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KHAO NOR CHUCHI WILDLIFE SANCTUARY

THAILAND
LOCALE

Area (ha):18,300
Altitude (m):80-650
# Species:224
# Excl Vagrants:224
# Endemics:0
# Near Endemics:1
Species/100 ha:1.2
Habitat: Lowland forest

ABOUT THE BIRDING

Kao Nor Chuchi is known worldwide as one of the last places to find the endangered Gurney's Pitta. The only other known populations are in Myanmar, currently inaccessible to birders. Birding is notoriously difficult in the sanctuary, with thick understory making birds hard to find and see. Many visiting birders consider it the most difficult place to see birds in Thailand, so patience is required to be successful. There is an extensive network of trails, but they're poorly marked so it's easy to get lost. Trails are often overgrown and not maintained, other than by locals going into the forest seeking fruits, rattan, or bamboo for commercial sale. Much of the forest habitat has been destroyed by agricultural activity, and the remainder is still unprotected. A local guide is essential for birding this area and especially for finding Gurney's Pitta. The likeliest times to see it are mid-March through mid-June during nesting season. At other times of year it's nearly impossible to see. Use of playback for Gurney's Pitta and Hooded Pitta are forbidden. The usual spot for seeing Gurney's Pitta on the U-Trail is no longer good due to prior overuse of playback in that spot. Unfortunately, there were no sightings of a male in 2013, only a female, so seeing this species is now highly problematical.

In addition to Gurney's Pitta, the sanctuary features many other excellent birds as well. It's worth spending 2 full days birding the area. Nearly as desirable is the lovely Banded Pitta, also difficult to see without patience. During wet season (May-October), both Hooded Pitta and Blue-winged Pitta are very common and can be easily seen by using playback. Some birders claim to have heard Giant Pitta, but this species has probably been extirpated from the area. Babblers are another attraction here. These are typically very vocal but quite elusive to see. Most commonly seen babblers are Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Chestnut-winged Babbler, and Short-tailed Babbler in forest edges and along roadsides, and Chestnut-rumped Babbler, Gray-headed Babbler, Scaly-crowned Babbler, Black-capped Babbler, and Ferruginous Babbler along trails in the forest interior. Another attraction are barbets, also more often heard than seen. Common species are Gold-whiskered Barbet, Red-throated Barbet, and Blue-eared Barbet. Much rarer but possible is the endangered Red-crowned Barbet. The area is also very good for nightbirds. Possibilities include Javan Frogmouth in the lowlands and Gould's Frogmouth in forests farther up the road towards the plateau. Nightjars include Great Eared-Nightjar, Gray Nightjar, and Large-tailed Nightjar.

LOCATION OF SITE

Kao Nor Chuchi Wildlife Sanctuary is located 1½-2 hours south from the town of Krabi in southern Thailand.