Raptor Watch flies high

Feathers are fast becoming one of the vital ingredients of Tourism Malaysia's recipe for future growth -and with almost 30 percent of the world's bird species having a home in Malaysia, it's no wonder bird-watchers are flocking here from all over the world.

Malaysia, being a relatively small country, is an enticing prospect for bird lovers who desire to see the diversity and enchanting beauty of birds all year round, without clocking up too many miles.

Exotic locations, from the coastal beaches on Langkawi in the north to the cooler montane forests of Fraser's Hill and the Cameron Highlands, have been earmarked Important Bird Area's and cocooned from future development, which is vital for the birds' survival as well as the expected tourism growth in this flourishing market of "twitchers" (fanatical bird lovers).

As well as seeing the incredible variety of local birds, visitors between September and March can get an additional treat of sighting migratory birds, usually from northern Asia, who pass over the Tanjung Tuan Forest Reserve in Port Dickson.

It is a journey like no other and is considered one of the most spectacular sights of the natural world - scientists describe it as an extraordinary migration, the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) call it Raptor Watch. Raptor Watch takes place in the first week of March every year with up to 50,000 raptors, migratory birds of prey including eagles, buzzards, and hawks - returning home to Siberia, Northern China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayas and Malaysia after fleeing the cold climatic conditions of the north for a few months.

These B-52’s of the bird world can travel more than 10,000 km's during a 60 day flight, gliding in formation like bombers - raptors are extremely territorial birds and do not normally flock together, but they put aside their differences to fly and hunt in close proximity with each other during the migration.Tanjung Tuan forest reserve is one of the last bastions of rainforest on the Malaysian west coast, and is a vital navigational signpost for the birds after finding their way across the Malacca strait, something they have been doing for centuries.

Malaysia truly is a paradise for bird lovers who want to see water birds, Woodpeckers, Whiskered treeswifts or a Rhinoceros Hornbill, all in the same day. Places like Kinabalu park in Sabah are home to more than 320 species, including 17 endemic, as well as offering great accommodation and hiking or adventure options.

If that's not enough for you, you can always climb the mountain or pop over to Tabin Wildlife reserve in Sandakan to look for the 260 species recorded there, you just might hear the Bornean Bristlehead - he'll be the large red and black bird making a weird honking sound. For more information about how and where, go to the Malaysian Tourism website below: http://www.tourism.gov.my/en/my/web-page/experiences/the-great-outdoors/bird-watching or http://www.malaysiabirding.org/


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