Beaches and islands are not the only interesting attractions in the Philippines. The country houses more than 700 species of birds, 227 of which are endemic. Many species of birds of the Philippines are desirable to birders and non-birders alike due to their unique characteristics and spectacular combination of colors. Get to know these birds and find them on your next visit.
01 | Philippine Eagle
There’s no bird more deserving to be number on the list than the Philippine Eagle, the country’s national bird. The world’s largest eagle and considered as one of the rarest and most powerful birds in the world, the Philippine Eagle stands more than three feet tall and can weigh up to eight kilograms. This bird with dark face exhibits a regal appearance owing to its creamy-brown nape with shaggy, manelike crest. Its back is dark brown with white underside and underwings. It has large, powerful, dark claws it uses to catch its prey like flying-foxes, cloud-rats, and Philippine long-tailed macaque (monkey), therefore the alternative name Monkey-Eating Eagle. Endemic to the Philippines, they are considered critically endangered as there are only around 90 pairs of them existing today.
02 | Palawan Peacock Pheasant
Found in the forests of Palawan, the Palawan Peacock Pheasant is a sight to behold with its erectile crest, white stripe over the eyes, and highly iridescent electric blue-violet back plumage. Its breast and belly are dark black while the tail is marked with highly iridescent, light-reflective, ocelli. Their existence is considered vulnerable however you can take a glimpse of this bird near the Underground River rangers station.
03 | Philippine Cockatoo
The only cockatoo found in the country, the Philippine Cockatoo has all white plumage with pale yellow underwings and red undertails, hence also called the red-vented cockatoo. Quieter than most cockatoos, this one makes bleating calls and screeching or whistling noises. Classified as critically endangered, they can be found in Palawan, Masbate, Tawitawi, and other areas in Mindanao. Philippine Cockatoo is locally called kalangay.
04 | Steere’s Pitta
The Steere’s Pitta is a good-looking bird with its flashy azure-colored breast where it got its other name Azure-Breasted Pitta. Its back is dark green while the head, tail, and wings are black. They measure around 7.5 inches and can weigh up to 100 grams. Locally known as bislig, this bird is classified as vulnerable due to its decreasing population due to habitat loss.
05 | Rufous Hornbill
The biggest and the most good-looking hornbill in the country, the Rufous Hornbill has large and often colorful bills. Its throat until middle belly is rufous (reddish brown) while its lower belly and wings are black. Its tail is white and with a pale tan stain. Locally called kalaw, the Rufous Hornbill is also referred to as “the clock of the mountains” due to its periodic noontime call. The bird is classified as vulnerable due to its decreasing population caused by hunting and habitat loss.
06 | Scale-feathered Malkoha
The Scale-Feathered Malkoha has dark brown upperparts and white-tipped graduated tail. The adult, which measures up to 42 cm including the tail, has a gray head with unique scales. Endemic to the country, this bird feeds on caterpillars, centipedes, snails, worms, and small snails and inhabits the lowland forests and mountains. The nearest place to find them is in Mount Makiling in Laguna.
07 | Spotted Wood Kingfisher
The Spotted Wood Kingfisher stands about ten inches long and sports a colorful and spotted plumage which makes it distinguishable from other kingfishers in the country. It is endemic to the country and can be found in Luzon, particularly in Mount Makiling, as well as in Catanduanes, Marinduque, Negros, and Panay.
08 | Green Racket-tail
As the name implies, the Green Racket-Tail has two elongated tail feathers with bare shafts and black rackets at the end. The males are entirely yellow green but the underparts and head are paler. Females, on the other hand, are typically darker. With a total length of about 29 cm., the bird is classified as vulnerable due to lowland deforestation and bird trade.
09 | Bukidnon Woodcock
Discovered only in 2001, the Bukidnon Woodcock has rich reddish-brown upperparts with fine black barrings and paler and buffer underparts. It has blackish markings across the crown and eye placed high and far back on the head. Its beak is long and it gives a distinctive call which led to its discovery on Mount Kitanglad, Bukidnon.
