The geographic location and geological history of this amazing country have conspired to create a suite of fascinating endemic species—birds, mammals, reptiles, plants, and more. Wedged between China, Japan, Malaysia, and Indonesia, the 7000-plus islands of the Philippine archipelago have experienced successive invasions from different biogeographic zones that have fueled a spectacular adaptive radiation of species. Of the almost 600 bird species, an extraordinary 170 or more are endemic, and with names such as Great Philippine Eagle, Scale-feathered Malkoha, Steere’s Pitta, Blue Fantail, and Celestial Monarch, the birds of the Philippines are without doubt some of the most exciting in the world.
Any birding visit to the Philippines must entail travel to various different islands as each holds its own specialties. There is an excellent network of domestic airlines offering flights to all the islands and main cities of the country. The two largest islands are Luzon in the north and Mindanao in the south; each has lowland and montane habitats with their own endemic birds. Palawan is a treasure trove of endemics, and its stunning beach scenery as well as its birdlife has more in common with Borneo than with the rest of the Philippines. Other islands of interest to the birders include Bohol, Cebu, Negros and Mindoro, each of which has their own endemic species and subspecies.
The Philippines is not without its political problems and travel to the far south of the island of Mindanao is not recommended, as there have been recent kidnappings. It is important to check with your government department of international affairs prior to travel. That said, most of the Philippines is perfectly safe for visitors and it’s an absolute joy to travel in this friendly and beautiful country. Credit: Susan Myers.