Visit your favourite destinations
Western Europe
North America
Eastern Europe
South America
Middle East
East Indies

A Report from

Cat Tien, South Vietnam April 28 – May 2nd, 2008,

Graeme Wright


The following report details a recent visit to Cat Tien, southern Vietnam.  Cat Tien lies off this highway near Madagui some 150km northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, it is a low-lying area, being only about 130m above sea-level, and is a three-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City.

The aim of the trip was to see 5 target species – Green Peafowl, Bar Bellied Pitta, Siamese Fireback, Germain's Peacock Pheasant and Racket-tailed Treepie – as such it was very successful.  Even better the park itself was very easy to explore leading to excellent forest birding.


Although it is straight forward to visit the park independently, there are many stories of people having difficulty finding it so I used Vietnam Birding -, who sorted out everything and a tour of Saigon for me.

You are dropped of by a river and then ferried across to the Park headquarters, which houses the accommodation and restaurant.


I stayed at Block B, at an en suite room, the room was fairly basic but had a/c and a television (sadly the rooms next door had a TV as well as on one night they it as blaring out until 5.15am!!). The food in the restaurant was edible and there was a plentiful supply of water and Pepsi.


It was hot and rained everyday, mostly in the afternoon after 3 when there were some major thunder storms, while this did not effect birding too badly it certainly brought out the leaches on the forest trails.

Guides and getting around

I used Craig Robsons's  A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia, I did not have any tapes but it did not seem to matter (although I have heard it is the best way of seeing Pale-headed Woodpecker which I missed).

While there are guides available at the Park, I did not use them and given the easy logistics within the park I am not sure they would add many species.

I found the easiest way of getting around was walking or push bike, the benefit of using a bike being you could start as early as you liked (I was told there was never any problem with people stealing bikes so I often left mine to walk trails etc).

Top 5 Birding moments

1)      Cycling through the rain for over an hour but being rewarded by my first Green Peafowl flying low over head followed by Pied Harrier, and 2 Button Quail appearing at my feet.
2)      Osprey fishing over Crocodile Lake
3)      By first male Siamese Fireback
4)      A family of Blue Bee-eaters feeding and interacting by the HQ each day
5)      Male Black-headed Woodpecker landing right in front of me – perfect view

The Birding Sites

Birds can occur anywhere in the national park, but the following are perhaps the key areas that should be birded:

Road from HQ to Heavens Rapid turning.  There are a series of trails of this road  - Lagerstroemia, Uncle Dong which other visitors have used a lot, but which were to ‘leachey' for my liking.  This road within 2k of the HQ provided some of the best birding – Dusky Broadbill every day, Blue-winged Pitta, Blue-rumped Pitta, Black and red Broadbill, Banded Kingfisher, Black-headed woodpecker to name a few

The Road to Heaven's Rapid  - I walked this a couple of times and although quieter than elsewhere it provided birds such as Red-vented Barbet, Heart-spotted woodpecker, Banded Broadbill and Siamese Fireback

Bau Sau trail (5k trail to Crocodile lake) – the only trail I used great for Fireback and Bar-bellied Pitta

Crocodile Lake – great location with plenty of Weavers and Ospreys

Southern grasslands – these are accessed by taking the HQ rd south.  After 15mins (cycling) the road ends and you come to an area of more open grassland, carrying on along the track you come to an orchard and you will see an observation tower over on your right.  I had fantastic views of Peafowl and Button Quail in the late afternoon along this road plus Pied Harrier.

Ecological trail – I started this trail but it is very poorly signposted, so I only went 500m but still there were Peacock Pheasants and Great Hornbill


28th April - Monday

Arrived Cat Tien at about 11 (left Saigon at 7).  Rooms are not ready until 2 so I went straight out and walked the road to the substation.  Although it was hot the sky was a little overcast and the birding was good – almost the first bird I saw was a Dusky Broadbill, followed by a family of Blue Bearded Bee-eaters, and then a Black and Red Broadbill, while overhead there were a number of Silver-backed Needle tails.  I also got to grips with many of the commoner birds at the park such as  - Green-billed Malkoha, Red-breasted Parakeet, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater, Lineated Barbet, Stripe-throated Bulbul, Dark-necked Taylor bird and Striped Tit-babbler.

29th April

Took a bike and at 5.15 was on my way to the Bau Sau trail, stopped of at Ecological trail on the way for a quick look first thing I saw was a Germain's Peacock Pheasant.

The Bau Sau trail was fairly quiet but provided great views of the Fireback and Bar-bellied Pitta, plus towards the end of the trail Tickells Flycatcher.  The lake itself was beautiful and I was greeted by Osprey fishing, and plentiful Golden Weavers.  Around the edge of the Lake there were a variety of water birds including a concentration of Whistling Duck.

