by Nick Upton
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Doi Lang
(Updated 09/09/14)
Doi Lang, in Chiang Mai province, is actually one of the ridges comprising Doi Pha Hom Pok and is part of the national park of that name; the site also includes an area known locally as Doi San Ju. This location is one of the wildest areas of Thailand that is accessible by car, affording fantastic views across into Myanmar and providing birders with many miles of fabulous roadside birding with hardly any vehicular disturbance.  

Scenery at Doi Lang
(Photo by Nick Upton)


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 Birding Highlights 

Hodgson's Frogmouth
(Photo by Nick Upton)
  There are so many highlights at Doi Lang; it really is a must-visit site for birding in the north of Thailand. This represents the best opportunity anywhere in the world ranges of Giant Nuthatch and Mrs Hume's Pheasant for birders to see these species.

A few resident species are known only from Doi Lang, or a couple of other sites, in Thailand. This site is the best chance for most birders in Thailand to see Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Whiskered Yuhina, Spotted Wren Babbler, Himalayan Cutia, Black-eared Shrike-babbler and Black-throated Bushtit which is so cute someone should make a cuddly toy based on it.

Parrotbills are a sought-after group of birds and at Doi Lang there is a realistic chance of seeing Spot-breasted, Grey-headed and Pale-billed (Lesser Rufous-headed) Parrotbills. Other exciting resident species include Red-billed Scimitar Babbler, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler, White-browed Laughingthrush, Scarlet-faced Liocichla and Spectacled Barwing.
Every year a couple of nests of Hodgson's Frogmouth are found giving birders a unique opportunity to see this weird bird in the daylight. For those who like night birding it is probably a realistic target for calling in after dark. Other targets for night birders would include Mountain Scops Owl, Brown Wood Owl and Collared Scops Owl.

Between November and March there are large numbers of migrants present on Doi Lang; large numbers of Leaf Warblers and Flycatchers are notable with scarce birds such as Chinese Leaf Warbler, Sapphire Flycatcher and Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher being regular. Himalayan Bluetail is quite a common but stunning visitor and there have been sightings of Red-flanked Bluetail and Golden Bush Robin too. If you like skulking birds Aberrant Bush Warbler, White-bellied Redstart and Siberian Rubythroat will be highlights.

This is the only regular site in Thailand for Fire-tailed Sunbird, and ths can be a real highlight if you can find a male somewhere near breeding plumage feeding on buddleia.

Small seed-eating migrants are very scarce in Thailand but Doi Lang gives birders a good chance of finding some great birds such as Scarlet Finch, Black-headed Greenfinch, Crested Bunting and Chestnut Bunting - unfortunately, the latter two are getting increasingly rare.


Himalayan Bluetail
(Photo by Nick Upton)

Some exciting raptors can be found here too with migrating Amur Falcons and resident Mountain Hawk Eagles. This is a really good site to find wintering Grey-faced Buzzard, Eastern Buzzard and a lucky few may see Himalayan Griffon Vulture - quite a sight if you do get lucky!

There really are so many highlights here that it is impossible to see them all in one visit. This is a site that will make you go back again and again; one of the most likely sites for finding an addition to the Thai list in the whole country.
A checklist of the birds for this location can be found here - Doi Lang
  Bird Watching Trips:
If you need help organizing a bird watching trip to Thailand, take a look at the suggested itineraries for ideas on creating a tailor-made trip and contact me for advice: Thailand bird tours.
 Travel Information 
 Finding Birds 
Border Police Checkpoint: This area has long been a favourite stop for birders and it is a convenient place to park your vehicle and explore further along the road on foot. For some years now the border police here have provided fruit and rice for birds to feed on and it has become a very reliable spot for Scarlet-faced Liochcihla which is one of the most stunning birds you will see in northern Thailand.

