The Mekong Delta
Although rarely visited by birders there are some interesting sites among the lakes, rivers, marshes, seasonally flooded natural grasslands, inter-tidal mudflats, mangroves and salt pans of the Mekong Delta. Unfortunately most of these habitats are severely threatened by conversion to aquaculture and agriculture.
There are several national parks and nature reserves that are accessible to birders by road and ferry from Ho Chi Minh City. Can Gio Biosphere Reserve, a two-hour drive south of Ho Chi Minh City, is the nearest and easiest to reach. Asian Dowitcher, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Spot-billed Pelican and Painted Stork are among the birds that could turn up here.
Tram Chim National Park around seven hours by road from Ho Chi Minh City is known as a wintering site for Sarus Crane but numbers have fallen due to land conversion in recent years. Other species that can be found at Tram Chim include Black-backed Swamphen, Greater Spotted Eagle, Oriental Darter, Painted Stork and Asian Golden Weaver.
U Minh Thuong National Park in far-off Kien Giang Province on the Cambodian border supports large colonies of breeding waterbirds in its melaleuca swamp forests including Greater Spotted Eagle, Glossy Ibis, Black-headed Ibis, Painted Stork, Asian Openbill and Lesser Adjutant.
At the south-western extreme of mainland Vietnam is Mui Ca Mau National Park. Asian Dowitcher, Eastern Curlew, Chinese Egret, Black-headed Ibis, Whiskered Tern and Caspian Tern can turn up among the mudflats and mangroves here.
Tra Su is a special-use forest and nature reserve an hour’s drive from Chau Doc on the Cambodian border. The habitat at Tra Su is a mixture of melaleuca plantation, seasonally inundated grassland and swamp. An enormous heronry here is home to Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Javan Pond-heron and Black-crowned Night-heron. Lesser Whistling-duck, Spot-billed Duck, Asian Openbill and Oriental Darter can also be found here in good numbers. The extremely rare Milky Stork has been recorded at Tra Su in recent years.
The Mekong Delta’s most wanted
Spot-billed Duck, Asian Openbill, Sarus Crane, Black-backed Swamphen, Asian Dowitcher, Eastern Curlew, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Caspian Tern, Chinese Egret, Oriental Darter, Spot-billed Pelican, Milky Stork, Painted Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Asian Golden Weaver.