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Thailand (North) NEW! Gulf Coast & Northern Hills

A 13-day, small group birdwatching tour to Thailand

Our comprehensive tour to Northern Thailand begins near Bangkok, with a visit to the Gulf of Thailand in search of Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann’s Greenshank and other of the world's rarest shorebirds. From here, we fly north to explore the bird-rich forests of the country's far northern hills - Doi Lang, Doi Ang Khang and Doi Inthanon - as well as the large wetland area at Chiang Saen. Mrs Hume’s Pheasant, Scarlet-faced Liocichla, Giant Nuthatch, Golden Bush Robin, Siberian Rubythroat and a hatful of other sought-after specialities await - along with a roost of many handsome Pied Harriers!

Tour Dates





Richard Thaxton
local guides

Max Group Size: 10
Duration: 13 Days

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Cost: £4295*

inc return flights London Heathrow-Bangkok, nonstop with British Airways

Deposit: £600

Single Supp: £395*
Land Only: £3695

* Prices Provisional (tba)

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Black breasted Thrush Thailand Feb 2015 Brian Small resized

Black-breasted Thrush photographed on one of our visits to Doi Lang, Northern Thailand © Brian Small, Limosa

Our winter birding tour to Northern Thailand offers a superb introduction to the amazing avifauna of Southeast Asia. It's a region blessed with an exceptionally rich and diverse birdlife, including an impressive list of Oriental specialities. A late November visit also finds huge numbers of wintering Siberian passerines present across the region, while the shores of Thailand’s gulf coast boast some of the most exciting wader watching in all Asia.

Our updated itinerary takes in three key areas: moving from coastal habitats around the Gulf of Thailand in Central Thailand to the border hills of Doi Lang and Doi Ang Khang in the far north of the country, before concluding with an exploration of the bird-rich forests that adorn Thailand's highest peak, Doi Inthanon.

From the capital Bangkok, we head directly to the tidal mudflats, mangroves and saltpans overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. For sheer number and variety of shorebirds this area is amongst the best in all Asia, with an array of sought-after species - but none more special than the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, at what has latterly become the best place in the world for seeing this charismatic shorebird. The endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank also occurs in winter, when other waders of note include Great Knot and Red-necked and Long-toed Stints. We’ll take a boat trip to look for Malaysian Plover and the 'taxonomically challenged' White-faced Plover. Also possible here is the near-threatened Asian Dowitcher, a migrant from its breeding grounds in Siberia. All were seen on our last four Thailand tours.

For the second part of our holiday we catch a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Rai, in the far north of Thailand. On arrival, we drive the short distance north into the ‘Golden Triangle’ border area with Myanmar and Laos. Here, along the Mekong river, a mosaic of wetland habitats includes rice fields, fish ponds, pools and open water. It is an excellent spot for a wide variety of resident and migratory species, notably wildfowl in winter, with Ferruginous and Falcated Duck, but also a chance to find the rare Baer's Pochard and Baikal Teal. We will also pop out to Yonok, where a large mixed roost of Eastern Marsh and Pied Harriers can hold 200 or more birds!

The forested peaks of Doi Lang and Doi Ang Khang sit amidst a scenic mountainous region on the border with Myanmar (Burma), clad in upland oak and pine forests that hold numerous local specialities. The whacky Crested Finchbill, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler, Whiskered Yuhina, the elusive Giant Nuthatch, Spot-breasted Parrotbill and Fire-tailed Sunbird are among a host of mouthwatering possibilities here. The beautiful Orange-bellied Leafbird and Scarlet-faced Liocichla are also present, along with numerous Palearctic migrants.

Chiang Mai is the provincial capital of Northern Thailand. Here we make a special excursion to see the much declined Green Peafowl, before devoting the remainder of our time to birding the forested slopes of Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthanon (2565m/8415ft). Again, the list of birds to be found here is long and includes many specialities. The upper slopes are home to the elfin Pygmy Wren-babbler, Bar-throated Minla, Ashy-throated Warbler and jewel-like Green-tailed and Mrs Gould’s Sunbirds, while lower down we may encounter White-rumped Falcon or Slaty-backed Forktail. Then there are other seldom-seen species to look for, such as Rufous-throated Partridge, Rusty-naped Pitta, Green Cochoa and Dark-sided Thrush. At this time of year we should also encounter many wintering Palearctic and Siberian passerines, from Yellow-browed, Radde’s and Dusky Warblers to Brown Shrike, Eyebrowed Thrush, Olive-backed Pipit and the sought-after Siberian Rubythroat - the stuff that birders’ dreams are made of!

