Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Bird Watching in Flores

Flores Bird Watching

If you are into birding, then this article on Bird Watching in Flores would be of great interest to you. I visited Flores twice in 2016 and both on a mission to explore this amazing destination which is relatively unknown to the general tourism world, perhaps many may know of Komodo Island as this is currently one of the top places to visit in Indonesia. 

Therefore, I wrote this article on bird watching in Flores for any serious birders who would like to increase their bird numbers. Before I continue, I would like to confess that I am only a beginner bird watcher as I have been doing this only for the last five to six years, mainly around Malaysia, especially at Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo Island. 

My birding activities have taken me to many national parks, forest reserves, conservation's, shorelines, islands and highlands. Even backyard birding is on my list at times. In general, I may have seen over 500-600 species of birds in the last five years or so and in Borneo, perhaps around 300 plus birds. As my job takes me to many places, I somehow manage to find the time to do some birding and in Flores, I was lucky to have time to explore some of the birding spots. 

Flores is located in the east most part of Indonesia, after Bali and Lombok Island and just before Papua Indonesia. To get here, the best possible way is by taking a flight. I would recommend using Skyscanner for flights to Flores as it would narrow down the cheapest and easiest ways to fly here from anywhere in the world. Let us get to the birding in Flores.
Green Pigeons Komodo Island Flores
A pair of pigeons seen at the Komodo National Park on Komodo Island
Bird Watching in Flores

There are at least 10 popular spots to do birding in Flores and the best place to start is no other than the town of Labuan Bajo in the west most part of Flores. Labuan Bajo also serves as the main gateway to Komodo Island, where birding is also recommended. There are specialized bird guides found in this town and you can book them by getting in touch with some of the tour companies here. 

Labuan Bajo also offers some really nice hotels and resorts for your accommodations and the facilities are up to general tourist standards, or birding standards. By saying this, I mean you will not find a Nikon Optics shop in Flores, so please bring all your equipment and spares if you have to. 

Bird Watching Spots in Flores

The entire island is literally bird-watchable as there is no major development whatsoever being done here. However, there are a few notable places around Flores for bird watching which are listed from Labuan Bajo and heading outwards. This means for those planning a short birding trip to Flores can just focus around Labuan Bajo areas.

Dolat Wetlands - Only 4 kilometers south of Labuan Bajo, you can come here twice a day. Spot the Wandering Whistling-duck, Malaysian Plover, Mees’s Nightjar, Sunda Teal, Black-faced Munia, Beach Thick-knee, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Javan Plover, Flame-throated Sunbird, Crakes and Rails among the many bird here.

Potawangka Road - East of Labuan Bajo and 10 kilometers from the town area. Spot Bonelli’s Eagle, Wallacean Cuckooshrike, White-rumped Kingfisher, Flame-breasted Sunbird, Zebra Finch, Flores Green Pigeon, Elegant Pitta, Yellow-spectacled White-eye, Black-fronted Flowerpecker, Wallace’s Hanging-Parrot, Black-naped Fruit-Dove, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Green Junglefowl and many others.

Komodo National Park - This will be everyone's must-go place when you are in Flores and apart from seeing the Komodo Dragons, you will be in for a good bird watching experience here. Some of the park guides know quite a bit about the Komodo Island birds.
5 colored Munia in Flores
The beautiful five colored Munia in Flores
Lake Sano Nggoang and Nunang Village - Southeast of Labuan Bajo along the Flores Highway to Ruteng. Spot Wallace’s and Moluccan Scops-Owls, Glittering Kingfisher, Flores Crow, Flores Green Pigeon, Pacific Black Duck, Flame-breasted Sunbird, Elegant Pitta, Flores Minivet, Flores Monarch, Golden-rumped Flowerpecker, Yellow-ringed White-eye, Black-fronted Flowerpecker and many more.