Whiskered Yuhina
Scarlet-faced Liocichla

Chestnut Thrush
Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher
(Photo by Nick Upton)

This feeding spot continually attracts several gangs of Dark-backed Sibias to feed and when they become active Silver-eared Laughingthrush and Spectacled Barwing are usually not far behind; both beautiful birds when seen at such close range. Other resident species that frequently come to feed at this spot include Blue Whistlingthrush and Large Niltava. In the dry season a number of scarce migrants are also attracted to this spot; Himalayan Bluetail and Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher are pretty much annual and migrant thrushes have included Eyebrowed Thrush, Grey-winged Blackbird and Chestnut Thrush over the last few years. This wonderful collection of species is a good reason to spend time here, particularly as the views that are obtained are usually excellent and close-up - ideal for photographers.

Walking up and down the road from this spot is also usually rewarding with flocks of small birds being frequent and usually containing Davison's Leaf Warbler, Whiskered Yuhina, Rufous-winged Fulvetta and Chestnut-crowned Warbler. Look out for the small trees with tiny orange fruits along here which are favoured by many species including Mountain Bulbul, Striated Bulbul and Crested Finchbill.

Mossy trees in this area create a wonderful habitat and many of them host epiphytic orchids which may take visitor's attention away from the birds, but not for long given that Black-eared Shrike-babbler, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Spotted Wren Babbler and Crimson-breasted Woodpecker are all in the area but take a lot more effort to find than many other species.



San Ju View Point: From this view point there are excellent views into Myanmar, in fact I am not sure anyone is exactly sure of where the border is and it is likely that when standing at the view point one is only a few feet away from straying over the border.

Golden Bush Robin
Aberrant Bush Warbler

Himalayan Griffon
San Ju View Point
(Photo by Nick Upton)

The speciality here is Fire-tailed Sunbird; the flowering buddliea here attracting large numbers of Mrs Gould's Sunbirds and a few Fire-tailed Sunbirds. This is the only regular wintering location for Fire-tailed Sunbird in Thailand but it is rare to see a male anywhere near full breeding plumage, mostly birders should be looking out for female-type sunbirds with red sides to the tail, although eclipse males with red tails are also regular in smaller numbers still. If the birds are still around as the breeding season approaches birders may be lucky to see one of the males beginning to obtain full breeding plumage.

This open area is also a good site for Crested Finchbill and if raptor watching is your thing this is perhaps the best spot on the mountain with regular sightings of Mountain Hawk Eagle, Eastern Buzzard, Crested Goshawk and, for the lucky few, Himalayan Griffon. During passage migration (October) there are frequent sightings of large flocks of passing raptors including a strong passage of Amur Falcon.

This location can also be a good spot for observation migrating passerines as they pass over the mountain ridge; birds such as Buff-throated Warbler, Chestnut Bunting and Common Rosefinch are regalarly seen and there have been sightings of rarer species such as Scarlet Finch, Tristram's Bunting and Black-headed Greenfinch.

In some years the photographic community set up stake outs in this area where birds come to feed on meal worms. Usually Silver-eared Laughingthrush and Blue Whistlingthrush will show up quite quickly when the weather is cold but Golden Bush Robin, Red-flanked Bluetail and Chestnut-headed Tesia have all also frequented this spot.

Note: Since mid 2014 permission to access this area has not always been given, although usually birders are allowed to pass through the checkpoint on the understanding that they will not go any further than this viewpoint.

Birdwatching Trips To Doi Lang:
If you are visiting northern Thailand then Doi Lang is a must-visit location for birders.

location, coupled with a visit to Doi Inthanon and/or Doi Lang. At any time of year a good selection of colourful birds can be seen and in the dry season a whole range of migrants visit this location.

Contact me to arrange a trip and/or to discuss the best birdwatching options for you:


The Pine Ridge: As one drives up the road into the forest from the Fang side of the mountain extensive areas of pine forest along the ridge are encountered. Apart from spectacular views either side there are some good birds to look for along here including specialities of the region, Mrs Hume's Pheasant and Giant Nuthatch.

