Advice for a birder coming to live in The Philippines

The majority of visiting birders to the Philippines are attracted by the wealth of endemics that inhabit the forests. The current estimate of the number of endemics in the country is about 230, though there are active researchers looking at the taxonomy of Philippine birds and revisions are published regularly. Almost all of these birds are forest specialists of course, and many are secretive and hard to find. In addition few large tracts of forest remain, and those that do are under constant threat. Add the effects of hunting and trapping for the pet trade and the result is that the forests of the Philippines seem desperately underpopulated. Any birder arriving here who looks at a field guide and makes lists of birds they plan to tick off is likely to be disappointed. That is not to say the birds cannot be found. With perseverance and skill, if you go to the right places most Philippine endemics are gettable. However the sites you have to visit are spread widely around the country, and unless you have plenty of time and money trips to these sites will be special events, not a birder's daily bread and butter.

What then does a birder do if they live in Manila or any other Philippine city? The first step is to join the Wild Bird Club of The Philippines (WBCP). It is the main bird club in the Philippines, and is very active in Manila (there are smaller groups in other cities, though Manila is the stronghold).  Apart from being an incomparable way to get to meet other local birders it also has an active Yahoo group which is the main way that rarity and other information is passed along. They also publish an online newsletter called ebon. Club members visit local sites regularly, and car-pooling is normal. There is simply no better way to find out about, and get to some of the local sites. Unlike birders' groups in other places I have lived the WBCP has a strong indigenous core which is obviously essential to the long-term viability of the club in particular and Philippine birdwatching in general.

Another important organisation to join is the Oriental Bird Club (OBC). The annually published Forktail is often the forum chosen for publication of recent taxonomic revisions.

The best field guide is A Guide to Birds of The Philippines by Kennedy et al. Published in 2000 this is essential for any birder in the Philippines. It has its shortcomings of course, the distribution maps in particular lack fine detail and are misleading. In addition a few birds have expanded their range, though many more have seen their distribution shrink markedly. As mentioned above many advances have been made in taxonomy and these of course are not included. Most of the changes are to those birds of most interest, the endemics, so a revision of Kennedy is high on the wish-list of every Philippine birder! Nevertheless it is indispensible.

An important skill in forest birding is of course recognising bird calls and songs. Several local birders are active sound recordists and many of the key species here have calls deposited on xeno-canto.

As in many other countries the advances in digital photography have spawned bird photography groups. These are usually not comprised of birders as such, but they are definitely bird-friendly! The most prominent group here is the Philippine Bird Photography Forum (PBPF).

There are an increasing number of birding blogs too, mostly written by local Filipinos;

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