Billa, East Sumba; The Valley of Hope

Matalawa National Park - Sumba

Billa is like a great venue of Sumba birds show. The valley where the hope grows up, during the birds flying across, pass the morning light of Sumba

Billa is a part of Manupeu -Tana Daru & Laiwangi – Wanggameti (Matalawa) National Park that is located in the southwest of East Sumba Regency. For the 1st time, we visited this site in August 2017 to join the Matalawa National Park Bird Race event. I didn’t really know about bird sites on Sumba Island before the date.

In my perception, Sumba as it’s known as an island consisting mostly of Savana and dry tropical forests, I have thought that the number of bird species in Sumba will be very poor. Except for a number of exotic and popular bird species such as Sumba Hornbill, Orange Crested Cockatoo, Sumba Boobook and Marigold Lorikeet, I didn’t know much about the birds on the island that’s also known as Marapu Island. It is also because of the poor reports about bird diversity of Sumba Island.

In the past, Billa forest was the rice fields of the local people of Tabundung village. In the 1980s, the National Park and community made an agreement to give the land to the National Park to be a conservation area to preserve the flow of water in the springs in the National Park. Since then, the birds population in Billa constantly increased.

Billa forest consists of 5 km stretch of valley, surrounded by the dry tropical forested hills on the both side. During my visit, I recorded 52 species of birds, most of them were lifer to me. Besides of the good result for me on photographed all my target, the number of species that were recorded in a fairly small area, really surprised me.

In two days of exploring the forest, I recorded an amazing list of bird species. To me, Billa is like a great venue of Sumba birds show. In the morning, Sumba Hornbill, Marigold Lorikeet and Orange-Crested Cockatoo flew across the valley in large numbers. Perched on the top of trees around the small hills. They usually fly and alight in large groups of more than 20. These three species, which have the loud er voices, are the stars of the show. At night, two of endemic nocturnals; Sumba Boobook and Sumba Hawk Owl, perched nearby around our camping site.

Least Boobook

Least Boobook (Ninox sumbaensis) at Billa, Matalawa Natonal Park

This experience has completely changed my perspective about the bird distribution of Sumba. Among all the listed locations, Billa belongs to the Top Five of the Must-visit place if you would like to do the birding in Lesser Sunda. Therefore, Flores Bird Watching in the Birding Tours program on Sumba, places Billa as the main destination.

My last visit to Billa was in August 2018, in the the Birding Tour with a couple birders from UK. We spent two days in Billa, doing observations day and night. The good news is the National Park now provides a simple accommodation at their office in Tabundung, for birders who would like to stay overnight.

Based on the latest update I got from a ranger at the National Park, the visit to Billa is now increasing. It is a hope, that in the future, the bird conservation works in Billa will be continued. Sustainability tourism would be the right way to get an equal impact between the nature conservation and economic empowerment for local people.

Any of bird targets in Billa; Sumba Hornbill, Orange-crested Cockatoo, Marigold Lorikeet, Sumba Boobook, Sumba Hawk Owl, Sumba Green Pigeon, Electus Parrot, Tenggara Whistler, Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, Rufous-backed Kingfisher, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Green Junglefowl, Elegant Pitta, Sumba brown Flycatcher, Apricot-breasted Sunbird, Sumba myzomela, Sumba flowerpecker, Chestnut-backed Thrush, Red-naped Fruit dove, Tenggara paradise Flycatcher, Supertramp Fantail, Large-billed Crow, Wallacean Monarch, Brown quail, Pale-shouldered cicadabird, Green Imperial Pigeon, and more.

Sumba-Hornbill

Sumba Hornbill – Sumba