Birding in Taiwan


Birding Stories


David Stirling



Jo Ann MacKenzie
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada


It was an honour and privilege to be part of the first Taiwanese-organized and led birding tour to Taiwan in March 2003. I considered the opportunity to be a special treat because I had been interested in Chinese life and culture since my childhood. Before the trip, I read all I could about Taiwan, the birds and everything else. Through Taiwanese friends in Richmond, I also was able to learn some Mandarin, which I enjoyed using whenever possible.
That first 9-day trip, planned and led by Simon Liao and Wu Ten-Di, was a joy. I liked everything — the openness and hospitality of the friendly people, the wonderful food, and particularly the exquisite birds. I was delighted to have the opportunity to return to Taiwan for a 10-day birding trip in November 2003. By this time, I was also able to add some Taiwanese to my vocabulary. The second trip was just as much fun as the first.
Endemic species highlights of the two trips were many. Foremost were the pheasants, the elegant Swinhoe’s and stately Mikado — breathtaking views of two male Swinhoe’s in flight, having surprised us from close by (in March), and two sleek male Mikados on the path (November). Other favourites: White-eared Sibia with its immaculate white “ears,” the subtle and subdued colours of Steer’s Liocichla, the complicated patterns of Taiwan Barwing, the Flamecrest with its square eyering (eyebox?), the vivid yellow of the Taiwan Tit, the chickadee-like “cheerfulness” of the Taiwan Yuhina, the voice of the Formosan Whistling-Thrush, the size and rich blue of the Formosan Magpie, the perky Collared Bush Robin… Favourite non-endemics were the colourful Black-throated Tit, Black-browed Barbet, Collared Finchbill, Black-naped Oriole, Gray-faced Buzzard, Saunders’ Gull, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, and of course, the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill, large numbers of which winter in Taiwan. In November, we saw 539 spoonbills in the Tsengwen River estuary, which was approximately half of the world population. I look forward to seeing Fairy Pitta, some day. It is present in Taiwan only during the breeding season, April, May and June.
I’m impressed by Taiwan’s conservation efforts, too. Conservation education began with school children learning about the birds and the need to protect them. The children took the message home to their parents, and in a few short years, the word spread to the population in general and to the government. Taiwan has established an enviable record.

White-eared Sibia

Formosan Magpie