like something a baseball batter would wear.

  2. Great write up and wonderful images. These broadbills are certainly one of my favourites.

  3. I can see why it's the place to go. those broadbills are just so diferent, amazing colours and presence. Super pictures.

  4. YES. They are amazing. Your photographs are just so superb as well. They look like you paid them to pose for you, and they are the most professional of models. Man, I just visited home and couldn't deal with light/shadows and contrasts. You do so well amongst the trees.