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birds in Asia


Stijn De Win


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Osprey       photo by Stijn De Win


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Black Baza


Great Hornbill


Slender-billed Oriole


Asian Barred Owlet


White-browed Scimitar Babbler


Green Magpie


Chinese Francolin


Moustached Barbet


All photographs by

Carl-Johan Svensson


Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary

Excellent birding with a wilderness feel.


This 156 square km Wildlife Sanctuary in Chaiyaphum province comprises a beautiful area of mixed deciduous forest with

smaller areas of semi-evergreen forest, interspersed with a few grasslands and lakes.  The reserve adjoins Nam Nao

National Park to the north, with Huai Yai Wildlife Sanctuary and Tad Mok National Park continuous to the west.

Although not always seen easily, it’s always nice to go birding in a reserve that still harbours plenty wildlife and Phu Khieo

is certainly one of just a few places in Thailand still ‘rich’ in both mammal species and numbers.


Key species


Phu Khieo WS is one of only two sites in Thailand that still has a population White-winged Duck and it’s the only place

where it’s possible to actually go look for it.  This reserve is perhaps the best spot in SE Asia for Brown Hornbill (austeni,

split from Rufous-cheeked found in for example Kaeng Krachan).  I have recorded 3 different groups Brown Hornbill in a

single day there in 2008, whereas I’ve not seen any in Khao Yai on my 5 most recent visits.

Green Peafowl can be seen in the HQ and Queens resort area, but although seen here in a wilderness setting as

compared with those at Huai Hong Krai Royal Project near Chiang Mai, are said to be released birds or originate from


Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo has been seen near the Queens resort but I’m not sure this would be a reliable spot for it.

Other good birds regularly seen in the park are Golden Crested Myna, Siamese Fireback, Sultan Tit, a host of

Woodpeckers, Broadbills and Blue Pitta.




It is 23,5 km from the entrance to the HQ area in the reserve and the paved road has good birding all along.  Make sure

you reset the odometer of your car to zero on entry to be able to follow up on places described below. 

Once arrived in the HQ area there’s a few interesting trails and tracks to walk with good birding along.


1 After 7 km you’ll enter a large clearing with a checkpoint and some buildings used by the sanctuary staff.  Stop at a spot

   where a pond can be overlooked on your right.  There’s good views here on the canopy of the evergreen forest at the

   edge of the clearing which make it a good spot to scan for Hornbills and both Hill and Golden Crested Mynas. A number

   of other species can be seen in and around the clearing and it’s worth spending some time here as the forest is taller

   and more lush here than that found in the HQ area, with the birdlife slightly different indeed.

2 Continue on the road to HQ, but keep making regular stops for roadside birding which can be very productive here. A

   good area to catch up with Brown Hornbill, check at km 14,3 and 18,7 in particular, which is where I’ve seen them in the


3 This loop on a narrow paved road can either be walked, or driven with regular stops made.  The forest here is fairly dry

   but does not have an open character and the road passes a few interesting pools where wildlife comes to drink.  Good

   to check either at night or late/early in the day.  Start from km 23 as this is a one-way road, even though it would be very

   unlikely indeed to encounter oncoming traffic here.

4  Having started from the car park, the nature trail first passes some tall evergreen forest and a massive fig tree, a very

   good area where a number of species can be found.  Some grassland is then crossed on a boardwalk before the forest

   becomes more dry and mixed deciduous which may produce some different species.  This area is full of wildlife

   ‘evidence’ and tracks can be seen just about everywhere.  Eventually the trail emerges back onto the entrance road at

   km 20,7 from where you’ll have to walk back to your vehicle ( = 3 km) on the road if not having arranged beforehand to

   get picked up.

5 The track/trail to MonLake starts just 500m from HQ and has very good birding.  It has to be walked accompanied by a

   ranger which should be arranged at HQ for a fee.  It is about 5 km to MonLake, which is a good site to see White-

   winged Duck.  For the best chance to see one an overnight stay at MonLake should be considered and it’s possible to

   do so together with a ranger.  More detailed info on this can be found in the excellent trip report by Charles Davies ;

6 The loop around the Queens resort runs through some grassland areas on the paved section and fairly dry and open

   forest once you’re on the dirt track.  A few beautiful lakes mark the area and make it a pleasant place to spend a few

   hours with good birding around.  Both Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo and Green Peafowl have been seen here.


