Sulawesi Trip Report (long)

To: "Birding-Aus" <>, "Merilyn Browne" <>, "Tony Palliser" <>, "Frank O'Connor" <>, "Murray Lord" <>, "Darryel Binns" <>, "Bill Moorhead" <>
Subject: Sulawesi Trip Report (long)
From: "Peter Marsh" <>
Date: Sat, 2 May 2015 18:11:27 +1000
Birding in Sulawesi, Indonesia

18 to 25 April 2015

Peter Marsh

The Plan

I, like many birders, am chasing the intermediate goal of seeing a 
representative of every bird family. I chose a trip to the Indonesian island of 
Sulawesi to seek the Hylocitrea (Olive–flanked Whistler), the only member of 
the family Hypocoliidae. While this was the prime target of the trip I was, of 
course, open to the enjoyment of any and all birds encountered on the trip. I 
visited Tangkoko on the northern tip of Sulawesi, principally to look for 
Kingfishers, and two sites within the Lore Lindu National Park. The first of 
these was in the area of the Anaso track and the village of Wuasa, principally 
to look for the Hylocitrea, and the second was the Maleo nesting area close to 
the village of Saluki.


Tony Palliser posted a trip report after his visit to Sulawesi in his 
successful quest to photograph the Hylocitrea 
( . He used the services of 
Nurlin Djuni at Malia Tours  in Palu, Sulawesi to 
organize his trip and was very satisfied with the services he provided. On this 
recommendation I contacted Nurlin and got him to organize a similar type of 
trip focused on seeing (but not photographing) the Hylocitrea and as many other 
interesting birds as possible. Nurlin put me in touch with Irawan Halir, 
generally known as Iwan,  who is a guide in northern 
Sulawesi who guided my birding around Tangkoko. The trip was a great success 
and both guides proved to be very competent and knowledgeable. All of their 
arrangements worked flawlessly. I also found a report by Con Foley, a Singapore 
based bird guide and photographer to be very useful as he went to both Tangkoko 
and the Anaso track area of Lore Lindu National Park 
( This report includes some of Con’s 
splendid photographs of the birds he saw.

I arranged my own flights to Manado and from Denpasar (Bali) to Sydney. Nurlin 
arranged the internal Indonesian flights using Lion Air. There is a US$35 visa 
fee and it speeds the process immeasurably if you have this in cash.

I took Doxycycline as a malaria preventative but saw only 2 mosquitos in the 
whole trip. The only insectivorous annoyance was chiggers in Tangkoko that 
savagely attacked my legs. Fortunately the bites didn’t itch very much and were 
quite manageable.

The best guide book is “A guide to the Birds of Wallacea” by Coates and Bishop. 
Unfortunately it is out of print so I borrowed a copy from the Birdlife 
Australia Sydney library. I was able to photograph the relevant pages with my 
i-Phone 6 and had the images and brief text at my fingertips for the duration 
of the trip (for personal use and study only of course).


I flew from Singapore by Silk Air to the northern Sulawesi city of Manado for a 
day and a half of birding in the Tangkoko area. I was picked up Irawan Halir 
who drove me with great care in his relatively new 4x4 to a view point above 
Tangkoko (I suspect the care in his driving was motivated more by the newness 
of the vehicle than by my presence in it!). We soon got into the Sulawesi 
endemics with Silver–tipped Imperial Pigeon, Grey-headed Imperial Pigeon, 
Knobbed Hornbill, Large Sulawesi Hanging Parrot, Grey-sided Flowerpecker, and 
Sulawesi Drongo. Driving down the hill into Tangkoko we saw the first of many 
roadside Barred[PM1]  Rail. After dropping off my bag at the Tangkoko Lodge, 
where I was spending the night, we went straight into the Tangkoko National 
Park for a late afternoon/evening birding session. Iwan located Sulawesi Hawk 
Eagle, before dusk and then spotlighted Sulawesi Scops Owl, Ochre Boobook and 
(to my surprise) Green-backed Kingfisher. Three delightful Tasir were seen in 
the light foraging in a tree.

