Bird Alert: There are splendid Kingfishers to see in Bangkok (Photos)

A Ruddy Kingfisher, at left, with a White-throated Kingfisher, at right. All photos: Coke Smith
A Ruddy Kingfisher, at left, with a White-throated Kingfisher, at right. All photos: Coke Smith

Coming from North America myself, I was never really invested in seeing kingfishers.  With only one species to speak of – the Belted Kingfisher – I was not driven to see it as it is not all that challenging or colorful. But now that my home is Thailand, home to 16 species, kingfishers are very high on my “target” list, and all of them are absolutely spectacular birds.

Today’s article is not just about kingfishers in general. I would like to highlight one location in metropolitan Bangkok where you can find at least three species, and potentially more on a good day. The Bang Pu Mangrove Forest and Recreation Centre is currently being visited by four regularly-spotted kingfisher species – the Common Kingfisher, the White-throated Kingfisher, the Black-capped Kingfisher and Collared Kingfisher.

With a little effort and some decent spotting abilities, you can easily see the numerous gorgeous blue and white flashes of the Collared Kingfishers that are always very common now at Bang Pu. They are year-round residents of all of the mangrove forest communities along the Gulf of Thailand and can be seen all year. Listen for their very loud screech. Another common year-round resident is the White-throated Kingfisher, which is usually found a few meters deeper into the forest, away from the coastline. This species loves power lines and can usually be found perched on one.

The two current winter visitors are also pretty easy to spot these days at Bang Pu. Seeing one perched is ideal as it allows for easier photography, but more often than not, I spot them flying by first and then watch where the land to try my approach for an image or two. The Black-capped Kingfisher is a spectacular colourful kingfisher that is arguably the largest species in town now. Watch for a very colorful largish bird with a “black cap” and you have it! Using the same skills, if you see a smallish blue bird zip back and forth in the lower regions of the mangrove trees, right at their adventitious roots, you may have the spectacular “Common” Kingfisher. In my opinion, that name does not do this little kingfisher justice. They are very beautiful.

Now, if you are very lucky, you may be at Bang Pu at a time when the real rarities show up – the Ruddy and Pied kingfishers will usually make a show in the forests once or twice a year. That is when you will see hundreds of photographers with their huge long lenses lined up for a photo-op.

What I love about Bang Pu is that it is a protected swath of mangrove forest situated within the madness of the greater Bangkok Metropolitan area. It is very accessible for all of our community in less than an hour and it can give a taste of what this magnificent and highly endangered and important ecosystem has to offer.  

White-throated Kingfisher. Photo: Coke Smith
Common Kingfisher. Photo: Coke Smith
Pied Kingfisher. Photo: Coke Smith
Common Kingfisher. Photo: Coke Smith
Common Kingfisher. Photo: Coke Smith
Ruddy Kingfisher. Photo: Coke Smith

More near-Bangkok wildlife and birding adventures:
Time Whale Spent: A Bangkok wildlife adventure with the lords of the deep (Photos)
Don’t melt down at home, Bangkok. Not when these nearby nature hotspots call! (Photos)
Bangkok’s fantastic beasts and where to find them (Photos)

Coke Smith is the Environmental Science Leader at Bangkok Patana School and is an avid nature photographer. Coke has published his wildlife images in many books and magazines over the years and has been included in publications such as BBC Planet Earth and NatGeo Science and many other internationally renowned publications. For more information on any of the how to view these birds now, please contact Coke via cosm@patana.ac.th.

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