Ultramarine Flycatcher
Mrs Hume's Pheasant

Mountain Bamboo Partridge
Long-tailed Minivet
(Photo by Nick Upton)

The best chance of seeing Mrs Hume's Pheasant and Mountain Bamboo Partridge is as one drives up the road through the pine forest or walking slowly and quietly and listening out for these birds as they scratch around in the undergrowth. Both species are fairly common but easiest to see when the undergrowth is dry and has died back or even burnt, so that opportunities for them to hide are reduced.

Although the pine forest generally has a lower level of avian biodiversity than other forest types, many of the species birders will see here are different to other areas on the mountain. Japanese Tit, Large Cuckooshrike, Long-tailed Minivet, Rufescent Prinia and Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker are common in this habitat and Giant Nuthatch is in fact quite abundant where there are large pine trees.

In among the pine forest are areas of broadleaved woodland and these can turn up some nice flocks of birds including Grey-headed Parrotbill, Dark-backed Sibia, Rufous-backed Sibia, Greater Yellownape, Striep-breasted Woodpecker and even Himalayan Cutia. Be careful not to make the mistake of getting yourself a "tourist Cutia" i.e. a misidentified Rufous-backed Sibia; they can look very similar at times.

A number of migrant species seem to favour this forest too with Slender-billed Oriole more frequently seen in pine than other areas. Ultramarine Flycatcher is a regular here and Grey-crowned Warbler can be quite common too - listen out for its call.

There are plenty of Leaf Warblers jumping around in the pines too, just to confuse people. Hume's Leaf Warbler seems to favour this habitat, it can be picked out by its drab appearance and dark bill. The race that winters here is mandelli and if you are here in March it is likely that its strange buzzing song will be heard.


Facilities upon Doi Lang are almost entirely absent. There is, however, a basic campsite with a toilet block and an excellent view most of the way up the mountain from the Thatorn side, but birders must take their own tents, cooking equipment and food and it gets very cold up here at night. There is also a very basic toilet at the border police checkpoint but that is it; if you want lunch on the mountain it must be taken with you.

The village of Thatorn is at the base of the mountain on one side of the loop road and here there are a number of guesthouses where birders can stay; I usually stay at Thatorn Garden Home where good food is available and the owners are friendly and helpful. The village also has a number of restaurants and convenience stores, including a 7/11 where coffee and toasted sandwiches can be obtained for an early breakfast. In the evenings there is usually a man selling banana roti from a stall at the south side of the bridge - very tasty and cheap!
Doi Lang Camping Ground
(Photo by Nick Upton)
The town of Fang is at the base of the mountain on the other side of the loop road and has a number of guesthouses and hotels that can be used. This town has a large supermarket where more or less anything can be purchased and a hospital which I have had to use and found the service and help there very good. Close to the entrance to the supermarket car park there is a pet shop where mealworms can sometimes be purchased.
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Doi Lang Bird Checklist

Birdwatching Trips

Other Northern Thailand Birding Locations
 Photo Galleries
Click on the thumbnail photos to see larger images.

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Mountain view, Doi Ang Kang

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Flower Gardens, King's Project,
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No-man's-land & Burmese
Army Camp, Doi Ang Kang

The Road to Fang,
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  Birdwatching Trips:
Doi Lang is a must-visit location on birdwatching trips to the north of Thailand. It is worth combining a visit to this location with some time at nearby Doi Ang Kang for short birding trips to the north and on longer tours of the country.

Look at some suggested itineraries, Thailand bird tours, or contact me for more information:
 Trip Reports
North & Central Thailand Tour, 3rd-26th December 2014

Doi Lang & Thatorn, 28th November-2nd December 2013

Bird Photography Tour of Thailand , 7-20th March 2013

3 Days Doi Ang Kang & Doi Lang, 26-29th December 2009

Rainy Season Birding Tour of Thailand, 1st-14th July 2009
  by Nick Upton

by Nick Upton

by Nick Upton

by Nick Upton

by Nick Upton
 Related Blog Entries
  • A Successful Birding Tour - posted 17/03/14
  • Doi Lang Photography Stakeouts - posted 07/01/14
  • Doi Lang Bird Photography - posted 04/12/13
  • Doi Lang - posted 23/01/13

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