Puarlolo - East of Labuan Bajo and easy to do as a day trip. Spot  the famous Flores Monarch, Flores Crow, Rufous-backed Kingfisher, Short-toed Eagle, Green Junglefowl, Thick-billed Dark-eye, Flores Hawk-Eagle, Chestnut-capped Thrushes, Russet-capped Tesia, Wallace’s Hanging-Parrot, Rufous-chested Flycatcher and many others.

Golo Lusang and Danau Rana Mese Lake - South and East of Ruteng, on route to Bajawa. Spot the Flores Minivet, Golden-rumped Flowerpecker, Pacific Black Duck (lake area), Russet-capped Tesia, Wallace’s Scops-Owl, Black-backed Fruit Dove, White-rumped Kingfisher, Timor Leaf-warbler, Scaly-crowned Honeyeater, Helmeted Friarbird, Pale-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Brown-capped Fantail, Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon, Blood-breasted Flowerpecker and many other birds.

Poco Ranaka - East Ruteng near to Lake Rana Mese, chances to spot Bonelli’s Eagle, Chestnut-backed Thrush, White-browed Shortwing, Tawny-breasted Parrotfinch and the Pygmy Wren-babbler.

Pagal - North of Ruteng and you can find Elegant Pitta, Wallace’s Hanging-Parrot, Yellow-spectacled White-eye, Flores Green-Pigeon, White-rumped Kingfisher, Ruddy Cuckoo Dove, Brown-capped Fantail and Russet-capped Tesia, which have been recorded around here.

Kisol Village - Southeast of Ruteng. Spot the rare Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Brown-capped Fantail, Yellow-spectacled White-eye, Flores Green Pigeon, Flores Crow, Thick-billed Dark-eye, Black-fronted Flowerpecker, Flame-breasted Sunbird, Flores Hawk-Eagle, Moluccan and Wallace’s Scops-Owl, Black-naped Fruit-Dove, Mees’s Nightjar, White-rumped Kingfisher, Elegant Pitta, Flores Crow, Russet-capped Tesia, Chestnut-capped Thrush.
Kelimutu National Park in Flores
One of the sign boards at Kelimutu National Park, Flores
Kelimutu National Park - Near Ende and Maumere, you can spot montane endemics like Bare-throated Whistler, Flores Green Pigeon, Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon, Crested Dark-eye, Ruddy Cuckoo Dove and Five-coloured Munia. The best is to trek using the general path all the way to the peak. It takes about 20-30 minutes trek up.

What Kind of Birds Are Found in Flores

Because Flores is an island and sitting between certain flyways, you can see lots of migrating birds here. But Flores is also home to many endemics like the Flores Crow and Flores Green Pigeon just to name a couple. Check the Flores Bird List below for endemics. Varieties include coastal birds, lowland birds, hill birds, sub-montane forest birds, montane birds, raptors and even unique birds.
Flores Birdwatching
A Rainbow Bee Eater spotted in Flores, near Labuan Bajo
Bird List of Flores

