Birds in Taiwan
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More Birds in Taiwan
Black-crowned Night Heron
Chinese Crested Tern
Fork-tailed or Pacific Swift
ON TAIWAN “Endemic Subspecies of Taiwan birds—first impressions”, by N. J.
Collar, from BirdingASIA
No. 2, December 2004. Presented with permission.
BirdingASIA is the
bulletin of the Oriental Bird Club. Please see our Links page for
benefits of membership in the OBC.
The Osprey, Pandion
haliaetus is a medium-sized, fish-eating hawk. Its distribution is
quite widespread, found near both fresh and salt water on every continent
except Antarctica, mainly below 1,000 metres elevation but locally to 3,300
m. Its appearance is somewhat gull-like (but bigger), with long, pointed,
angled wings. The head is white with a wide dark brown stripe through the
eye. When perched, the adult appears all dark brown above (juvenile appears
scaly above); underparts are white. Seen in flight, from below, the throat
is heavily streaked with brown; the underwings are mostly white with a
conspicuous black “wrist” patch. The wing beats are rather slow and shallow;
it glides and soars on arched wings, often with a kink or crook in the wing.
The Osprey is a large (M 56 cm; F 61 cm)
bird of prey which is mostly white below with dark barring on the flight
feathers, and chocolate brown above. Sexes are alike, except for the larger size of the female. The
iris is yellow, the bill is black with a gray cere, and the legs are gray.
The Osprey frequents
coastlines, lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
The Osprey’s food is almost
entirely live fish of surface-swimming species weighing 100 to 300 g.
Occasionally, it will take small mammals, birds, turtles and other reptiles,
frogs and crustaceans. It mainly hunts in flight, flapping and
gliding, or soaring in circles, sometimes hovering over the water.
Seeing a fish, the bird plunge-dives into the water, feet first,
sometimes going completely
under water. The fish is grasped with large feet equipped with long
curved claws and spiny soles adapted for holding on to slippery prey.
The bird resumes flight, usually carrying the fish head forward, to a perch
or bare ground where it is eaten.
The Osprey is
quite vocal. The calls consist of high-pitched, short, shrill whistles,
yelps and squeals, which sounds like: twep, twep, twep, teelee, teelee,
tewp, teeeaaa or kip, kip, kip, kiweek, kiweek or piu, piu,
Osprey (subspecies P. h. haliaetus) is an uncommon winter visitor.
An Osprey Story
On March 7, 2007, Mr.
Du, a photographer, happened to be driving past Feitsui Reservoir, a
large lake in Taipei County, about 30 km south of
Taipei city. He noticed something moving in the water. Stopping
to look, he saw that the moving object was a bird, an Osprey,
uncommon in Taiwan. As he watched, the Osprey tried to take off,
but could only rise a short distance before falling back into the
water. The bird was having difficulty, but Mr. Du could not see
what the problem was. So, he watched for a few minutes. Then he
saw that the bird’s legs and neck had somehow become entangled in
some netting. He grabbed his camera to document the unusual
situation while he thought about what to do.
The Osprey repeatedly tried to fly—and failed, falling back
into the water again and again. It was fighting for its life. The
bird’s struggles were gradually bringing it closer to shore. Mr. Du
decided that he would try to rescue it. But how? He had no way
of knowing how long the bird had been caught in the netting and
struggling to escape. Time was important, and there was no one else
around. He must try to help, alone.
There was only one thing to do. Mr. Du removed most of his
clothes and waded into the cold water, hoping he could get hold of
the bird before it became more frightened and perhaps go into deeper
water. Good luck! He was able to reach and catch the bird. It was
too tired to fight any more but it was still able to flex its strong
feet. Its sharp talons pierced Mr. Du’s hands; that hurt! But,
slowly and carefully, he was able to remove the netting and carry
both the bird and the remains of the net to shore. He set the bird
on the beach, moved some distance away, put his clothes back on,
watching to see that no further harm would come to the bird while it
recovered from its ordeal, and taking more photographs as it
rested. He noticed that it had a small spot on its left eye. If he
ever saw the bird again, he would recognize it by that spot. After
a while, the Osprey shook itself a few times, then took off, flying
strongly. Success, and happiness at a good outcome!
Next, Mr. Du examined the netting, which contained a small
fish. Probably, the bird had seen the fish from the air and tried
to catch it, becoming caught in the net itself.
article was published in the
Times in the first week of March, 2007.
Following the newspaper report and after seeing the
photographs of the Osprey, Legislators Tien Chiu-chin, Yang Cheng-te,
and the Taiwan International Taiwan Birding Association team discussed
the situation. They asked for government help in combating the
problem of unattended and discarded nets, and the collateral damage
such nets cause to wildlife.
Field Guide: Birds of
by Wang, J., C. Wu, G. Huang, X. Yang, Z. Cai, M. Cai and Q. Xiao. (1991)
Guide to the Birds of China,
John MacKinnon and Karen Phillipps. (2000)
of the World,
James Ferguson-Lees and David A. Christie. (2001)
References: Handbook of
Birds of the World Vol. 2; A Field Guide to the Birds of China (Mackinnon
and Phillipps); 100 Common Birds of
(Wild Bird Society of Taipei)