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Bird Watching in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Bird Watching in Kota Kinabalu Sabah

While Sabah is well known among nature lovers for its amazing flora and fauna, the Sabah Tourism Board has included bird watching as one of the tourism activities here. Birding in Sabah has grown tremendously over the last few years as Sabah boasts of a vast array of habitats with their own specialized birds and is now becoming a haven for birding enthusiasts. In total, there are 688 resident and migratory species of bird, 60 endemic species where 33 of these endemics are found around Sabah alone.

For bird watchers visiting Sabah, you will be pleased to know that the main city of Kota Kinabalu offers some birding locations which are all within walking distances. This can be done by yourself or by taking a taxi to some of the locations. You should also note that the best time for bird watching is also in the mornings or evenings at these places and there is no guarantee on sightings, all about luck.

Bird Watching Spots in Kota Kinabalu Sabah
Bird watching locations around Kota Kinabalu
For the avid birders, you can also self explore the many places to do your bird watching around Kota Kinabalu and below is a list of places;

Kota Kinabalu Bird Watching Locations

There are six main areas around Kota Kinabalu to bird watch and they are listed below. Most of these places require simple walking while some of them, you may require to take a taxi or boat as mentioned earlier. Anyhow, they are all within the city area as I have narrowed the birding locations in KK. If you are lucky, you may even spot a couple of the endemic birds of Borneo.

Bird Watching at Tanjung Aru, Sabah
Tanjung Aru Bird Watching
Tanjung Aru Beach is located about 5km outside KK city. You can take a taxi here or simple take a slow walk here. The popular area here are Tanjung Aru Beach and Prince Philip Park. Among the species that can be spotted here include the Blue Naped Paroot, the Crested Myna and the Java Sparrow, Green Imperial Pigeon, Pink Necked Green Pigeon, Olive Backed Sunbird, Brown Throated Sunbirds, Zebra Dove, Pied Thriller and Dusky Munia. 

Bird Watching at Kota Kinabalu Seafront or Waterfront
The Kota Kinabalu Seafront or Waterfront for bird watching 
Kota Kinabalu Seafront is by the main waterfront facing the islands. This is also called the KK Waterfront area where the esplanade stretches for a couple of kilometers and is easily accessed via foot. Birds that can be spotted at the KK seafront are the White-Bellied Sea Eagle, Brahminy Kite, Whiskered, Great Crested and Black Naped Terns and Pacific Reef Egret. On weekends, it doe get a bit crowded too.

Some of the birds seen at the Likas Lagoon
Birding at Likas area
Photo by Azahari Reyes at Likas
Likas Lagoon is located just north of KK city and is also easily accessible via foot with a slow long walk. Here, birders can spot the unique Oriental Darter, Purple Heron and the common White Egrets.

The one kilometer main road to Tuaran passes here therefore there will be heavy traffic so best be cautious when walking along here. The Likas swamp is separated by the busy main road where there are possibilities to spot ducks, Gallinules and Moorhens at the fresh-water lagoon. 

Manukan Island Bird Watching
Manukan Island
Manukan Island BirdsManukan Island is just in front of KK city and only a 10 minute boat ride from the Jesselton Pier in town. Popular with beach lovers, this place packs up on weekends so it is best to go on weekdays. Species include the Philippine Scrubfowl, Cuckoo-shrikes, Pied Triller, Thrushes, Oriental Magpie-robin, Old World Warblers, Arctic Warbler, Flowerpeckers and the Orangebellied Flowerpecker.

A recommendation here is to hit the jogging track on the island as there a numerous birds to be spotted here. Alternatively, you can explore some of the treks here too.

Botanical Gardens Sabah Museum
Sabah Museum Botanical Gardens

Sabah Museum Botanical Gardens is sited on 17 hectare of land at Bukit Istana Lama in Kota Kinabalu city. This is a 10 minute walk from the city center too.  Outside the museum complex is an ethnobotanic garden and a heritage village where this is the best area to do some basic bird watching here.

Most of the birds spotted at Sabah Museum are the common birds like Oriental Magpie-Robins, Warblers and Flowerpeckers but sometimes you could be in luck. To explore this place, you simple need to head to the Sabah Museum and then to the botanical garden area. It is a simple walk here too.

Kota Kinabalu Wetlands Sabah
Kota Kinabalu Wetlands
KK Wetlands Bird Watching
Birds at the KK Wetlands
Kota Kinabalu Wetlands was formerly known as Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary and is a 24-hectare patch of mangrove forest and was designated as a bird sanctuary by the Sabah government in September 1996 to help foster better understanding and awareness on the value of wetlands. This spot is also located at the foot of Signal Hill, near Likas Square. About 80 species of birds have been identified at the sanctuary. 

The Kota Kinabalu Wetlands centre is open Tuesday to Sunday 8.00am till 6.00pm. It closes on Mondays, except when it falls on a Public Holiday. Birds spotted here include Little Egret, Striated Heron, White-winged Tern, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Marsh Sandpiper and a number of other common birds. Rare sightings of the Nankeen Night Heron and the Lesser Adjutant Stork have been recorded here too. A fee applies to get in here.

KK Wetlands Map
Kota Kinabalu Wetlands Map
Sabah Museum Botanical Garden Birds
Starlings feeding, photographed at Sabah Museum Botanical Garden
Other that the places mentioned above, you have to travel out of Kota Kinabalu city for bird watching. You should know that in there are many bird watching locations in Sabah to choose from and also depending on what you want to spot.

For the avid birder, Sabah plays host to the Borneo Bird Festival which takes place yearly in Sandakan while for the serious birder, there is the annual bird race which takes participants around Borneo. I have also published an article for those who want to know what is the Borneo Bird Race.

Read my earlier articles on the previous Borneo Bird Festival to see what is offered in other places around Sabah. For any questions or further enquiries, you can contact me. If you know of any locations for birding around Kota Kinabalu, you can always drop me an email or leave a comment here and I will update my list of Bird Watching in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

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