Ecotourism (Nature Tourism) in Myanmar

Bird watching in Myeik/ Tanintharyi Region

(text compiled by Paul Bates, Harrison Institute)

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Myeik/ Tanintharyi Region

Myeik is the principal city of Tanintharyi Region, which is the southernmost part of Myanmar. It is the gateway to the 800 islands of the Myeik archipelago, which are scattered in the coastal waters of the Andaman Sea. These islands vary considerably in size, shape and richness of vegetation, with some little more than rocky outcrops whereas others are covered with tropical evergreen forest and ringed with mangroves.

Myeik is also the gateway to the once extensive forests of mainland Tanintharyi. Although many of these evergreen forests have been converted over time to rubber plantations and more recently to oil palm, some good tracts of natural forest still remain. In some restricted areas they are home to the elusive and endangered Gurney’s Pitta. Although the Pitta is the principal attraction for many birders, Tanintharyi Region, which is situated in the transition zone between the Sundaic and Indochinese subregions, has numerous other interesting and rare bird species. In Myeik city, a number of houses/flats, particularly those on the Strand adjacent to the harbour, are given over to hosting colonies of Edible-nest Swiftlets. There is also a large and noisy diurnal roost of flying foxes (these are fruit bats, Pteropus hypomelanus geminorum) with the town.

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Visiting

In recent years, it has become much easier to visit Myeik city, with regular flights from Yangon and no restrictions or permits required. However, it is still difficult to visit the islands and/or the mainland areas outside the city, for which you will need permits. Currently, unless you have good local contacts, it is advisable to pre-book your visit to the area and take either a bespoke tour or join one of the tours outlined below (or others like it). The best time to visit is between November and March; avoid the rainy season, June to October, which can be extraordinarily wet.

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Birds

Bird species include*: Phasianidae: Red Junglefowl, Crested Fireback, Grey Peacock-Pheasant. Anatidae: Lesser Whistling-duck. Ardeidae: Malaysian Night-heron. Falconidae: Oriental Honey-buzzard, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Grey-headed Fish-Eagle, Crested Serpent-eagle, Crested Goshawk, Wallace’s Hawk-eagle. Columbidae: Thick-billed Green-pigeon, Large Green-pigeon. Psittacidae: Blue-rumped Parrot. Cuculidae: Violet Cuckoo, Black-bellied Malkoha, Raffles’s Malkoha. Strigidae: White-fronted Scops-owl, Collared Scops-owl, Asian Barred Owlet, Brown Boobook. Podargidae: Large Frogmouth, Blyth’s Frogmouth. Caprimulgidae: Great Eared-nightjar. Caprimulgidae: Edible-nest Swiftlet Apodidae: Whiskered Treeswift. Trogonidae: Cinnamon-rumped Trogon, Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Orange-breasted Trogon. Alcedinidae: Rufous-collared Kingfisher, Banded Kingfisher, Blue-banded Kingfisher, Blue-eared Kingfisher. Meropidae: Red-bearded Bee-eater. Bucerotidae: Oriental Pied Hornbill, Great Hornbill, Helmeted Hornbill, White-crowned Hornbill, Rufous-necked Hornbill, Plain-pouched Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill. Ramphastidae: Gold-wiskered Barbet, Red-throated Barbet, Blue-eared Barbet. Picidae: Rufous Woodpecker, Banded Woodpecker, Himalayan Flameback, Greater Flameback, Bamboo Woodpecker, Maroon Woodpecker, Bay Woodpecker, Buff-rumped Woodpecker, Great Slaty Woodpecker. Eurylaimidae: Green Broadbill, Long-tailed Broadbill, Dusky Broadbill, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Black-and-red Broadbill, Banded Broadbill, Black-and-yellow Broadbill. Pittidae: Hooded Pitta, Blue-Winged Pitta, Blue Pitta, Rusty-naped Pitta, Gurney’s Pitta. Campephagidae: Indochinese Cuckooshrike, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Lesser Cuckooshrike, Fiery Minivet. Oriolidae: Dark-throated Oriole. Tephrodomithidae: Rufous-winged Philentoma, Maroon-breasted Philentoma. Aegithinidae: Green Iora. Dicruridae: Bronzed Drongo. Corvidae: Black Magpie, Crested Jay. Nectariniidae: Red-throated Sunbird, Crimson Sunbird, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Purple-naped Sunbird. Chloropseidae: Greater Green Leafbird, Blue-winged Leafbird. Estrildidae: White-bellied Munia, White-headed Munia. Turdidae: Chestnut-capped Thrush. Muscicapidae: White-crowned Forktail. Paridae: Sultan Tit. Pycnonitidae: Black-crested Bulbul, Stripe-throated Bulbul, Cream-vented Bulbul, Hairy-backed Bulbul, White-throated Bulbul, Ochraceous Bulbul. Cettiidae: Yellow-bellied Warbler. Timaliidae: Spot-necked Babbler, Chestnut-winged Babbler, Large Scimitar-babbler, White-browed Scimitar-babbler, Short-tailed Babbler, Ferruginous Babbler, Collared Babbler. Cisticolidae: Rufous-tailed Tailorbird.

*list compiled from various sources published online; the list is not complete and is for indicative purposes only.

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Tours (that include Myeik/Tanintharyi)

SST Travel Tour 1
Travel Expert Tour 1
Bird Quest Tour 1
Wild Birds Eco South East Asia Tour 1
 
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Environmental Threats

Sadly, as in much of Myanmar, there are considerable environmental threats. On the mainland, habitat loss, especially deforestation, has been an ongoing problem for many years. The colonial period saw much forest cut down to be replaced by rubber plantations. However, the rate of loss has recently increased, especially with the expansion of oil palm plantations. Currently, there is also timber extraction on the islands. On both the islands and mainland, there has also been a considerable loss of coastal mangrove forests. In addition, there is ongoing damage occurring to the marine ecosystems where in places the fabulous coral (some 300 different species, including endemics) is being destroyed by the inappropriate use of drag nets by large fishing boats. There is also overfishing whilst poor waste disposal is leading to, in some places, much litter floating in the sea and washed up on the shoreline. If this all sounds rather grim, it is more a prediction of what will happen in the future unless appropriate measures are adopted urgently. Today, much of the region is still beautiful and tourists who pay to come and see the area’s wildlife give important value to this natural heritage.

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Visitor Reports

There appear to be no published reports of recent bird watching visits to Myeik/Tanintharyi Division. An unpublished report on a Harrison Institute/Yangon University expedition to the area in November, 2003 is available here.