Hotspots

Vietnam has some great locations for birding, many protected within the country’s national park system. For a short tour of up to 10 days the must-visit hotspots are Cat Tien National Park, Di Linh and Dalat in the south of the country. For longer tours Yok Don National Park, Mang Den, Ngoc Linh, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Cuc Phuong National Park and Tam Dao National Park are all top hotspots worthy of inclusion. Other locations where birding is generally more difficult or logistics more complicated that could be included for specific localised species are Sapa, Ba Be National Park, Sa Mu Pass, Lo Xo Pass, the Mekong Delta, Xuan Thuy National Park, Ba Vi National Park, and Con Dao National Park.

Top Hotspots

Cat Tien National Park

A mix of primary and secondary evergreen and semi-evergreen forest with large areas dominated by grassland and bamboo, a result of wartime defoliation and post-war logging. The largest remaining area of lowland tropical forest in southern Vietnam, Cat Tien is a popular tourist destination for both local and foreign visitors and can get very crowded at weekends and national holidays. The park is accessed via the Dong Nai River which floods during the rainy season often inundating surrounding low-lying areas. Cat Tien is located 150 km to the north of Ho Chi Minh City and a similar distance to the south of Dalat with a journey time by road from either direction of approximately 3 hours. There are several accommodation and restaurant options within the national park and a growing number of others across the Dong Nai River. Cat Tien is one of the top birding locations in Vietnam with many highly sought-after species than include Orange-necked Partridge, Green Peafowl, Germain’s Peacock-pheasant, Siamese Fireback, Indochinese Frogmouth, Great-eared Nightjar, Grey-headed and Lesser Fish-eagles, Great and Wreathed Hornbills, Banded Kingfisher and Stork-billed Kingfishers, Red-vented Barbet, Heart-spotted, Pale-headed, Black-and-buff, Great Slaty and White-bellied Woodpeckers, Collared Falconet, Blue-rumped and Bar-bellied Pittas, Dusky, Black-and-red and Banded Broadbills, Golden-crested Myna and Grey-faced Tit-babbler. Large waterbirds including Lesser Adjutant and Asian Woollyneck are commonly seen in more open areas of the park, particularly in the vicinity of Crocodile Lake, where Asian Golden Weaver can also be found breeding in lakeside reeds. Large flocks of doves, pigeons and parakeets can often be seen in the grassland areas in the late afternoon.... read more

Di Linh

A convenient stop en-route on the journey between Cat Tien National Park and Dalat, the town of Di Linh makes a great base from which to explore the remnant montane evergreen forest at Deo Suoi Lanh, also known as Deo Nui San, a mountain pass 30 minutes of town. At an elevation of around 1100 m Deo Suoi Lanh offers a first taste of what awaits on the Dalat Plateau if arriving from the south. Bird communities here are very similar to those found at around Dalat with the exception of a few species, mainly those occurring at higher elevations such as the endemic Collared Laughingthrush and Grey-crowned Crocias. Several Dalat Plateau specialities can often be more easily found here than at the locations around Dalat including Blue Pitta, Black-headed Parrotbill, Orange-breasted and Black-headed Laughingthrushes and Green Cochoa.... read more