Got back to the HQ at about 2, and then walked the road in the late afternoon – getting great views of Laced and Grey-headed Woodpecker, and the usual Broadbills

30th April

At 5.30 walked to Heaven's Rapid -  best birds were Heart-spotted Woodpecker, Banded Broadbill and Red-vented Barbet.  Also saw what looked like a small black bear.

In the afternoon cycled to Grassland area through heavy rain. Rewarded with Purple-throated Sunbird at the start of the trip, and 4 Peafowl flying over head just as I got to the Water Tower area (around 4.50).  Just as they flew over it stopped raining and a Pied Harrier arrived, as I turned round 2 Barred ButtonQuail appeared out of the grass and started walking along the road.  The end of the rain also brought out all the insect eaters including large numbers of Doller Birds, Drongos, and Wood Swallows

1st May

Road walk. Up at 5.30 for a walk along the road in the direction of Croc Lake.  Just out of the camp the first bird I saw was a Black-headed Woodpecker which landed on the road side trees.  This was followed by a good selection of birds including Black & Red Broadbill and a little way into the Ecological Trail (which is impassable after 500 meters) Great and Pied Hornbill on a fruiting tree.

In the afternoon I decided to walk to the Grassland area which did not add much to the species list (and a late shower finally destroyed my camera) but good views of Peafowl and Stork-billed Kingfisher

2nd May

Final morning walk to Heavens Rapids which revealed little new except Scaly Breasted Munia.  But on my return the last 500 meters before the HQ provided Blue-winged Pita, Dusky Broadbill and a Banded Kingfisher on a telephone wire – a good end to my time at the park.


The list below follows the order and nomenclature from A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig  Robson (2000).

Barred Buttonquial – Turmix suscitator
2 seen in grassland area

Red Junglefowl - Gallus gallus
Commonly seen and heard at Cat Tien

Siamese Fireback - Lophura diardi
Several along the Bau Sau trail, and by road to Heavens Rapids.

Germain's Peacock-Pheasant - Polyplectron germaini
Seen on ecological trail

Green Peafowl –  Pavo muticus
5 seen in Grassland area. 

Lesser Whistling Duck  - Dendrocygna javanica
About 30 at Crocodile Lake

Common Flameback
Several seen

Greater Yellownape
Seen each day

Laced Woodpecker
One seen near HQ

Grey-headed Woodpecker
One seen by first trail turnoff

Heart-spotted Woodpecker
One seen near rapids

Black-headed Woodpecker
One seen near HQ

Red-vented Barbet - Megalaima lagrandieri
One seen near rapids.

Lineated Barbet - Megalaima lineata
Several different birds seen & heard at Cat Tien 10th

Blue-throated Barbet
I seen near HQ

Coppersmith Barbet –  Megalaima haemacephala
Several during trip

Oriental Pied Hornbill - Anthracocerus albirostri
Seen each day

Great Hornbill - Buceros bicornis
2 seen along Ecological trail

Indian Roller - Coracias benghalensis
1 near HQ

Dollarbird - Eurystomus orientalis
Common in Grassland area

Banded Kingfisher - Alcedo pulchella
1 near rapids turn-off

Stork-billed Kingfisher - Halcyon capensis
Several seen around park

White-throated Kingfisher - Halcyon smyrnensis
2 near HQ

Black-capped Kingfisher - Halcyon pileata
2 seen

Blue-bearded Bee-eater - Nyctyornis athertoni
Family seen everyday near HQ

Green Bee-eater – Merops orientalis
1 near HQ.

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater - Merops leschenaulti
Very common in grassland area

Green-billed Malkoha - Phaenicophaeus tristis
Noted daily at various areas in Cat Tien,

Greater Coucal - Centropus sinensis
Seen daily.

Vernal Hanging Parrot - Loriculus vernalis
Seen daily

Red-breasted Parakeet - Psittacula alexandri
Up to 100 in grassland area

Silver-backed Needletail - Hirundapus cochinchinensis
Seen each day.

Asian Palm Swift –  Cypsiurus balasiensis
Several each day

Red-collared Dove - Streptopelia tranquebarica
Very common in grassland area

Emerald Dove - Chalcophaps indica
2 seen near HQ

Pompadour Pigeon - Teron pompadora
1 seen near HQ

Green Imperial Pigeon - Ducula aenea
Seen each day.

White-breasted Waterhen - Amaurornis phoenicurus
 Several at Crocodile Lake

Purple Swamphen - Porphyrio porphyrio
Several at Crocodile Lake

Bronze-winged Jacana - Metopidius indicus
Several at Crocodile Lake

Red-wattled Lapwing - Vanellus indicus
One at Crocodile Lake

Pintail Snipe   - Gallinago stenura
One at Crocodile Lake

Osprey - Pandion haliaetus
One at Crocodile Lake

Changeable Hawk Eagle – Spizaetus cirrbatus
1 on road to CL

Shikra – Accipiter Badius
One near HQ.