10 | Apo Myna
The Apo Myna is a strange-looking bird with its iridescent black plumage except the lower back which is white. The feathers on its head form a floppy crest and the large patch of bare skin around the eye is yellow. It measures up to 30 cm. long and weighs around 110 grams. Endemic to Mindanao, the species is also known as Mount Apo Starling or the Mount Apo King Starling.
Common Birds of the Philippines
One need not go to the forests to see different kinds of birds of the Philippines. We can see several of them even in the city including the busy streets and residential areas. Their presence has become so normal that they’re often left unnoticed. Would you believe that there are at least 10 kinds of birds commonly found in urban areas? Here’s the list and some quick facts about them.
01 | Eurasian Tree Sparrow
This small brown bird locally called maya is the most common bird in the Philippines. It can be found almost everywhere, even in the city with high-rise buildings and along the busy highways. It’s so common that everyone thinks this bird is native to the country. But, did you know that Eurasian Tree Sparrow is believed to have originated in Africa and introduced to the Philippines by the Europeans in the 1900’s? Regardless of its origin, this bird has adapted to the Philippine environment and has established its presence in the country.
02 | Yellow-Vented Bulbul
Sometimes mistaken as maya due to its abundance even in urban areas, the Yellow-vented Bulbul or YVB is significantly larger than the maya and has distinct markings which differentiates it from the maya. It is characterized by white eyebrow, black eye stripe, long tail, and a tinge of yellow on its vent (lower belly), hence the name. This bird sporting a mohawk is native to the Philippines.
03 | Pied Fantail
Have you heard the melodious twittering in the early hours of the morning in the Philippines? It’s from Pied Fantail, another kind of breed commonly found in urban areas. Locally called Maria Capra, this bird is named based on its characteristics, “pied” in the birding world means black and white, and “fantail” due to its long tail which fans out. Pied Fantail can be very territorial and swoops around as a way to attack domestic dogs, cats, and even people who get close to its territory.
04 | Chestnut Munia
Before the Philippine Eagle, the Chestnut Munia was the Philippine national bird, not the Eurasian Tree Sparrow. Popularly known in the country as mayang pula (red maya), this small bird has a pale grey-blue bill, black head, brown body, and brick red patch on its lower back which is visible only when it flies.
05 | Olive-Backed Sunbird
Have you seen a small bird with a distinct long, thin beak used to sip nectar from flowers? It’s called Olive-backed Sunbird, pertaining to its back with uniform olive color. Both male and female have bright yellow bodies with males sporting metallic blue-black throat and upper chest. This small songbird loves to flutter around flowering plants.
06 | Zebra Dove
Known for the pleasant, staccato coos it makes, the Zebra Dove is a brownish-grey in color with black and white horizontal lines, referred to as barrings, on its upper parts. Their bodies are small and tender while the tail is long and narrow. This bird is locally called bato-bato due to its ability to stay still like a stone. Another local name is kurukutok, in reference to the sound it makes.
07 | Black-Naped Oriole
Known as a persistent suitor due to its approach in chasing the female bird in the sky during courtship, the Black-naped Oriole is a medium-sized bird and overall yellow except for the area around its eyes which is black. Their ability to blend very well with the green leaves on tall trees makes it difficult for birdwatchers to spot them however, they are quite active and noisy birds, making that distinct “pee-yaaaaooww” sound, hence the local name kilyawan.
08 | Pied Triller
Like the Pied Fantail, the Pied Triller is also black and white, but without a fan-like tail. It is characterized by its short tail, black crown, white brow, and black markings on both sides of the eyes. This bird inhabits the lowland and makes a rapid series of rattling, clacking, or whistled notes.
09 | Collared Kingfisher
The most common kingfisher found in urban areas, the Collared Kingfisher varies from blue to green, the head is dark blue, almost black, while the back and wings are blue. It got its name from the white collar around its neck. It has a long, black beak and makes a noisy “ka-ka-kak ka-ka-kak” sound.
10 | Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker
Endemic to the country, the Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker found in the country. It has a black crown, white eyebrow, and makes a rapid “pew-pew-pew” sound. In Kapampangan (Pampanga province language), it is called anluage.