Dalat

Situated at an elevation of 1500 m on the Dalat Plateau and home to many of Vietnam’s endemic and near-endemic bird species. The habitat is a mixture of coniferous (dominated by Benguet Pine), montane evergreen and secondary forest. The montane evergreen forest extends up to 2287 m on Mount Bi Doup and 2167 m on nearby Mount Lang Bian, the second and third highest peaks on the plateau respectively. The long list of endemic and near-endemic species and subspecies found in the Dalat area includes Lowe’s Green-pigeon, Red-vented, Necklaced and Annam Barbets, Dalat Shrike-babbler, Annam Minivet, Yellow-crowned Green Magpie, Langbian Tit, Annam Grasshopper-warbler, Brown-backed Bulbul, Grey-crowned Tit, Indochinese Fulvetta, Black-headed Parrobill, Black-crowned Fulvetta, Annam Streaked and Indochinese Wren-babblers, Vietnamese Cutia, Orange-breasted, Black-hooded, White-cheeked and Collared Laughingthrushes, White-spectacled Sibia, Plain Minla, Grey-crowned Crocias, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, Langbian Lesser Shortwing, Langbian Sunbird, Annam Sunbird and Vietnamese Greenfinch. Other specialities of the Dalat area include Bar-backed Partridge, Silver Pheasant, Yellow-vented Green-pigeon, Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Spot-bellied Eagle-owl, Rusty-naped and Blue Pittas, Maroon and Slender-billed Orioles, Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Burmese Shrike, White-faced Jay, Manipur Treecreeper, Dark-sided Thrush, Green Cochoa, Large Niltava, Rufous-browed Flycatcher, Spotted Forktail and Red Crossbill. There are several excellent birding sites all within a short drive of Dalat including Mount Lang Bian and Tuyen Lam Lake, both of which have a mix of coniferous forest at lower elevations with montane evergreen at higher elevations. Other areas to explore in the vicinity of Dalat include the forested valley en-route to the village of Ta Nung, and some of the more accessible areas of Bi Doup-Nui Ba National Park. Dalat is a very popular domestic tourist destination with a wide range of accommodations and dining options making it the perfect base to easily explore the surrounding areas in day trips. Dalat is best reached by a short 40-minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City, or by road from Cat Tien National Park or Di Linh.... read more

Yok Don National Park

Dominant habitat is deciduous forest with seasonal pools and areas of semi-evergreen forest along rivers and streams and low hills. The Srepok River, a major tributary of the Mekong River bisects the park flowing over the border into Cambodia. Yok Don’s dry dipterocarp forest shares a similar avifauna with that of adjoining areas of north-western Cambodia and offers a chance to see some species that are otherwise difficult or impossible to find at other sites in Vietnam. These include Yellow-footed Green-pigeon, Black-headed, Yellow-crowned and Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers, White-rumped Pygmy-falcon, Blossom-headed and Alexandrine Parakeets, Small Minivet, Rufous Treepie, Burmese Nuthatch, Purple Sunbird and Mekong Wagtail. A lot of luck however would be needed to see some of the rarer species that have been recorded here such as White-winged Duck, Masked Finfoot, Black-necked Stork, White-shouldered and Giant Ibises and Red-headed and White-rumped Vultures. Yok Don can be reached by air via Buon Ma Thuot or a 5-hour drive north from Dalat or 8 hours by road south from Mang Den. Simple accommodation and restaurant facilities are available at the park headquarters and outside the park.... read more

Mang Den

A newly established hill resort town an hour’s drive from the city of Kontum, on the plateau of the same name. The surrounding areas of montane evergreen forest can easily be explored by car from Mang Den. One of the main draws for birders is the recently-discovered near-endemic Chestnut-eared Laughingthrush which is fairly common here. The area shares several specialities with the Dalat Plateau such as Indochinese Wren-babbler, Black-hooded Laughingthrush, Grey-crowned Crocias and Yellow-billed Nuthatch. Other interesting species encountered in the Mang Den area include Pale-capped Pigeon, Austen’s Brown Hornbill, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Rusty-naped Pitta, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, White-winged Magpie, Rufous-faced Warbler, Grey-crowned Tit, Grey-headed Parrotbill, and Pale Blue-flycatcher.... read more

Ngoc Linh

Recent road construction in the area has opened up the tantalizingly close but previously inaccessible montane evergreen forest of Ngoc Linh National Park. Simple rooms are available at Tu Mo Rong, around 1.5 hours drive from the best birding, while more comfortable accommodation is available at Dak To, a 3-hour drive away. The prize bird here is undoubtedly the recently described Golden-winged Laughingthrush but the birding in general is excellent, especially c. 2000 m, offering opportunities of seeing a mouth-watering range of high elevation specialities such as Ashy Wood-pigeon, Eye-ringed Shrike-babbler, Annam Golden-breasted and Indochinese Fulvettas, Black-eared Parrotbill, Red-tailed Laughingthrush, Brownish-backed Sibia, Red-tailed, Blue-winged and Bar-throated Minlas, Black-crowned Barwing, Yellow-billed Nuthatch and both Purple and Green Cochoa.... read more