Pied Harrior
One over grassland area

Darter – Anhinga melanogaster
Several at Crocodile Lake on 12th April.

Chinese Pond Heron - Ardeola bacchus
Several at CL.

Cinnamon Bittern - Ixobrychus cinnamomeus
One at CL.

Little Heron – Butorides striatus
One at CL

Blue-rumped Pitta - Pitta soror
One near substation.

Bar-bellied Pitta - Pitta elliotii
Several along the Bau Sau trail, 1 on Ecological trail.

Blue-winged Pitta - Pitta moluccensis
Seen several times on raod from HQ

Black and Red Broadbill - Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos
Seen near HQ..

Banded Broadbill - Eurylaimus ochromalus
Seen near rapids

Dusky Broadbill - Corydon sumatranus
Seen each day near HQ

Asian Fairy Bluebird - Irena puella
Seen near rapids

Blue-winged Leafbird - Chloropsis cochinchinensis
Several seen on way to rapids

Golden-fronted Leafbird – Chloropsis aurifrons
1 seen near HQ.

Racket-tailed Treepie - Crypsirina temia
Seen Daily

Ratchet-tailed Treepie – Temnurus temnurus
Seen on 2 days

Ashy Wood Swallow - Artamus fuscus
Around 10 seen at grasslamd area.

Black-naped Oriole - Oriolus chinensis
one at the southern grasslands

Black-hooded Oriole  - Oriolus xanthornus
Seen everyday

Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike - Hemipus picatus
2 near HQ.

Black Drongo
Seen every day

Bronzed Drongo – Dicrurus aeneus
Several seen approaching grassland area

Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo - Dicrurus remifer
2 seen in Grassland area after storm

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo - Dicrurus paradiseus
Seen everyday

Black-naped Monarch - Hypothymis azurea
Two at Dac Lua on 11th April.

Common Iora – Aegithina tiphia

Great Iora - Aegithina lafresnayei
Seen every day

Asian Brown Flycatcher – Muscicapa dauurica
Seen every day.

Tickell's Blue Flycatcher -Cyornis tickell
Seen near HQ and approaching CL.

Oriental Magpie Robin - Copsychus saularis

White-rumped Shama - Copsychus malabaricus
Very common – 11 one morning.

Vinous-breasted Starling - Sturnus burmannicus
2 near HQ

Hill Mynah – Gracula religiosa
Seen everyday

Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Several seen over river.

Striated Swallow – Hirundo striolata
Seen everyday

Black-headed Bulbul –  Pycnonotus atriceps
Seen everyday

Black-crested Bulbul - Pycnonotus melanicterus
One seen near HQ.

Sooty-headed Bulbul – Pycnonotus aurigaster
Several seen in Grassland area.

Stripe-throated Bulbul - Pycnonotus finlaysoni

Streak-eared Bulbul - Pycnonotus blanfordi
Seen everyday.

Ochraceous Bulbul
2 seen approaching Grassland area

Grey-eyed Bulbul – Iole propinqua
Several seen near Grassland area

Rufescent Prinia –  Prinia rufescens

Yellow-bellied Prinia – Prinia flaviventris
I seen in Grassland area

Dark-necked Tailorbird - Orthotomus atrogularis

Common Tailorbird
Several seen

Yellow-browed Warbler –  Phylloscopus inornatus
One seen near HQ

White-crested Laughingthrush -   Garrulax leucolophus
One seen near rapids.

Puff-throated Babbler - Pellorneum ruficeps
Several seen by road to CL.

Striped Tit-Babbler - Macronous gularis

Grey-faced Tit-Babbler - Macronous kelleyi
Two on road to rapids

White-bellied Yuhina - Yuhina zantholeuca
One on road to rapids.

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker – Dicaeum cruentatum
Several near CL

Purple-throated Sunbird – Nectarinia sperata
Several near HQ towards Grassland area

Brown-throated Sunbird – Anthreptes malacensis
One on road to rapids

Olive-backed Sunbird – Nectarinia jugularis
Several seem near HQ

Little Spiderhunter – Arachnothera crassirostris
One at CL and one near HQ

Baya Weaver – Ploceus philippinus
One at grassland area.

Asian Golden Weaver – Ploceus hypoxanthus
Around 20 at CL.

White-rumped Munia - Lonchura striata
Several on grassland area.

Scaly-breasted Munia - Lonchura punctulata
Several near rapids


Why not send us a report, or an update to one of your current reports?