Thailand's tropical climate is at its best during the late autumn and winter months, while accommodations and the delicious local cuisine are good throughout - in fact, food is something of a religion in Thailand!

Guide Richard Thaxton teams up with our excellent resident Thai birding expert 'End' to lead this super tour to Northern Thailand. Our November 2019 visit will be Richard's third trip to Thailand and End's seventh tour of duty with Limosa.

Ultramarine Fly m Thailand Brian Small Jan 2014 IMG 7453 copy

Ultramarine Flycatcher is another cracker to watch for on Thailand's forested northern peaks © Brian Small, Limosa

Day 1

Our birdwatching tour to Northern Thailand commences with departure from London Heathrow today on British Airways nonstop overnight flight bound for Bangkok.

Days 2 - 3

We shall be met on arrival in Bangkok on the morning of day two by our local guide and head southwest from the Thai capital, directly to the shores of the Gulf of Thailand. A two-night stay at a comfortable coastal hotel will obviate the need to run the gauntlet of Bangkok’s traffic congested streets each morning and evening. 

Our birding destinations for these two days are the coastal sites of Khok Kham, Pak Thale and Laem Pak Bia - areas of intertidal mudflats, saltpans, shrimp and fish ponds, rice paddies, mangroves and marshy pools that are simply outstanding for wintering shorebirds from Northern Asia.

Topping the bill, this area has become famous in recent years as the best place to look for one of the world’s rarest, oddest and most charismatic waders: Spoon-billed Sandpiper, which winters here in tiny numbers. The Gulf is also a reliable spot in winter to see the endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank. With a world population estimated to be less than 1000 individuals, this is another of the world’s rarest waders and we have chances to unearth both these five-star Siberian shorebirds here today, and again tomorrow.

It will come as no surprise to discover that waders generally are excellent here, with an exciting cast of migrant and wintering species present. Lesser and Greater Sand Plovers, Pacific Golden Plover, Broad-billed, Marsh and Terek Sandpipers, Great Knot, and Red-necked and Long-toed Stints are among a range of more “exotic” shorebirds we could see. With luck, we might come across the rare Asian Dowitcher, which also passes through the Gulf of Thailand at this season, while more familiar species we could see include Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Wood and Curlew Sandpipers, plus Red-necked Phalarope.

If the tide is right, we will take a boat trip out through the mangroves to a sandy spit to look for the rare and localised Malaysian Plover, as well as the recently rediscovered White-faced Plover, the latter an enigmatic bird which many authorities now regard as a separate species.

Herons, egrets and terns are numerous in the coastal wetlands that fringe the Gulf of Thailand, with both Chinese and Javan Pond Herons, and buoyant Whiskered Terns much in evidence. Heavy-billed Collared and Black-capped Kingfishers hunt crabs amongst the mangroves, as striking chestnut, black and white Brahminy Kites patrol lazily overhead. Among a wide variety of other species we are likely to come across over these two days are Pacific Reef Egret, Striated Heron, Heuglin’s and Brown-headed Gulls, Caspian, Crested and Lesser Crested Terns, Pink-necked Pigeon, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Golden-bellied Gerygone (Flyeater), Pied Fantail, Asian Pied Starling, White-vented Myna, Brown-throated Sunbird and Streaked Weaver.

If time permits, one evening we will visit the limestone outcrop at Na Yang, where we can marvel at the nightly exodus of millions of Wrinkle-lipped Bats from their roost high in the limestone cliffs - whilst marauding Grey-faced Buzzards and Common Kestrels pluck them from the sky. Two nights Petchaburi (Pak Thale)

Day 4

After breakfast and some early morning birding close to Petchaburi, we return to Bangkok in time to catch our flight north to Chiang Rai, in the northernmost region of Thailand. Our driver will be waiting for us here and, as we push further north, we enter the ‘Golden Triangle’. Our destination this evening is Chiang Saen, where we spend the night.

In the late afternoon we'll pop out to the Yonok harrier roost, where a large mixed gathering of Eastern Marsh and exquisite Pied Harriers can hold more than 200 birds. Night Chiang Saen

Day 5

This morning will be spent at Chiang Saen lakes, checking for various species of wildfowl that assemble here in winter in large flocks. Ruddy Shelduck occurs on the lake along with other wintering Eurasian species. Ferruginous and Falcated Duck need to be searched carefully for - and there's the chance of rarer species such as Baer's Pochard and Baikal Teal.

