Endemic Birds of north Sulawesi, Indonesia

Just back from two trips to North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Sulawesi is unique because of its high No. of endemic bird species, 95 out of totally 478 species that can be found there.


The Lilac-cheeked Kingfisher (Cittura cyanotis) shown here is one of the endemics, which is classified near threatened.

Forest destruction within its elevation range has been extensive in recent decades, and its populations is expected to have suffered a commensurate decline.

This is taken at quite a close range, but inside the lowland forest lighting conditions are always difficult, and most of my images have been taken at ISO 3200 all with Gitzo tripod, D4, and 600mmVR lens sometimes with 1.4 teleconverter, all without flash.

The Blue-breasted Pitta (Pitta erythrogaster) can be found in the Sulawesi Sub-region, in Philippines, New Guinea, and North Australia. Pittas belong to this majestic, very colourful group of birds that live on the moist tropical rainforest floors. They are often brightly adorned with different shades of red, green and blue feathers but despite their stunning plumage, they can be incredibly hard to see – hopping away into the dark forest floor with the slightest movement, or staying still looking like a dried leaf or branch.

This immature female was spotted in Tangkoko Nature Reserve in North Sulawesi/Indonesia, where pittas are not often photographed. While I was sitting completely still on the forest floor it approached me and came so close (less than 5 meters) that I could not photograph it with my 600mm lens. What a experience! This image is taken at around 8 meters distance at low light condition at ISO 3200 f/4 1/30 with a Nikon D4.

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I have a weakness for hornbills and the Sulawesi Dwarf Hornbill (Penelopides exarhatus exarhatus) is no exception.

It is a smallish social species that lives in groups of up to 20 individuals. It is believed that only the dominant pair breeds, while the remaining members of the group act as helpers. It is less common than the Sulawesi Knobbed Hornbill (Aceros cassidix), which is also endemic and classified as vulnerable.

According to BirdLife the population is suspected to be declining rapidly, as the species’s specialized breeding requirements (including a dependence on large trees) makes them particularly vulnerable to forest loss and degradation. Hunting, both for food and for keeping as pets, is also a serious threat.

I only saw this male on one occasion, and I particularly like the action and the habitat of this image, which was one of the highlights of my trip.

Green-backed Kingfisher (Actenoides monachus monachus) endemic to Sulawesi and classified near threatened.

I Tangkoko Nature Reserve where I took this image, the Green-backed Kingfisher is common, you most often see them solitary or occasionally in pairs. It is Inconspicuous and easily overlooked, and typically perches quietly 1-5 meters above the ground, from where it pounces on prey in the leaf-litter. This image was taken at 3200 ISO as there was not much light around.

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The Sulawesi Knobbed Hornbill (Aceros cassidix), classified as vulnerable, is one of the most colourful species on the island.

As they depend on large trees for breeding, they are particularly vulnerable to forest loss, as they are nesting in natural holes up to 50 meters above ground in tall forest trees. Hunting is also a serious threat.

This is a male regurgitating his food for the female and one chick inside the tree hole behind. You can see the fruits in the beak. I had to wait several hours to catch this magic moment, which was the highlight of the day!

I saw Mt Lokon close to Manado erupt late in the afternoon on the last day, maybe I should not overstay my welcome?







1 reply
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    - says:

    Lovely pictures. Thank you for sharing all the pieces of information that make the pictures so much more alive and enchanting, Bjorn! 🙂


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