Bach Ma National Park

Located 40 km south of Hue, a popular tourist destination in central Vietnam, Bach Ma encompasses a range of habitats including cultivation, secondary, scrub, lowland evergreen forest and above 900 m, spectacular montane evergreen forest. Key bird species at Bach Ma include Rufous-throated and Green-legged Partridges, Silver Pheasant, Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Austen’s Brown Hornbill, Blue-rumped and Bar-bellied Pittas, Long-tailed and Silver-breasted Broadbills, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, White-winged Magpie, Indochinese Green Magpie, Annam Sultan Tit, Indochinese Wren-babbler, Lesser Necklaced, Masked and Black-throated Laughingthrushes and White-gorgeted Flycatcher. In the past Crested Argus, Coral-billed Ground-cuckoo, Red-collared Woodpecker and Blyth’s Kingfisher were occasionally encountered but there are few recent records of these species from the park.... read more

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

An area dominated by limestone karst landscapes in northern Central Vietnam bordering Laos with a mix of limestone forest, remnant lowland evergreen forest and areas of cultivation. Spectacular limestone caves make the park a popular tourist destination and at weekends and holidays it can be very crowded. Species of particular interest here are two limestone specialists, the recently described Limestone Leaf-warbler and Sooty Babbler. Other species that can be found here include Tonkin Partridge, White-bellied Green-pigeon, Brown Fish-owl, Austen’s Brown Hornbill, Red-collared Woodpecker, Blue-rumped and Bar-bellied Pittas, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, White-winged Magpie and Indochinese Wren-babbler. With Phong Nha-Ke Bang being a major tourist attraction there is a plentiful supply of hotels, guest houses, homestays and restaurants in the vicinity of the park.... read more

Cuc Phuong National Park

Subtropical lowland evergreen forest on limestone with areas of secondary forest and scrub where the natural forest has been cleared. Popular with day trippers from Hanoi the park can be especially busy at weekends and during holidays. Accommodation is available at several locations within the national park and outside. Several species that are difficult to see elsewhere in Vietnam can be found at Cuc Phuong such as Malay Night-heron (present during the summer months), Red-collared Woodpecker, Pied Falconet, Eared Pitta and Greyish Limestone-babbler. Other species of interest include Tonkin Partridge, Silver Pheasant, Austen’s Brown Hornbill, Red-vented Barbet, Blue-rumped and Bar-bellied Pittas, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, White-winged Magpie, Indochinese Green Magpie, Limestone Leaf-warbler and Rufous-throated and Black-browed Fulvettas. During the winter months thrushes, flycatchers and robins of several species are common here.... read more

Tam Dao National Park

Located on a mountain ridge rising up from the plain of the Red River Delta to the north of Hanoi. Lower montane evergreen forest with areas of bamboo forest dominate at around 1100 m rising to just below 1600 m at the highest point with remnant lowland evergreen forest and coniferous plantations at lower elevations. Tam Dao is home to four specialities that are seldom seen elsewhere in Vietnam: Blue-naped Pitta, Chestnut Bulbul, Short-tailed Parrotbill and Grey Laughingthrush. Other interesting species found here are Grey and Ratchet-tailed Treepies, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Rufous-headed Parrotbill, White-throated and Streak-breasted Scimitar-babblers, Collared Babbler, Black-throated Laughingthrush, Purple and Green Cochoas and Fork-tailed Sunbird. Wintering species include several species of thrush, warblers, flycatchers, robins and buntings including the scarce Tristam’s Bunting. The hill town of Tam Dao, located within the national park area, is a popular tourist destination with numerous accommodation and dining options. Like most tourist sites in Vietnam in can be very busy at weekends and holiday periods. Note, frequent low cloud and mist can often make for frustrating birding conditions at Tam Dao.... read more