The Tangkoko Lodge provided simple meals and accommodation but very adequate in 
the circumstances. Iwan picked me up early for another visit to the lookout 
point above the town. A scope would have been an advantage here as the birds 
were generally some distance away in the forest canopy. We did however pick up 
more endemics in the Golden–mantled and Yellow-breasted Racket-tails, 
Yellow-billed Malkoha, White-necked Myna, Purple–winged Roller and Ornate 
Lorikeet. After a late breakfast we returned to the national Park to continue 
the kingfisher quest. Iwan soon pulled in Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher but the 
Lilac-cheeked stayed out of view.

A brief lunch took us away from birding but we soon returned with a boat trip 
to the mangroves. The weather was pleasant and the sea smooth making the 2 Km 
voyage to the mangroves a pleasant outing.  Once into the inlet containing the 
mangroves we quickly picked up Blue-eared and Great-billed Kingfishers as well 
as White-rumped Cuckoo-shrike. This rapid success allowed us time to return to 
the National Park for a last gasp try for the Lilac-cheeked Kingfisher. We 
strolled through the Park in fading light for a time until Iwan picked up the 
elusive bird and we could head off for the Novotel Resort in Manado where I was 
to overnight before flying south in the morning.

The journey to Lore Lindu National Park involver an early flight to the very 
fine airport at Makassar at the southern end of the island and a longish 
stopover before a flight half way back up the island to Palu. Fortunately the 
stopover was not wasted as Nurlin had pointed out there is good birding to be 
had around the airport. In a couple of pleasant hours I found, among others, 
Barred Button-quail, Lemon –bellied White-eye, Pale-headed Munia, Chestnut 
Munia, White-shouldered Triller and Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker in the park-like 
gardens around the airport.

On arrival in Palu I was picked up by Nurlin and we headed up into the cloud 
shrouded hills of the Lore Lindu National Park. I had opted to camp close to 
the foot of the Anaso track to avoid the hour long drive from Wuasa village 
each morning and afternoon. We arrived at the camp in pouring rain and I was 
relieved to find we were on dry ground and had a series of tarpaulins over the 
camp which had already been erected to keep us dry. The team soon produced a 
nice meal and I was off to bed.

Early morning birding produced the endemic Malia and Sulawesi Thrush. After 
breakfast we did our first climb up the Anaso track looking for Hylocitrea. We 
were disappointed in that search but in walking about 2/3rd of the way up the 
track we came up with a good selection of birds, including Mountain White-eye, 
Citrine Flycatcher, White-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Mountain Tailorbird, 
Rusty-bellied Fantail and Satanic Nightjar roosting at the base of a cliff. 
After returning for a late lunch we birded along the main road along the ridge 
towards the village of Sedoa. This was quite productive with new birds 
including Ornate Lorikeet, Finch-billed Myna, Cerulean Cuckoo-shrike, 
Fiery-browed Myna, Black-naped and Red-eared Fruit Doves. A fierce thunderstorm 
and torrential rain sent us back to camp early and precluded any owling.

The following morning was an even earlier start to give us time to get right up 
the Anaso track. We soon heard Scaly-breasted Kingfisher but it was fairly 
distant and we had to get on up the track. As the light grew we caught sight of 
Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Grey-headed Imperial Pigeon, and Sulawesi Leaf Warbler. 
We ascended past both helicopter landing sites on the track and neared the 
upper camping site when Nurlin picked up the call of a Maroon-backed Whistler. 
We entered the forest looking for it when one of the trainee guides, Lito, 
called out that he had a Hylocitrea. We scrambled up to where Loti was standing 
and there high in the tree was the bird. I would have to say that despite the 
smart olive-yellow flanks the Hylocitrea is a very drab bird! Still, it is a 
mono-specific family and to be treasured.

We pressed on upwards towards the summit in the hope of a Geomalia but it was 
not to be. Nurlin commented that they are very rarely seen before June. It was 
a similar story with the Purple-bearded Bee-eater which was another no show. 
They are regularly seen near the large landslide on the track during their 
breeding season but there were none there as we passed through.

The afternoon saw us birding at lower altitudes down to the village of Wuasa. 
As we descended we picked up Crimson Sunbird, Black-fronted Whiteye, Sulawesi 
Cicadabird, Pale Blue Monarch, Little Pied Flycatcher and the white rumped 
Sulawesi Swiftlet. On the valley floor we saw a flight of Sunda Teal wheel over 
the rice paddies and land in a small lake. Having failed to see or hear any 
owls at higher elevations Nurlin took us into the Cocoa plantation of a friend 
just after dark and pulled in a charming little Speckled Boobook.