On the Mekong River itself, wader watching can prove rewarding. Long-billed Plover, Small Pratincole and River Lapwing have all been seen here and the sandbars sometimes hold Spot-billed Duck and Pallas's Gull. As Plain Martins scoot over the water, we will take care to search the long grass that borders the water for Jerdon's Bush Chat.

After lunch, we head west to our riverside hotel at Tha Ton with views of the northern hills to our right as we drive - and Pied Bush Chat and various bulbuls to watch for on roadside wires. Tha Ton will be our base for a two-night stay.

If time permits, once we have checked in, we will take a quick look at the river from the hotel. Black-collared Starlings and Stejneger’s Stonechats may be seen before we pay a late afternoon visit to a local riverbed. Here we can search again for wintering Jerdon’s Bush Chat and Citrine Wagtail, plus Long-tailed Shrike and Pied Harrier. Night Tha Ton

Day 6

The forested hills of Northern Thailand extend across the border into neighbouring Burma (Myanmar), and are rich in birdlife. This is especially so in late autumn and winter, when the region’s numerous resident species are boosted by an abundance of wintering birds from Northern Asia. Possibilities include Brown Shrike, Dusky Warbler, Eyebrowed Thrush and Olive-backed Pipit... and the prospect of getting to grips with an excellent selection of these over the coming days will fill our dreams tonight!

We make a very early start this morning for the steep drive (about an hour) up towards the summit of Doi Lang, at an elevation of more than 2000m (6500 feet). After a picnic breakfast near a Thai/Burmese border post, we will sit and watch for birds coming into small ‘feeding stations’ set up for them. We should find many specialities: Rufous-throated Partridge, Blue Whistling Thrush, 'embarrassed-looking' Scarlet-faced Liocichlas, Silver-eared Laughingthrush, Grey-winged Blackbird, Striated Yuhina and Spectacled Barwing are among the most regular at the summit. Various wintering species might also be found, including the large and distinctive Scaly Thrush, plus localised birds such as the very smart Black-throated Tit - a member of the Long-tailed Tit family - with Grey Treepie and Orange-bellied Leafbird in the flowering trees.

Gradually working our way back down, we will stop to bird along the roadside forest edge and to sit and watch at more small feeding areas. Here we have the chance for more great views of new species: lovely White-gorgeted and Rufous-gorgeted Flycatchers, Chestnut-headed Tesias, and both Himalayan and Red-flanked Bluetails. The scarce Crested Finchbill can be locally common here and we may also find Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Whiskered Yuhina and White-bellied Redstart. As well as great birding, there are spectacular views from the escarpment over the Burmese Highlands. This is a seldom visited and poorly known corner of Thailand, with much still to be discovered and we might be lucky to spot one or two rare species, such as Red-tailed Laughingthrush or Scarlet Finch.

The pine trees up here hold populations of Cinereous and Yellow-bellied Tits, and are home also to the rare and highly localised Giant Nuthatch. The not-so-rare Cook’s Swift (now 'split' from Pacific Swift) breeds and roosts in limestone caves nearby and may pass overhead in huge numbers. Night Tha Ton

Days 7-8

After enjoying a further morning birding at Doi Lang we head to our next venue: Doi Ang Khang, where the Ang Khang Nature Resort will be our base for the next two nights. Set at an elevation of ca. 1500m (5000ft), we will spend the whole of the next day exploring the scenic, forested landscape. Although the extent of forest cover here has been much reduced over recent decades, thanks to government intervention some of this threatened environment has belatedly been protected and Doi Ang Khang is still home to an excellent variety of forest birds.

In the open pine-oak woodlands, we might encounter parties of Short-billed and Long-tailed Minivets, large flocks of Chestnut-sided White-eyes and Yunnan Fulvettas, the 'bandit-masked' Slender-billed Oriole and the gaudy Mrs Gould’s Sunbird. Specialities up here include Brown-breasted Bulbul, White-browed Laughingthrush and Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler. In more pine woodland, if we are fortunate, the scarce and elusive Giant Nuthatch might put in another appearance, too! Two nights Doi Ang Khang

Day 9

Our final early morning at Doi Ang Khang will be in search of any species we may have missed, or aimed at getting better views of others. A number of hard-to-see specialities are present locally and we will keep a sharp eye and keen ear out this morning for the likes of Mrs Hume’s Pheasant, Mountain Bamboo Partridge, and Buff-throated and Chinese Leaf Warblers. A visit to a lovely inhabited orchard and feeding station could bring great views of Black-breasted and Eyebrowed Thrushes, Grey-winged Blackbird and White-capped Redstart, perhaps a White-crowned Forktail or even the rufescent Black-browed and Spot-breasted Parrotbills - the latter is distinctly parrot-billed! With wintering species arriving from further north there could also be the chance of a surprise or two!