Additional Hotspots

Con Dao National Park

The 16 islands and islets that make up the Con Dao Archipelago, c. 80 km south-east of the mainland, are an important breeding site for range of seabirds rarely seen elsewhere in Vietnam including Red-billed Tropicbird, Brown and Masked Boobies, Brown Noddy, Roseate, Black-naped and Greater Crested Terns. Other specialities here include Nicobar Pigeon, Pied Imperial-pigeon, Mangrove Whistler and a subspecies of Pin-striped Tit-babbler restricted to the Con Dao islands.... read more

The Mekong Delta

A variety of interesting habitats including intertidal mudflats, saltpans and shrimp ponds, mangrove and melaleuca forest, seasonally inundated grasslands, swamps, marshes, canals and rivers. Less than two hours’ drive south of Ho Chi Minh City the saltpans and shrimp ponds at Can Gio attract large numbers of roosting waterbirds at high tide during migration and throughout the winter months. A wide range of waders and terns can occur here but of particular interest are Chinese Egret, Far Eastern Curlew, the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Asian Dowitcher and Spotted Greenshank. Both Great and Red Knot have been recorded roosting here in large numbers in recent years, as have Caspian and Gull-billed Terns, and White-faced Plover has bred. Far Eastern Curlew, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Spotted Greenshank and a similar range of waders have also been recorded on the intertidal mudflats at Tan Thanh beach, on the opposite side of the Soai Rap River from Can Gio. There are several interesting national parks that are accessible by road from Ho Chi Minh City including Tram Chim and U Minh Thuong. Tram Chim National Park is well known as a wintering site for Sarus Crane though numbers have fallen in recent years due to land conversion. Other species of interest occurring at Tram Chim include Indian Spot-billed Duck, Greater and Lesser Adjutants, Painted Stork, Greater Spotted Eagle and Asian Golden Weaver. Overnight accommodation and restaurants are available in nearby towns. Further south, U Minh Thuong National Park supports colonies of breeding waterbirds in its melaleuca swamp forests including Lesser Adjutant, Painted Stork, Asian Openbill, Black-headed and Glossy Ibises. Spot-billed Pelican and Greater Spotted Eagle also occur here. Simple accommodation is available near the park. At the south-western tip of mainland Vietnam is Mui Ca Mau National Park where Painted Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Chinese Egret, Spot-billed Pelican, Far Eastern Curlew and Asian Dowitcher have all been recorded. Tra Su Nature Reserve, an hour’s drive from Chau Doc on the Cambodian border, has a mix of melaleuca plantation, seasonally inundated grassland and swamp forest. An enormous heronry here is home to Little and Cattle Egrets, Javan Pond-heron and Black-crowned Night-heron. Indian Spot-billed Duck, Asian Openbill and Oriental Darter can also be found here in good numbers and the extremely rare Milky Stork has been recorded.... read more

Lo Xo Pass

A forested mountain pass at around 1100 m on the recently-constructed Ho Chi Minh Highway tracing the route of the legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail along the border with Laos. Many of the best areas of montane evergreen forest in the area are currently not accessible but the near-endemic Black-crowned Barwing can still be encountered in roadside scrub, secondary growth and cultivation. Other species of interest in the area include White-winged Magpie, White-cheeked, Black-hooded and Red-tailed Laughinghrushes, Red-tailed Minla, Yellow-billed Nuthatch and Green-tailed Sunbird. White-capped and Plumbeous Water-redstarts occur along the river below the pass.... read more

Sa Mu Pass

Lowland and lower montane evergreen forest up to 1100 m an hour’s drive north of Khe Sanh close to the border with Laos. The main target here is Rufous-cheeked Laughingthrush, a species with a scattered range limited to areas of northern and central Vietnam, neighbouring parts of Laos, an isolated population at Ba Vi National Park in northern Vietnam and China’s Hainan Island. Other species of interest that can be seen in the area include Great and Moustached Barbets, Collared Babbler, Indochinese Wren-babbler and Lesser Necklaced, Black-throated and White-cheeked Laugingthrushes.... read more