The next morning we tried for the recently discovered Cinibar Boobook. Our 
calls produced a quick response but quite a game of cat and mouse ensued before 
we had close views of the owl roosting on a branch at around head height. After 
breakfast we continued birding along the main road seeing Crimson-crowned 
Flowerpecker, Spot-tailed Goshawk, a wonderfully exposed Small Sparrowhawk 
perched on a dead tree and Yellow-sided Flowerpecker among others. In the early 
afternoon it started to rain consistently so Nurlin suggested birding in the 
valley leading back to Palu. This jaunt produced three wanted birds in Asian 
Glossy Starling, Black Faced Munia and Isabelline Bush Hen. The last mentioned 
was heard calling in a field swathed in long grass except for a small mown 
patch in the corner. Nurlin played the call and shortly thereafter the bird 
appeared briefly in the mown corner of the field. Well done Nurlin!

Our final morning in the Anaso track area was a vain attempt to catch up on a 
couple of as yet unseen birds. Both the Great Shortwing and the Scaly Breasted 
Kingfisher were heard in reasonably close proximity but neither was even 

After packing up camp post breakfast we headed off on a 4 hour drive to Saluki 
on the other side of the Lore Lindu National Park. Our cars were parked in the 
grounds of the National Parks office in Saluki and a slimmed down camping 
arrangement transported along a walking track by motorbike to the edge of a 
fast flowing river close to the Maleo nesting grounds. This ingenious megapode 
uses volcanically heated groundwater to incubate its eggs. The birds dig a hole 
about a meter in diameter and about the same depth to get to soil warmed by the 
groundwater. The eggs are laid in a cavity in the sidewall of the hole and 
covered with soil while leaving some air around the egg. When the egg hatches 
the chick burrows out of the soil and somehow gets itself out of the hole. 

From the end of the track our camping gear was carried through 2 river 
crossings to a small hut in a cocoa plantation from which it was only a 10 
minute walk into the Park and to the Maleo nesting grounds. When we first 
arrived at the grounds there was no sign of wild birds but a conservation 
effort has a shelter there. They collect eggs and re-bury them within the 
shelter so that when the chicks emerge they do so into an area protected from 
predators. After an hour or so wait a pair of adult Maleo landed in a tree 
above the nesting ground and provided excellent views of the pink chested male 
and his white chested mate. Back at camp a small group of Knobbed Hornbill 
showed well, a Sulawesi Hawk-eagle sailed past, Ivory-backed Wood-swallow 
hawked for insects and a Black Eagle circled.

The following morning we revisited the Maleo nesting ground but had only the 
briefest view of an adult bird scratching around on the ground. We then drove 
back to Palu without incident to complete a very satisfactory trip to Sulawesi. 
I flew by Lion Air to Makassar and then to Bali before changing to a flight to 

Birds Seen in Sulawesi

Sunda Teal (Anas gibberifrons)   

Maleo (Macrocephalon maleo)   

Striated Heron (Butorides striata)   

Javan Pond Heron (Ardeola speciosa)   

Eastern Cattle Egret (Bubulcus coromandus)   

Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)   

Intermediate Egret (Egretta intermedia)   

Sulawesi Serpent Eagle (Spilornis rufipectus)   

Sulawesi Hawk-eagle (Nisaetus lanceolatus)   

Spot-tailed Sparrowhawk (Accipiter trinotatus)   

Dwarf Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nanus)   

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus)   

Barred Rail (Gallirallus torquatus)   

Isabelline Bush-hen (Amaurornis isabellina)   

White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus)   

Barred Buttonquail (Turnix suscitator)   

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)   

Rock Dove (Columba livia)   

Red Turtle Dove (Streptopelia tranquebarica)   

Spotted Dove (Spilopelia chinensis) 

Slender-billed Cuckoo-dove (Macropygia amboinensis)   

Grey-cheeked Green Pigeon (Treron griseicauda)   

Red-eared Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus fischeri)   

Black-naped Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus melanospilus)   

White-bellied Imperial Pigeon (Ducula forsteni)   

Grey-headed Imperial Pigeon (Ducula radiata)   

Green Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aenea)   