Getting there & around


 I wouldn’t recommend to try and visit without your own

 transport.  It’s unlikely you’ll reach the entrance gate

 without having to charter a taxi or motorbike from the

 nearest town which you might eventually have got to on

 public transport. After that it’s just not feasible to think

 you’ll ever reach HQ without private transport.

 Getting to Phu Khieo is easy enough if you rent a car. 

 Coming from Nam Nao NP turn right on route 12 about

 100 km short of Khon Kaen (turn left coming from Khon

 Kaen) where Chulaphorn Dam is clearly signposted.  It’s

 another 40 km from this turnoff, just follow signs for the

 Dam and Wildlife Sanctuary.  From Bangkok head for

 Chaiyaphum and continue on route 201 northwards until

 you see signs for Chulaphorn Dam, shortly after Phu Khieo

 village.  Turn left off route 201 and follow the signs, it’s

 approx. 50 km to go from here. Please note that it is not

 allowed to visit the reserve on a motorbike.








See our tour reports.


Accommodation & food


Camping is possible at HQ, and at Mon Lake accompanied by a ranger if going for an overnight stay to try for White-winged

Duck. Bring your own tent and sleeping bag.

Bungalows (basic) are for rent at HQ but have to be arranged/booked up front.  Contact Phu Khieo WS, phone

0843340043, but this will most probably only be useful if you speak some Thai.  Alternatively call Chuleekorn Sighmasi

who speaks English and works on the Phu Khieo-EU project on site ; (0066)(0)833578130 or email

Just to turn up at the entrance gate and ask if any bungalows are still available might work, wouldn’t want to bet on it


While it might be possible to arrange some food to be cooked for you at HQ, I’m pretty sure the restaurant normally only

serves the WS staff, researchers and (school) groups that have booked for food up front.  Bring your own food and drinks.


Notes & info


- Entrance fee for the Wildlife Sanctuary is 200 Baht per person/foreigner. No entry after 4 pm.

- A visit can be productive at any time of year but best is November to May, the dry season.

- All walking is easy and on flat ground and lots of birding can be done from the roadsides with your car nearby.

- No reception for your mobile phone inside the reserve but there is at the entrance gate.

- Very few insects or other annoyances to note of. Use common sense if encountering wildlife but don’t let their presence

  keep you from entering the forest, but stay on the trails/tracks please.

- Some read about the conservation of the area can be found in the article below.

- Phu Khieo is a productive area for birding and you may expect pretty high day lists, close to, but not entirely, 100

  species are possible in a day.

- Thailand country info.


Bird list


160 species, 01 near-endemics, 05 threatened species (Clements 6th edition)

This checklist is best viewed using Internet Explorer on a speedy connection.


Other wildlife


This is one of the mammal richest areas of Thailand. The density of wildlife tracks a visitor can find in the area, especially

when compared with what can be seen in for example Khao Yai or Kaeng Krachan, is amazing.

An extensive 2001 survey found 19 Tigers (same study found just “three” in Khao Yai) living in the wildlife sanctuary. 

Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Marbled Cat, Leopard Cat and Jungle Cat all occur.

More likely to be encountered by the casual visitor are Sambar and Red Muntjac, as well as Phayre’s Langur with Phu Khieo

possibly the only place left in SE Asia where it is still very common.

Other mammals which might be seen include White-handed Gibbon, Black Giant and Variable Squirrels.  Evidence of Elephants

is commonly encountered and both Gaur and Dhole occur in good numbers.


Trip reports & articles


-A nice article about the sanctuary and the reintroduction of Hog Deer at Phu Khieo appeared in the Bangkok Post

 newspaper on 28 September 2009. You may read it online at;

-A good trip report by Charles Davies ;

-Phu Khieo WS is listed as an important bird area in Thailand, see this article (old) with info on the reserve.



This information page published on 6th September 2008 by Stijn De Win ©

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