It is not just for rare and endangered
animals and unique plants and trees that the National
Parks are famous. Among bird watchers the parks are
internationally recognized as the place to see many of
recorded bird species and the majority of the endemic
More than 500 different species of bird have been
recorded in the National Parks from the species-rich
lowland hill forests. But it is in the higher reaches
of the parks, that most of endemic birds are found
(generally at altitudes above 1000 meters).
The bird lists are still far from definitive and
previously unrecorded continue to be seen. Salvadori's
Pheasant and Schneider's Pitta were both birds
rediscovered in the park in the late 1980s. More
recently, the Sumatran Cochoa (1994) and Giant pitta
(1996) joined the park's bird list - the latter after
more than a century's absence from the bird list.
Intrepid birders are hoping to 're-find' the Sunda
Ground-cuckoo in the park. The species is known only
from museum specimens, the latest of was dated 1912.
Hopes that the ground-cuckoo might indeed be in the
park were raised in 1998 when two hunters
independently described a bird fitting the description
and behavior of a ground-cuckoo. Birders visiting the
parks are presented with the possibility of making
exciting contributions to ornithology as well as the
knowledge of the parks.
The mix of bird species changes according to altitude
and habitat — a quite different range of birds will
be encountered in farmland compared with forest.
During the winter months many passage migrants stop in
the rice fields (sawah) around Sungai Penuh — where
Milky Stork, Schrenk,s Bittern, egrets, Purple Moorhen
and other rails and crakes have all been spotted.To
get a comprehensive picture of the richness of the
park's bird life, visitors should try to spend time at
various altitudes — the major species watersheds
occur at approximately the following points: 100-500m,
600-1200m, 1300-2500m and above. The most popular
areas for seeing the park's specialty species are the
trail up Gunung Kerinci and the Gunung Tujuh trail.
Birding from the Muara Sako road is also popular. Up
to date information on where key species are being
seen can be found in the birder's log kept in
Subandi's Losman in Kersik Tuo.
Schneider's Pitta and Sumatran Peacock Pheasant are
most commonly seen in the forest on the lower slopes
of Gunung Kerinci — within 500m of the entrance and
200m to either side of Shelter 1. Sumatran Cochoa has
been seen a number of times along this trail near
Shelter 2.The best area to see the park's other rare
pittas — is along the road below Bukit Tapan, on the
road to Tapan (and Muara Sako) at an altitude of
around 900 meters. It's call is like a Garnet Pitta
but a little bit lower in pitch. Look on steep slopes
along small rivers. Hooded and Giant pitta have also
been heard along this road. A full explanation on
where the species have been seen can be found in Pak
Subandi's logbook.Birds can be identified using the
comprehensive field guide Birds of Sumatra, Borneo,
Java and Bali by John MacKinnon and Karen Phillipps
published by Oxford University Press. This field guide
is published in both the English and Indonesian
languages. The Indonesian version has been up-dated
and corrected by Bas van Balen. The English version is
not available in Indonesia so buy it before you come.
The Periplus Travel guide Birding Indonesia by Paul
Jepson provides further information and travel advice
on birding in Kerinci and in 100 other key birding
sites in Indonesia. It is currently available from
most airport and hotel bookshops in Indonesia. Other
useful sources of information on birding and bird
conservation in the region are the web-sites of the
Oriental Bird Club and BirdLife International's
Bird watching tips:
Wear drab/dark-colored clothes. The
same applies for any guide/companion.
Rain is common in the afternoon. Some birders prefer
umbrellas to rain coats because they don't make a
noise when walking and keep notebooks dry. Bring
waterproof bags to keep equipment, books, and
Binoculars with a wide field of view (e.g. 8x30) are
best for rainforest birding. Larger magnifications
reduce the field of view and make it harder to keep on
to birds in dense forest.
Bring along a good field guide for identification. The
best is Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Bali:
MacKinnon & Phillipps, Oxford University Press.
Many small birds move in mixed species feeding
parties. Walking slowly and alertly through the forest
is the best way to observe these species. For the
rarer, endemic ground birds (i.e. pitta and pheasant)
found along forest trails, it is better to walk
quickly and quietly.
Although the National Parks are extraordinarily rich
in species, do not expect to see everything in a day!
It can be difficult to see birds in dense rainforest.
Local guides are often familiar with more conspicuous
birds and can be invaluable in locating areas where
they are found. However, it my be necessary for you to
explain that they should keep quite, not smoke, and
let you walk in front!
You can help the park by making notes of bird
sightings and reporting anything rare or unusual to
the park office or bird watching societies.
Old logging trails, open river valleys and farmland at
the edge of the forest can be rewarding spots for
seeing canopy birds.