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HALA-BALA WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

THAILAND
LOCALE

Area (ha):25,400
Altitude (m):100-1538
# Species*:271
# Excl Vagrants*:271
# Endemics*:0
# Near Endemics*:1
Species/100 ha*:1.1
*Based on partial or incomplete data.
Habitat: Lowland rainforest, evergreen forest

ABOUT THE BIRDING

Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary is an extremely good birding site in the far south of Thailand. It's location means many lowland species that barely get farther north can be found there. The sanctuary actually consists of two sections. The Hala section is a bit further north and at higher altitude so is home to some species not present in the lower elevation Bala section. However, Hala is difficult to reach and hence rarely visited by birders. The Bala section is primarily tropical rainforest below 600m in elevation. A few days birding there can produce upwards of 150 species. It should be noted that Hala-Bala is located in the far south of Thailand in a Muslim region where insurgent attacks occur frequently. Historically, attacks have been directed at government officials rather than tourists, but there is some risk of traveling there. As a result, travel advisories exist for this area. The safest approach is to drive directly to Bala during daylight hours and camp in the reserve for the duration of the visit.

The road through Bala offers the best birding in south Thailand. It traverses about 15km of rainforest, and the entire road is worth birding. Hornbills, barbets, and bulbuls are frequently seen feeding on fruiting trees. The trail into the forest is the best way to find pittas and other rarities. It begins with a river crossing before going through excellent lowland rainforest. Possibilities include Short-toed Coucal, Malaysian Honeyguide, Garnet Pitta, Giant Pitta, Malaysian Rail-babbler, and Rufous-tailed Shama. A second short trail known as the goldmine follows a small stream outside the park toward a temple where birds such as Blue-banded Kingfisher, Little Bronze-Cuckoo, Spotted Fantail, Gray-chested Jungle-Flycatcher, Chestnut-rumped Babbler,Horsfield's Babbler, Temminck's Sunbird, and Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker are typically found. The Sirintorn Waterfall near the research station is good for Whiskered Treeswift. The research station itself has excellent birding, especially for hornbills and babblers. Bat Hawk and Javan Frogmouth regularly nest nearby.

LOCATION OF SITE

Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary is located near the border of south Thailand and northern Malaysia. It's 65km south of the internatonal airport in Narathiwat, Thailand.