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  Birds

There's been a dramatic drop in the local bird population over the last 20 years.

Although many of the more obvious and colorful species, particularly birds of prey, have been all but eliminated, species still number about three hundred. These include beautiful wild fowl; an iridescent blue kingfisher; the dollar-bird of western Bali's open woodlands; the acrobatic ash-colored 'drongo'; the olive-beaked sunbird, which feeds on flowers; the black-napped oriole, with its completely black abdomen; the white-breasted wood swallow with triangular wings; and the streaked weaver, which builds delicate nests in colonies in the long grass of open country.

Specialized seabirds inhabit Bali's south coast. The white-bellied sea eagle and white-tailed tropic bird nest and breed in the stunning vertical limestone cliffs and offshore islets of the Bukit Peninsula and Nusa Penida.

At low tide, a prime viewing area for waterbirds is the long, sheltered coast of mudflats and mangrove swamp from Sanur to Benoa Bay. Here you'll find large flocks of plovers, sandpipers, and other wading birds feeding on the mudflats at low tide.

Along the shores of the Bay of Gilimanuk on Bali's western tip are the large brown and white brown booby, the great crested tern, and the common tern. Inland, around the canals and ponds, are congregations of stately Java pond herons and white egrets.

North of Ubud in Petulu, between 04.00 p.m. to 06.00 p.m. in the afternoon, you can see thousands of short-billed egrets, cattle egrets, and snow-white little egrets arriving to roost for the night in the palms.

In the main rice-growing country of central Bali keep a lookout for grain-feeding 'munias', sparrows, and white-bellied swiftlets. During the breeding season these tireless little birds build intricately woven nests in the tall grass and bushes.

Farther north, around the volcanic lakes of Bratan, Buyan, and Tamblingan, are trails leading into dense sub-mountain rainforests where you can view forest birds like cuckoos, barbets, and babblers. Australian brown honeyeaters are also found in this terrain, flitting about in low bushes and feeding on flowers. Only one species of honeyeaters crossed the Wallace Line, the sole exception to the rule.

The extremely rare Bali starling, or Rothschild's or Bali mynah (Leocopsar rothchildi), is the only vertebrate animal indigenous to Bali. The bird is snow-white, with black on its tail and the tips of its wings and a bright blue patch around its eyes. Don't confuse it with the black-winged starling, which has a yellow skin patch around its eyes.

When the bird's population plummeted due to loss of habitat, a group of U.S. zoos saved the starling by shipping individuals to the Surabaya Zoo. They were then reintroduced into the island's northwest corner.

The 'jalak' Bali has been recorded along 85 kilometers of coastline from Singaraja to Gilimanuk. The best watching post is at Teluk Kelor on the north coast of the Prapat Agung Peninsula where a handful of starlings come down from the hills to roost near the beach.

There's a Bali Starling Project Research Station two kilometers north of the guardpost at Sumber Klampok.

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