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Golden-winged Laughingthrush and New birding spots in Kon Tum, Central Highland Vietnam

The mountainous region centred around the town of Kon Tum, Gia Lai and southern Quang Nam provinces of central Vietnam, this is also referred as a part of Central Highland (Tay Nguyen), is one of recently recognized as an EBA (Endemic Birds Area) of the World. Kon Tum EBA perhaps the least known avifauna to both scientists and birders. As it is located in a “political  sensitive” area, most of people who want to visit here have to obtain complicated permit to access the remote forests. However, in recently years, the forest have been being cut down rapidly for timbers, for road construction and for building hydropower dams, the result is many bird species might disappear before we know them.

In the end of last century, Birdlife International and FIPI were lucky enough to have some surveys in Kon Tum, they have found many new species to scientific such as Golden-winged Laughingthrush (Eames, J. C.; Le Trong Trai; Nguyen Cu. 1999), Chestnut-eared Laughingthrush (Eames & Eames, 2001) and Black-crowned Barwing (Eames, Le Trong Trai, Nguyen Cu & Eve, 1999). Many new (unknown) subspecies also were discovered but did not get detailed study to confirm if they are new taxa such as:

Cutia (Cutia nipalensis subsp. nov.), Chestnut-tailed Minla (Minla strigula subsp. nov.), Rufous-winged Fulvetta (Alcippe castaneceps subsp. nov.), Rusty-capped Fulvetta (A. dubia subsp. nov.), Rufous-backed Sibia (Heterophasia annectans subsp. nov.), Black-headed Sibia (H. melanoleuca subsp. nov.), Stripe-throated Yuhina (Yuhina gularis subsp. nov.), Black-throated Parrotbill (Paradoxornis nipalensis subsp. nov.)

* sbsp. nov. = subspecies novae / new sbspecies

Black-headed Sibia (H. melanoleuca subsp. nov.)

In last few years, Vietnam Wildlife Tours & Research also have had a few chances to do research in the area, the findings were so interesting, especially for those who keen to see endemicsm and laughingthrushes. There are several accessible spots nowadays where are very excellent birding, do not hesiate to contact us if you need consultancy.

1. Kon Plong - Mang Den

A forest named Mang Canh about 40 km from Mang Den town, there is a new road built for Dam construction lead to this forest easily. A small remaining forest along the road is home to most wanted Chestnut-eared Laughingthrush, Black-hooded Laughingthrush, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, beside Rachet-tailed Treepie, White-winged Magpie and Indochinese Wren Babbler. If you are the first time in Vietnam, Austen's Brown Hornbill, Rufous-faced Warbler, Indochinese Barbet are among your wish-list.

Chestnut-eared Laughingthrush - Mang Canh - Photo by Bao Nguyen

2. Tumorong  - Mang Ri and Ngoc Lay

There are two different spots, you have to stay overnight at a new established town Tu Mo Rong to visit both. From there you can drive to a new road construction leads to Mang Ri commune. Note that the area is very new so security is not guaranteed, however when you arrive spot (see on the map), a lot of things to see. One of the most desired is Golden-winged Laughingthrush  although it is not common along the road but you climb a bit to reach 1800m will be easier. Black-crowned Barwing is very common around. Surprisingly Grey-crowned Crocias, which is believed confine to Da Lat area also can be found here.

Golden-winged Laughingthrush - Ngoc Linh - Photo by Bao Nguyen

Back to the road 20B that leads to Tam Ky - Quang Nam and drive for about 10km, you will reach Ngoc Lay commune, take drive for 2km more and see the beautiful forest at 1,600m. Just keep along the main road you will easily to get Red-tailed Laughingthrush and Green-tailed Sunbird

Red-tailed Laughingthrush - Ngoc Lay - Photo by Bao Nguyen

Of course there are many more too see in the central highland, a Cutia here is still unknown whether it is Himalayan or Vietnamese, Grey-headed Parrotbill which is different Black-headed from Da Lat, Green Shrike Babbler, Crested Argus (heard only), Rusty-naped Pitta, Blue Pitta, Silver Pheasant, etc and other things waiting us to find.

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