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  • Photograph of Purple-bearded Bee-eater

    The superb Purple-bearded Bee-eater by Mark Harper.

  • Where to watch birds and wildlife in
  • SULAWESI and HALMAHERA

    Photograph of Ivory-breasted Pitta

    A male Ivory-breasted Pitta by Mark Harper.

    Best Birds and other wildlife in Sulawesi and Halmahera

    Birds
    It is possible to see over 100 Sulawesi and North Molucca endemics on a thorough two-week trip.

    Endemics

    Mainland Sulawesi (46)
    Small Sparrowhawk, Snoring Rail, Isabelline Bush Hen, Sulawesi Woodcock, Sulawesi Ground Dove, Maroon-chinned (Oberholser’s) and Red-eared Fruit Doves, Grey-headed Imperial Pigeon, Sombre Pigeon, Pygmy Hanging Parrot, Sulawesi (Hawk) Cuckoo, Minahassa Masked Owl, Cinnabar and Speckled Boobooks, Diabolical (Satanic/Heinrich’s) Nightjar, Sulawesi (Moluccan) Swiftlet, Black-headed (Green-backed) and Scaly-breasted Kingfishers, Purple-bearded Bee-eater, Cerulean and Pygmy Cuckooshrikes, Dark-eared and White-eared Myzas, Sulawesi Drongo, Malia, Geomalia, Great Shortwing, Sulawesi (Mountain) Thrush, Lompbattang (Sulawesi) and Sulawesi Leaf Warblers, Blue-fronted Blue, Matinan Blue, Lompobatang and Rufous-throated, Sulawesi Blue (also Togian Islands?) and Sulawesi Streaked (Brown) Flycatchers, Northern and Southern Hylocitreas, Maroon-backed and Sulphur-bellied (vented) Whistlers, Fiery-browed and Pale-bellied Mynas, Crimson-crowned Flowerpecker, and Black-ringed, Streak-headed and Sulawesi White-eyes.

    Mainland Sulawesi and satellite islands (21)
    Maleo, Spot-tailed and Sulawesi Goshawks, Yellow-breasted Racquet-tail, Sulawesi Hanging Parrot, Bay Coucal, Yellow-billed Malkoha, Ochre-bellied Boobook, Green-backed Kingfisher, Purple-winged Roller, Knobbed and Sulawesi Hornbills, Sulawesi Woodpecker, Ashy Woodpecker, Sulawesi Pitta, Pied and White-rumped Cuckooshrikes, Piping Crow, Sulawesi Babbler, and Sulawesi (Crested) and White-necked Mynas.

    Sulawesi and Banggai Islands (3)
    Blue-faced Rail, Ornate Lorikeet (+ satellites and possibly Sangihe and Talaud Islands) and Finch-billed (Grosbeak) Myna.

    Sulawesi, satellites, Sula and Banggai Islands (15)
    Sulawesi Serpent Eagle, Sulawesi Hawk Eagle, Vinous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Sulawesi Black Pigeon (White-faced Cuckoo Dove), Silver-tipped Imperial Pigeon, Golden-mantled Racquet-tail (and Talaud Islands), Black-billed Koel, Sulawesi Masked Owl, Great-billed (Black-billed) Kingfisher, Sulawesi Myzomela (also Obi?), Pale-blue Monarch, Sulawesi (White-rumped) Triller, Red-backed Thrush, Ivory-backed Woodswallow and Grey-sided Flowerpecker (and Sangihe and Talaud Islands).

    Sulawesi and Sula (4)
    White-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Yellow-and-green Lorikeet, Sulawesi Nightjar and Rusty-bellied Fantail.

    Sula (especially Taliabu) (6+)
    Taliabu Masked Owl, Sula Scops Owl, Sula (Maroon-chinned) Fruit Dove, Sula Cicadabird, Sula Golden Bulbul and Bare-eyed Myna, as well as as-yet-undescribed Taliabu Bush Warbler and Taliabu Leaf Warbler.

    Sula and Banggai Islands (6)
    Sula Scrubfowl, Sula Hanging Parrot, Sula Pitta, Slaty Cuckooshrike, Henna-tailed Jungle Flycatcher (and possibly Sulawesi) and Helmeted Myna.

    Banggai Islands (5+)
    Banggai Scops Owl, Banggai (Maroon-chinned) Fruit Dove, Banggai Golden Bulbul, Red-and-black (Red-backed) Thrush and Banggai (Slender-billed) Crow, as well as possible Peleng Leaf Warbler.

    Togian Islands (2+)
    Togian Boobook and Togian White-eye, as well as an endemic race of Sulawesi Blue Flycatcher, and distinctive subspecies of Brown Cuckoo Dove, Northern Golden Bulbul and Sulawesi Babbler.

    Sulawesi and Sangihe (5)
    Sulawesi Scops Owl, Lilac (-cheeked) Kingfisher, Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher, Sulawesi Cicadabird (and Talaud Islands) and Yellow-sided Flowerpecker.

