Vietnam ornithological history

Ornithological research in Vietnam can be divided into four periods.

An old painting show at Leed Castle - UK

The first period began in the 1870s and continued until 1920. During this period significant, the first significant collection of Vietnamese birds was made by G. Tirant, who collected over 1,000 specimens in Cochinchina between 1875 and 1878. Other important collections were made by R. Germain in Cochinchina, N. Kuroda in Tonkin, and C. B. Kloss on the Da Lat plateau. Among the birds discovered by Kloss were Collared Laughingthrush (Garrulax yersini) and Black-hooded Laughingthrush (G. milleti). Other, smaller collections were made by L Boutan and Dr. J. Vassal, who discovered White-cheeked Laughingthrush (G. vassali). The most important academic study of the avifauna of Vietnam prepared during this period was Les Oiseaux du Cambodge, du Laos, de l'Annam et du Tonkin by E. Oustalet.

First Vietnamese Bird Field Guide

During the second period, which began in the late 1920s and continued until the outbreak of the Second World War, the major contribution to Vietnamese ornithology was made by J. Delacour and his colleagues P. Jabouille, P. Engelbach, A. David Beaulieu, J. C. Greenway and W. P. Lowe. Between 1923 and 1939, Delacour and his colleagues conducted six ornithological expeditions to Indochina, during which time they collected some 50,000 bird specimens, as well as extensive ecological and distributional data. These collections stand as the most extensive collections of Indochinese birds to date, and formed the basis of the seminal work Les Oiseaux de l'Indochine Française. Other important collections during this period were made by H. Stevens in Tonkin, the Kelley-Roosevelts expedition, also in Tonkin, and  B. Björkegren, who discovered Grey-crowned Crocias (Crocias langbianis).

The third period began at the end of the Second World War and continued until 1988. The first part of this period was dominated by armed conflicts, and ornithological research was limited to observations made by a few, largely amateur, expatriate ornithologists resident in Vietnam, for example J. Brunel, P. Wildash and W. Fisher. However, the end of the Second Indochina War and the reunification of Vietnam in 1975, heralded a period of renewed ornithological study in Vietnam by Vietnamese scientists and their colleagues from other countries. The most significant ornithological research during this period was conducted by L. S. Stepanyan and his Vietnamese colleagues as part of a joint Russian-Vietnamese research programme in the Central Highlands, which resulted in the publication of Birds of Vietnam, based on the Investigations of 1978-1990. The other major ornithological work produced during this period was Birds of Vietnam by Vo Quy, the first Vietnamese-language guide to the birds of Vietnam.

Ben King 1975

The fourth period of ornithological research in Vietnam began in April 1988, with the first of three expeditions by the International Council for Bird Preservation (now BirdLife International). In many parts of the country, these expeditions represented the first ornithological surveys since before the Second World War, and the expeditions successfully established the continued survival of a number of endemic bird species that had not been recorded for over half a century. Following these expeditions, BirdLife International established a country programme, which, together with its Vietnamese counterparts, conducted a series of expeditions throughout the country. Perhaps the most significant result of these expeditions was the discovery by J. C. Eames and his colleagues of three new bird species: Black-crowned Barwing (Actinodura sodangorum), Golden-winged Laughingthrush (Garrulax ngoclinhensis) and Chestnut-eared Laughingthrush G. konkakinhensis, proving that, despite a century of ornitholigical research, there are still discoveries to be made in the forests of Vietnam. During this period, Chim Vietnam, the first illustrated, Vietnamese-language guide to the birds of Vietnam, written by the country's leading ornithologists Nguyen Cu and Le Trong Trai, was published by BirdLife International.

Birding in Vietnam

Craig Robson Guide

Birding hobby is a new term in Vietnam, in 1990s, a few bird tour companies such as birdquest, field guides started to bring people to explore birds of Vietnam, however until 2001, several native Vietnamese start to enjoy serious birding. In 2005, first professional Vietnam birdtours organiser has been licensed as Wildtour Co., Ltd which is led by Nguyen Hoai Bao. In 2007, a Vietnam birdwatching club base in Ha Noi was set up by Le Manh Hung. Following Wildtour, in 2008 another tour agent named Vietnam Birding led by Richard has been established.


Tordoff, A. W. ed. (2002) Directory of Important Bird Areas in Vietnam : key sites for conservation. Hanoi : BirdLife International in Indochina and the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources

Stattersfield, A. J., Crosby, M. J., Long, A. J. and Wege, D. C. (1998) Endemic bird areas of the world: priorities for biodiversity conservation. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International