The bird list below is not complete but better than anything because there is no offical list out there. The birds of Flores list here is provided by Burung Nusantara (http://burung-nusantara.org/) and a bird watching trip report. Note the Flores birds in bold are endemic while from No.1 to No.50 are mostly the star birds to spot.
  1. Green Junglefowl
  2. Orange-footed Scrubfowl
  3. Flores Hawk-Eagle
  4. Wallace’s Hanging Parrot
  5. Leaf (Rainbow) Lorikeet
  6. Dark-backed Imperial Pigeon
  7. Black-backed Fruit Dove
  8. Barred Cuckoo Dove
  9. Parzudaki’s (Ruddy) Cuckoo Dove
  10. Black-naped Fruit Dove
  11. Flores Green Pigeon
  12. Flores Scops Owl
  13. Wallace’s Scops Owl
  14. Moluccan Scops Owl
  15. White-rumped Kingfisher
  16. Cerulean Kingfisher
  17. Stork-billed Kingfisher
  18. Collared Kingfisher
  19. Elegant Pitta
  20. Flores Minivet
  21. Flores Crow
  22. Flores Monarch
  23. Flores Warbling-flycatcher (Russet-backed Jungle-Flycatcher)
  24. Trumpeting (Brown-capped) Fantail
  25. Bare-throated Whistler
  26. Chestnut-capped Thrush
  27. Chestnut-backed Thrush
  28. Flores (White-browed) Shortwing
  29. Pygmy Cupwing (Wren Babbler)
  30. Russet-capped Tesia
  31. Flores Leaf-Warbler
  32. Scaly-crowned Honeyeater
  33. Wallace’s Heleia (Yellow-spectacled White-eye)
  34. Eyebrowed Heleia (Yellow-browed Dark-eye)
  35. Thick-billed Heleia (Dark-eye)
  36. Crested Heleia (Dark-eye)
  37. Golden-rumped Flowerpecker
  38. Black-fronted Flowerpecker
  39. Flores (Blood-breasted) Flowerpecker
  40. Flame-breasted Sunbird
  41. Flores Spangled (Wallacean) Drongo
  42. Pale-shouldered Cicadabird
  43. Wallacean Cuckooshrike
  44. Pale-headed Munia
  45. Five-coloured Munia
  46. Black-faced Munia
  47. Scaly-breasted Munia
  48. Timor Zebra Finch
  49. Bulwer's Petrel (Komodo)
  50. Streaked Shearwater
  51. Wedge-tailed Shearwater 
  52. Red-throated Little Grebe
  53. Red-tailed Tropicbird
  54. Great Frigatebird
  55. Lesser Frigatebird
  56. Little Pied Cormorant
  57. Red-footed Booby 
  58. Brown Booby
  59. Abbotts'Booby 
  60. Great-billed Heron
  61. Purple Heron
  62. White-faced Heron
  63. Intermediate Egret 
  64. Little Egret 
  65. Pacific Reef Egret 
  66. Cattle Egret 
  67. Javan Pond-Heron  
  68. Little Heron
  69. Rufous Night Heron
  70. Cinnamon Bittern
  71. Woolly-necked Stork
  72. Oriental Honey-buzzard
  73. Black-winged Kite 
  74. Brahminy Kite
  75. White-bellied Sea-Eagle 
  76. Chinese Goshawk 
  77. Variable Goshawk 
  78. Brown Goshawk
  79. Japanese Sparrowhawk 
  80. Bonelli's Eagle
  81. Rufous-bellied Eagle
  82. Changeable Hawk-eagle
  83. Spotted Kestrel
  84. Wandering Whistling Duck
  85. Lesser Whistling Duck
  86. Sunda Teal 
  87. Pacific Black Duck
  88. Buff-banded Rail
  89. White-browed Crake
  90. White-breasted Waterhen
  91. Common Moorhen
  92. Black-winged Stilt 
  93. Pacific Golden Plover
  94. Kentish (Javan) Plover
  95. Greater Sand-Plover
  96. Whimbrel
  97. Common Redshank
  98. Common Greenshank 
  99. Red-necked Stint
  100. Marsh Sandpiper
  101. Wood Sandpiper 
  102. Broad-billed Sandpiper 
  103. Red-necked Phalarope
  104. Pomarine Jaeger
  105. Whiskered Tern
  106. Black-naped Tern
  107. Sooty Tern 
  108. Greater Crested Tern
  109. Lesser Crested Tern
  110. Brown Noddy
  111. White-throated Pigeon 
  112. Island Collared Dove 
  113. Spotted Dove
  114. Ruddy Cuckoo-dove
  115. Barred Dove
  116. Green Imperial Pigeon
  117. Yellow-crested Cockatoo
  118. Great-billed Parrot
  119. Rusty-breasted Cuckoo
  120. Oriental Cuckoo
  121. Common Koel
  122. Lesser Coucal
  123. Large-tailed Nightjar 
  124. Edible-nest Swiftlet
  125. Glossy Swiftlet
  126. Fork-tailed Swift
  127. Blue-tailed Bee-eater
  128. Common Dollarbird 
  129. Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker
  130. Australasian Bushlark
  131. Barn Swallow
  132. Pacific Swallow
  133. Striated Swallow
  134. Grey Wagtail
  135. Richards Pipit 
  136. Pale-shouldered Cicadabird
  137. White-shouldered Triller
  138. Black-naped Oriole
  139. Large-billed Crow
  140. Great Tit
  141. Flyeater
  142. Mountain Tailorbird
  143. Arctic Warbler
  144. Yellow-breasted Warbler
  145. Golden-headed Cisticola
  146. Zitting Cisticola
  147. Little Pied Flycatcher 
  148. Black-naped Monarch 
  149. Asian Paradise Flycatcher
  150. Common Golden Whistler
  151. White-breasted Wood-swallow
  152. Hill Myna
  153. Helmeted Friarbird 
  154. Brown-throated Sunbird 
  155. Olive-backed Sunbird
  156. Oriental White-eye
  157. Mountain White-eye
  158. Lemon-bellied White-eye
  159. Tree Sparrow 
  160. Eurasian Coot 
  161. Little Grebes
  162. Spectacled Monarch
Orange-footed Scrubfowl Flores
An Orange-footed Scrubfowl spotted at Komodo Island, Flores
When is the Best Time for Bird Watching in Flores

