With 19 endemic species and distinct subspecies groups found nowhere else on Earth and a further 39 species and subspecies groups found only in Vietnam and some neighbouring countries, Vietnam is unparalleled among the countries of mainland South-East Asia.
Mention Vietnam to anyone who has spent time birding in the country or is perhaps planning a birding trip to Vietnam in the future and the names of two particular bird families will surely come up, pittas and laughingthrushes. Of the pittas, Vietnam’s two near-endemic forest jewels, the striking Bar-bellied Pitta and the more understated, though equally desirable, Blue-rumped Pitta, will without doubt appear near the top of any birders wish list. Being near-endemic, their ranges spill over borders into several neighbouring countries but Vietnam is unquestionably the stronghold of these two beauties of the forest floor. An additional seven other members of the pitta family are to be found in Vietnam including an attractive subspecies of Blue Pitta on the Dalat Plateau and the rare and elusive Blue-naped Pitta in northern Vietnam.
The laughingthrushes are the other bird family synonymous with birding in Vietnam with three striking range-restricted species, Orange-breasted, Golden-winged and Collared, endemic to the highlands of central parts of the country. An extraordinary further 25 species and subspecies of laughingthrush occur in Vietnam, four of which, Black-hooded, Chestnut-eared, Germain’s and White-cheeked, are classified as near-endemic.
Vietnam’s avifauna is also extremely rich in endemic and near-endemic babblers. Among the endemic babblers are the enigmatic and endangered Grey-crowned Crocias, unique in mainland Asia, the only other member of its genus being found on the island of Java, the agile little Black-crowned Fulvetta and the scarce White-throated Wren-babbler. Meanwhile among the long list of Vietnam’s near-endemic babblers are Indochinese Fulvetta, Black-headed Parrotbill, Pale-throated and Indochinese Wren-babblers, Sooty Babbler, Grey-faced Tit-babbler, Vietnamese Cutia and Black-crowned Barwing with an additional 10 species of endemic or near-endemic subspecies.
Phasianidae, the pheasants and partridges, are another bird family of special interest for birders in Vietnam. While the endemic Edwards’s Pheasant is extremely rare and possibly close to extinction in the wild, the near-endemic Orange-necked Partridge and Germain’s Peacock-pheasant, occur in the lowland semi-evergreen forests at Cat Tien National Park. The same forest offers excellent opportunities to see two more striking members of the pheasant family, Siamese Fireback and the Endangered Green Peafowl.
In addition to having a long list of endemic and near-endemic bird species Vietnam offers excellent opportunities for birders to connect with many much wanted Asian birds including Silver Pheasant, Hodgson’s & Indochinese Frogmouth, Lesser Adjutant, Asian Woollyneck, White-eared Night-heron, Great & Austen’s Brown Hornbill, Heart-spotted, Pale-headed, Black-and-buff & Great Slaty Woodpecker, Collared & Pied Falconet, White-rumped Pygmy-falcon, Long-tailed, Dusky, Black-and-red, Silver-breasted & Banded Broadbill, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, White-winged & Indochinese Green Magpie, Short-tailed Parrotbill, Greyish Limestone-babbler, Grey, Rufous-cheeked, Black-throated & Red-tailed Laughingthrush, Manipur Treecreeper, Golden-crested Myna, Green Cochoa, Fujian & Large Niltava and Asian Golden Weaver
Yellow-crowned Green Magpie
Annam Golden-breasted Fulvetta
Annam Streaked Wren-babbler
Annam Sultan Tit
Tonkin Streaked Wren-babbler
Langbian Lesser Shortwing