After lunch en route at another lovely Thai restaurant, we will aim to reach Chiang Mai in time to enjoy some late afternoon birding at a small wetland area on the edge of town. Here, Wire-tailed Swallow, Green Bee-eater, Burmese Shrike and Rufous Treepie should round the day off nicely. With luck, we might also encounter Rufous-winged Buzzard, Crested Bunting or the fabulous Siberian Rubythroat - and there is even a chance of unearthing a Pallas’s Grasshopper or Baikal Bush Warbler in the paddyfields. Night Chiang Mai

Days 10-11

After breakfast in Chiang Mai, we visit the Royal Project Area at Huai Hong Krai. Our target bird here is the majestic Green Peafowl, a spectacular but endangered Southeast Asian pheasant that’s difficult to see elsewhere nowadays since its population has declined rapidly through habitat destruction and over-hunting. A walk along the trail might also produce Swinhoe’s and Rosy Minivets, and Asian Barred Owlet. Or perhaps a Brown Hawk Owl will let us know of its presence via its characteristic ‘boobook’ call. The manmade pools at Huai Hong Krai can also be good places to see Lesser Whistling Duck.

After lunch we drive southwest to Doi Inthanon National Park, where we spend the next two nights at the comfortable Inthanon Highland Resort. Around the resort we might find Indian Roller, Hoopoe, Arctic Warbler and Purple Sunbird, while in the local wood and paddies we will look for the extraordinary Red-billed Blue Magpie or Bright-capped Cisticola.          

At 2565m (8415ft), Doi Inthanon is Thailand’s highest mountain. Encompassing more than 120,000 acres, the National Park is not only fantastic for birds but the best locality in northern Thailand to appreciate a succession of different habitats controlled by altitude - ranging from scrub and open, dry deciduous forest on the lower slopes through montane evergreen forest to moist ‘cloud forest’ at the top. It will come as no surprise to discover that the park’s avifauna is equally varied and magnificent!

The shrike-sized Collared Falconet, pint-sized Violet Cuckoo, Rufous Treepie, Blue-winged and Orange-bellied Leafbirds, Yellow-bellied Fantail, the sought-after but shy and seldom seen Green and Purple Cochoas, Large and Vivid Niltavas, tiny Snowy-browed and Little Pied Flycatchers, Chestnut-crowned and Blyth’s Leaf Warblers, Silver-eared Laughingthrush (recently split from Chestnut-crowned), Bar-throated Minla, Silver-eared Mesia, Rufous-winged Fulvettas, Dark-backed and Rufous-backed Sibias, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Yellow-browed and Yellow-cheeked Tits, and jewel-like Mrs Gould’s and Green-tailed Sunbirds are among a mouth-wateringly long list of exotic names and appearances to conjure with! Minuscule Pygmy Wren-babblers and diminutive Ashy-throated Warblers haunt the fringes of the summit bog, where we may also encounter the tiny White-browed Shortwing, Red-flanked Bluetail and various wintering thrushes, possibly including the understated Grey-sided Thrush and the timid Dark-sided Thrush with its fantastically incongruous and outrageously oversized bill.

Many of Inthanon’s forest birds rove the woodlands in mixed species feeding flocks, just as at Khao Yai further south - except here, the make up of species is different. Pin-striped Tit-babbler, White-bellied Erpornis and the restless Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher are typical flock components in the more elevated woodlands, with Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Red-billed Scimitar-babbler and Clicking Shrike-babbler (formerly known as Chestnut-fronted Shrike-babbler) among scarcer associates. Flighty Slaty-backed Forktails grace the upland streams, where we might also see the attractive duo of White-capped and Plumbeous Water Redstarts.