Xuan Thuy National Park

Three large islands and extensive intertidal mudflats, aquaculture ponds, mangroves and casuarina plantations in the coastal zone of the Red River Delta. The mudflats and aquaculture ponds are an important feeding ground for migratory and wintering waterbirds while the casuarinas and mangroves on the sandy islands are a magnet for migratory passerines during spring and autumn. Overwintering waders at Xuan Thuy can include such rarities as Black-faced Spoonbill, Chinese Egret, Far Eastern Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Great Knot, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Asian Dowitcher and Spotted Greenshank while significant numbers of the vulnerable Saunders’s Gull also overwinter in the area. Interesting species recorded passing through Xuan Thuy during spring and autumn migration include Slaty-legged Crake and Fairy Pitta and large numbers of cuckoos, drongos, shrikes, warblers, thrushes, flycatchers, pipits, wagtails and buntings. Exhausted passerines make easy pickings for passing predators that can include Chinese, Japanese and Eurasian Sparrowhawks, Eurasian Goshawk, Eurasian Hobby and Peregrine Falcon. There are a limited number of simple rooms available at the park headquarters for overnight stays with other options outside the park.... read more

Ba Vi National Park

A range of lowland evergreen, lower montane evergreen and coniferous forest leads up to Ba Vi summit at c.1300 m. As at Tam Dao, higher elevations here are often shrouded in thick mist. Two hours by road to the west of Hanoi, Ba Vi National Park is a popular tourist destination with the temple complex on the summit attracting large numbers of visitors at weekends and holidays. For birders the main attraction at Ba Vi is Rufous-cheeked Laughingthrush, a species with a scattered range limited to small areas of Vietnam, Laos and China’s Hainan Island. During winter months several species of thrush can be found foraging along the roadsides here.... read more

Ba Be National Park

Lowland evergreen on limestone encircling a large freshwater lake. Several pairs of the Endangered White-eared Night-heron nest in lakeside trees making Ba Be one of only a handful of sites worldwide where this species can be seen and the only location in South-East Asia. Ba Be is also the only known site in Vietnam where Mandarin Duck regularly occurs. Other species of interest here are Pied Falconet, White-winged Magpie and Limestone Leaf-warbler. There are several accommodation options both in and outside the park.... read more

Sapa

Located in the far north-west of Vietnam bordering China’s Yunnan province, the town of Sapa is a tourist destination popular with adventure travellers and trekkers. The town sits in the shadow of Vietnam’s highest peak, Mount Fansipan (3143 m), on the slopes of which many of Sapa’s specialities are to be found. Virtually all original forest has been cleared below 1000 m for cultivation while lower montane evergreen forest dominates from 1000 -1800 m giving way to upper montane evergreen forest from 1800-2500 m. Above 2500 m sub-alpine forest takes over with dwarf bamboos, rhododendrons and stunted trees. Sapa’s proximity to China is reflected in the avifauna with a large number of high elevation species that are not found elsewhere in Vietnam including Crimson-breasted, Darjeeling and Chinese Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Black-headed Shrike-babbler, Crested and Collared Finchbills, Buff-barred and Broad-billed Warblers, Tonkin and Manipur Fulvettas, Spot-breasted, Golden, Vinous-throated and Ashy-throated Parrobills, White-collared Yuhina, Bar-winged and Pale-throated Wren-babblers, Slender-billed Scimitar-babbler, Scaly, Black-faced, Red-winged and Silver-eared Laughingthrushes, White-tailed and Beautiful Nuthatches, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Gould’s Shortwing, White-browed Bush-robin, Blue-fronted Redstart, Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker and Black-headed Greenfinch. As a major tourist destination, Sapa has a wide range of accommodations and restaurants and can be easily reached in 4-5 hours from Hanoi via a newly-opened highway... read more