    Sangihe (halfway between Sulawesi and the Philippine island of Mindanao) (4+)
    Sangihe Hanging Parrot, Sangihe Scops Owl, Sangihe Whistler, Cerulean Paradise Flycatcher and Elegant Sunbird (and Siau), as well as race of Northern Golden Bulbul (very rare), and Sangihe Dwarf Kingfisher and Sangihe White-eye, both of which have not been recorded for decades).

    Siau (1)
    Siau Scops Owl.

    Talaud Islands (4+)
    Talaud Rail, Talaud Bush Hen, Red-and-blue Lory (also known from Sangihe) and Talaud (Collared) Kingfisher. (endemic race of Philippine Pitta has already been split by some taxonomists).

    Tanahjampea and Flores Strait Islands (1)
    White-tipped Monarch.

    Wangi-wangi Island (2+)
    Wakatobi (Lemon-bellied) and Wangi-wangi White-eyes, as well as kuehni Grey-sided Flowerpecker, a probable future split as Wakatobi Flowerpecker.

    Mainland Halmahera (and possibly Morotai Island to the north) (5)
    Invisible (Drummer) Rail, Halmahera (Moluccan) Swiftlet, Sombre Kingfisher, Halmahera Cuckooshrike and Halmahera (Dusky-brown) Oriole.

    Morotai (1+)
    Dusky (Morotai) Friarbird, and possibly Morotai Paradise Crow, Morotai Spangled Drongo and Morotai White-eye.

    Halmahera and Bacan (10)
    Moluccan Goshawk, Grey-headed Fruit Dove, White Cockatoo (also Obi?), Moluccan Cuckoo, Halmahera Boobook, Moluccan Owlet Nightjar, Azure Roller (Purple Dollarbird), Wallace’s Standardwing, and Dusky and White-streaked Friarbirds.

    Bacan and Obi (1)
    Obi (Moluccan) Woodcock.

    Bacan (2?)
    Potentially Bacan Spangled Drongo and Bacan (Cream-throated) White-eye.

    Halmahera, Bacan and Obi (13)
    Blue-capped and Scarlet-breasted Fruit Doves, Cinnamon-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Chattering Lory, Giant (Goliath) Coucal, Blue-and-white Kingfisher, Ivory-breasted and Northern Moluccan Pittas, Rufous-bellied Triller, Long-billed Crow, Paradise Crow, Cream-throated White-eye and Halmahera Flowerpecker.

    Obi (11+)
    Obi (Grey-throated/Variable) Goshawk, Rusty (Cinnamon-bellied) Imperial Pigeon, Carunculated Fruit Dove, Obi (Bacan/Sulawesi) Myzomela, Obi Golden Bulbul, Cinnamon-breasted (Rufous) Whistler, Obi Spangled Drongo, Obi (Northern) Fantail, Obi (Moluccan) Monarch, Obi Paradise Crow, Obi (Cream-throated) White-eye, and possibly Obi (Dusky) Myzomela and Obi (Common) Cicadabird.

    Mammals
    Dian’s and Spectral (Sulawesi) Tarsiers, Babirusa, Sulawesi Wild Pig, Bear Cuscus, and macaques including Heck's, Moor, Sulawesi Crested and Tonkean. Also a chance of Anoa, Bottlenose and Spinner (May-Nov) Dolphins, and Short-finned Pilot Whale (May-Nov).

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    The seas around Sulawesi, especially those to the east of the main island, are believed to be the richest in the world. Over 3000 fish species have been recorded, mostly around some of the richest and most pristine coral reefs on Earth, as well as Green and Hawksbill Turtles, and Bumble-Bee, Harlequin and Tiger Shrimps.

    Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in Sulawesi and Halmahera

    Photograph of Knobbed Hornbill

    Knobbed Hornbill by Coke & Som Smith.

    Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in Sulawesi and Halmahera

    Although the rainy season may last into August the best time to visit these islands to look for birds is mid-July to October, especially August-September. Wallace's Standardwings usually display the most at the start of the dry season, which is usually August to early September. The climate is equatorial and the temperature in the lowlands is usually 25°C–28°C throughout the year. Most days in the lowlands are hot, humid and sunny, with spells of cloud and rain at times. In montane areas it can be much cooler.

    Recommended Bird Books etc. for Sulawesi and Halmahera

    Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago by J Eaton et al. Lynx Edicions, 2016.

    A Guide to the Birds of Wallacea by B Coates and K Bishop. Dove Publications, 1997.

    Birding Indonesia edited by P Jepson and R Ounsted. Periplus Editions, 1997.

    Where to watch birds in Asia by N Wheatley. Helm, 1996.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Asia? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for Sulawesi and Halmahera

    Many trip reports, some for Sulawesi and Halmahera, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Sulawesi and Halmahera. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Sulawesi and Halmahera' below.

    Local bird and wildlife guides in Sulawesi and Halmahera

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation for birders in Sulawesi and Halmahera

    Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to Sulawesi and Halmahera

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who are running organized tours to Sulawesi and Halmahera in the next couple of years include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.