Overall, the entire year is great for bird watching in Flores, but there is a rainy season from December to March and if you don't like the rain, avoid these months. Also, in February, the seas have high waves as it is the peak of the monsoon season, so avoid mid January to mid March. July to August is Komodo High Season, so Labuan Bajo will be pretty crowded and so will Komodo Island. If you do not like large crowds, avoid these couple of months. 

How Much is Bird Watching in Flores

Depending on the type of package you choose, the price of bird watching in Flores varies anywhere from US$1000 to US$2000 per person. A couple of tour companies provide bird watching tours in Flores and for a 7 Day Bird Watching Package, the price is around US$1625.00 per person with a minimum of 2 persons.

However, for those who are on a budget, you can also do bird watching in Flores for less than the prices mentioned above. Probably for under US$1000 per person, but it would be mostly around Labuan Bajo and Komodo National Park.

If you are visiting this island in East Nusa Tenggara, do read my other article on things to do in Flores as it sheds some information about what else you can do around this beautiful island. You should also read my other article on things to do in Labuan Bajo, as that is the most popular area in Flores.
Flores Birds
One of the colorful birds spotted just outside of Labuan Bajo, Flores
For me, being a beginner birder, I use very basic equipment for this hobby. My birding equipment is a Nikon D5100 DSLR camera with a 300mm Nikkor Telephoto Lens, an Omicron Barbet RF 8x32 Binoculars, a Cabin Zero Bag and mid range tripod. To date, they have served me pretty well as I travel around quite a bit, therefore I need easy and light equipment.

The beauty about traveling from place to place on a short time is that you get to see multiple places, but for the serious birder, this would be frustrating. Well, for my work, I only have very little time to bird watch or photograph, therefore I make the best of what time I have. And this is also one of the main reasons that I travel light, due to my work schedules.
Omicron Binoculars, which I use for my bird watching. 
I have to admit that I do not know most of the birds spotted during my trip here as I did not have the Flores Bird Guide Book. I have ordered it and on my next birding trip to Flores, I will bring it along to identify all the birds. You can also visit my Facebook album on Flores birds, where I have posted more photos there. 

In general, Flores is one of the new places for bird watching as it is located far from the main commercial Southeast Asia region and closer towards Papua New Guinea. With minor development happening, flora and fauna is still considered to be rich all over the island. And for anyone wanting to do Bird Watching in Flores, I strongly recommend you engage a good bird guide who speaks the local language. 

Author:

Malaysia Asia is a multiple award-winning travel blog site with information on unique and interesting places around Malaysia, Borneo, Indonesia, Southeast Asia and the World. Malaysia Asia is also under MyAsia Services, a Digital Travel Solutions Company based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest. We are also not your regular travel bloggers. 

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