Silver-tipped Imperial Pigeon (Ducula luctuosa)

Yellow-billed Malkoha (Rhamphococcyx calyorhynchus)   

Rusty-breasted Cuckoo (Cacomantis sepulcralis)   

Sulawesi Scops Owl (Otus manadensis)   

Ochre-bellied Boobook (Ninox ochracea)   

Cinnabar Boobook (Ninox ios)   

Speckled Boobook (Ninox punctulata)   

Satanic Nightjar (Eurostopodus diabolicus)   

Grey-rumped Treeswift (Hemiprocne longipennis)   

Glossy Swiftlet (Collocalia esculenta)   

Sulawesi Swiftlet (Aerodramus sororum)   

Uniform Swiftlet Aerodramus vanikorensis)   

Purple-winged Roller (Coracias temminckii)   

Green-backed Kingfisher (Actenoides monachus)   

Lilac Kingfisher (Cittura cyanotis)   

Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis)   

Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris)   

Blue-eared Kingfisher (Alcedo meninting)   

Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher (Ceyx fallax)   

Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus)   

Knobbed Hornbill (Rhyticeros cassidix)  

Sulawesi Pygmy Woodpecker (Dendrocopos temminckii)   

Ashy Woodpecker (Mulleripicus fulvus)   

Spotted Kestrel (Falco moluccensis)   

Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus)   

Great Hanging Parrot (Loriculus stigmatus)   

Ornate Lorikeet (Trichoglossus ornatus)   

Citrine Lorikeet (Trichoglossus flavoviridis)   

Yellow-breasted Racket-tail (Prioniturus flavicans)   

Golden-mantled Racket-tail (Prioniturus platurus)   

Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus)   

Red-bellied Pitta (Erythropitta erythrogaster)   

Sulawesi Myzomela (Myzomela chloroptera)   

Golden-bellied Gerygone (Gerygone sulphurea)  

White-breasted Woodswallow (Artamus leucorynchus)   

Ivory-backed Woodswallow (Artamus monachus)   

Cerulean Cuckooshrike (Coracina temminckii)   

White-rumped Cuckooshrike (Coracina leucopygia)   

Pygmy Cuckooshrike (Coracina abbotti)   

Sulawesi Cicadabird (Coracina morio)   

White-shouldered Triller (Lalage sueurii)   

Sulphur-vented Whistler (Pachycephala sulfuriventer)   

Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis)   

Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus)   

Hair-crested Drongo (Dicrurus hottentottus)   

Sulawesi Drongo (Dicrurus montanus)   

Rusty-bellied Fantail (Rhipidura teysmanni)   

Pale-blue Monarch (Hypothymis puella)   

Slender-billed Crow (Corvus enca)   

Hylocitrea (Hylocitrea bonensis)   

Citrine Canary-flycatcher (Culicicapa helianthea)   

Sooty-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus aurigaster)   

Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier)   

Malia (Malia grata)   

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)   

Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica)   

Mountain Tailorbird (Phyllergates cuculatus)   

Sulawesi Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus sarasinorum)   

Sulawesi Babbler (Trichastoma celebense)   

Mountain White-eye (Zosterops montanus)   

Lemon-bellied White-eye (Zosterops chloris)   

Black-fronted White-eye (Zosterops minor)   

Short-tailed Starling (Aplonis minor)   

Sulawesi Myna (Basilornis celebensis)   

White-necked Myna (Streptocitta albicollis)   

Fiery-browed Starling (Enodes erythrophris)   

Grosbeak Starling (Scissirostrum dubium)   

Sulawesi Thrush (Cataponera turdoides)   

Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis omissus)   

Blue-fronted Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis hoevelli)   

Turquoise Flycatcher (Eumyias panayensis)   

Snowy-browed Flycatcher (Ficedula hyperythra)   

Little Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula westermanni)   

Yellow-sided Flowerpecker (Dicaeum aureolimbatum)   

Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker (Dicaeum nehrkorni)   

Grey-sided Flowerpecker (Dicaeum celebicum)   

Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis)   

Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis)   

Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja)   

Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)   

Black-faced Munia (Lonchura molucca)   

Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata)   

Chestnut Munia (Lonchura atricapilla)   

Pale-headed Munia (Lonchura pallida)   

Eastern Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla tschutschensis)   

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)  


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