Book Celebrates Cambodia’s 598 Bird Species

After more than a decade of surveys and reviews, the most comprehensive reference guide to Cambodia’s birdlife was released Thursday.

“The Birds of Cambodia—An Annotated Checklist,” by ornithologist Frederic Goes, documents 598 distinct species of bird in the country and is “a thorough account, identifying all bird species throughout Cambodia, including those of national conservation concern,” a statement said.

An Indian Roller is seen perched on a branch in a rice field in Bokor National Park in Kampot province. (Rob Overtoom)
An Indian Roller is seen perched on a branch in a rice field in Bokor National Park in Kampot province. (Rob Overtoom)

“Though the global importance of Cambodian bird fauna is widely recognized, the sole review to date was confined to pre-1970s records,” it added.

While the country is a haven for certain vulnerable species, habitat loss and hunting have posed an increasing threat.

According to the book, “the Tonle Sap swamp forest is the global stronghold of the Spot-billed Pelican and Oriental Darter, and its grasslands are the last chance of survival for the Bengal Florican.”

The latter is expected to become nationally extinct by 2021 if the loss of grassland habitats continues. Other endangered species in Cambodia include the River Tern and Nicobar Pigeon, while “the status of the Milky Stork is also worrying.”

The nation plays host to 57 species of globally threatened and near-threatened birds.

“Cambodia has unparalleled regional significance and high global importance for bird conservation,” the book says, attributing this in part to “large tracts of land” that went undisturbed following years of war in the country.

However, there are a number of factors posing threats to birds today: Hunting, either for eggs, trade or ornamental purposes, is of particular concern.

With regard to habitat loss, the book says that depleted forests have yet to make a significant impact on bird numbers.

However, “while prospects for preserving Cambodia’s forest cover are not felt to be good by many, two other habitats currently face a critical situation: grasslands and rivers.”

Neil Furey, a zoologist with Fauna and Flora International who edited the book, said that “as long as the populations are viable, by definition, it’s a good place, but the next 10 or so years will be decisive in that respect.”

Dutch photographer and birder Rob Overtoom, who has been living in Cambodia since 1991, provided photographs for the book.

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