All in all, we are assured of an exciting few days exploring Thailand’s highest mountain! Two nights Inthanon Highland Resort

Day 12

After breakfast, we’ll enjoy a final morning of birding at Doi Inthanon, investigating the lower elevation forests that are home to noisy Lineated Barbets and whinnying Greater Flamebacks, the uncommon Black-headed and big White-bellied Woodpeckers, Black-hooded Oriole, Rufous Treepie and Purple Sunbird. With luck, we might come across a Black-backed Forktail, Black Baza or White-rumped Falcon to round off our birding in style!

After lunch, we head to the airport in Chiang Mai and catch the afternoon flight back to Bangkok. Dinner and overnight stay at a comfortable airport hotel. Night Bangkok

Day 13          

After an early breakfast, reluctantly, we must return to Bangkok airport and check-in for our morning flight home.

Late afternoon arrival (same day) at London Heathrow, where our birding tour to Thailand ends.

Limosa Group Thailand Jan 2017 DSCN4627 resized

Participants enjoy a boat trip through the coastal mangroves on the Gulf of Thailand © Colin Bushell, Limosa

What To Expect

A 13-day, small group birding tour to Thailand, beginning on the Gulf of Thailand looking for shorebirds - including Spoon-billed Sandpiper - before flying north to explore the bird-rich hill forests and mountains of Doi Inthanon, Do Lang and Doi Ang Khang. A visit to the much less well-known Chiang Saen on the mighty Mekong River explores a lovely wetland area close to the Burmese border.

In the coastal lowlands, it will be hot and humid and important to be in the field at dawn, so early starts are the norm. Daylight hours are relatively short in Thailand - approx. 6.00am-6.30pm - and bird activity is at its peak early and late but generally dies away completely during the middle of the day.

Away from the coast, much of our birding in Thailand will be in hill forest. We’ll spend most of the time walking on level ground, birding from paved or unpaved roads or tracks, and some forest trails with occasional steeper sections, but these are quite short. After a chilly start, it will be warm to hot throughout, humid at times. Note that we may be on our feet for several hours at a stretch watching for birds - some participants may find it helpful to carry a lightweight collapsible stool.

Our guides will be able to advise you locally about the day's events - and if you wish to opt out of a particular session or walk, please don’t be afraid to ask them.

Thailand has a tropical climate. Late November is an excellent time to visit, when the weather is mostly hot, sunny and largely dry. It will be humid at lower elevations, especially near the coast. At this time of year, daily average temperatures at Bangkok are in the range 22-33C (71-91F); similar in the northwest around Chiang Mai, ranging between 17-34C (63-94F).

November averages 5 days of rainfall in Bangkok and Chiang Mai; this typically occurs as short-lived tropical downpours. At higher altitudes on the peaks of Doi Inthanon and Doi Lang conditions can range from warm to cool, and it can feel particularly chilly here at night. Overnight frosts are possible at the summit area at 2565m (8415 feet), where it will be very cold first thing, though it warms up quickly once the sun is up.


300 species


10 species


11 nights accommodation at hotels and lodges in Thailand. Hotels on this tour are of good standard, comfortable and air-conditioned, and all rooms with western-style private facilities (not the traditional Oriental-style toilets). At the Inthanon Highland Resort, accommodation is more rustic, in wooden cottages with multiple bedrooms, but each room with its own private bathroom. Most hotels can usually offer a laundry service.


All main meals are included in the tour price (and with drinking water also provided), commencing with lunch on arrival in Thailand on Day 2 and concluding with breakfast there on Day 13.

Thai cuisine is delicious and for many travellers there meals are a highlight. Breakfast and dinners will usually be taken at the hotels. Packed lunches most days (plus the odd packed breakfast), but some lunches may be taken at a convenient restaurant along the way.


The walking effort is mostly easy. Away from the coast (where the terrain is flat), much of the birding on this tour is along roadsides, tracks and forest trails.

At Doi Inthanon and Doi Lang we shall be birding at altitudes of up to 2565m (8415 feet). Inevitably when walking in the mountains, there will be some steeper sections along the roads and tracks, although these are usually quite short and, wherever possible, we will aim to drive uphill and bird as we walk back down.

Comfortable, lightweight walking shoes or boots with stout soles and good grip are recommended.


Return flights from London Heathrow to Bangkok, nonstop with British Airways.

Ground Transport   By air-conditioned minibus with local driver.

Boat Trips

If the tide is right, we will take a boat trip at the coast, through the creeks and mangroves, and out to the sand spit at Laem Pak Bia, to look for shorebirds - hopefully including the rare and localised Malaysian Plover as well as White-faced Plover.

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