ENDEMICS, FAIRY PITTA, and LANYU ISLAND
May 5–18, 2008
Portuguese sailors in the 16th century, it was Ilha
Island,” because of its lush forests and the jagged peaks of its
The island we now know as Taiwan, situated approximately
175 km (110 miles) off the coast of China, has diverse habitats;
from tidal estuaries, cultivated fields, wetlands, lowland mixed
forests, to montane deciduous broadleaf and coniferous forests.
The island still has beautiful forests and mountains,
where 15 endemic species (some authors recognize 8 more)
Partridge, Swinhoe’s Pheasant, Mikado Pheasant, Styan’s Bulbul,
Bush-Warbler, Collared Bush-Robin, White-Whiskered Laughingthrush.
Steere’s Liocichla, Taiwan Barwing, White-eared
Yellow Tit, and Formosan Magpie.
Although more than 500 species of birds have been
recorded, about 300 can be considered to occur regularly, including
more than 60 endemic subspecies. Perhaps 10 of these subspecies are
candidates for full endemic species status. Seeing the pheasants,
partridge and quail requires some luck, especially for
The blue, white and red male Swinhoe’s Pheasant is
unforgettable, as is the sleek blue-black male Mikado Pheasant,
“King of the Mist.” The shy and secretive Taiwan
Bush-Warbler will be singing in May, and perhaps not so
difficult to see. We will be alert for the fairly common
Black-browed (Muller’s) Barbet and uncommon [Taiwan] Hwamei,
probably the next Taiwan endemics.
The main focus of the tour is on the endemic species and
subspecies of Taiwan. Secondary focuses are the Fairy Pitta, a
beautiful and uncommon species which is present only in the breeding
season, and the specialties of Lanyu Island.
Taiwan is a safe, welcoming country, with good
infrastructure, a strong conservation movement, classic mountain
scenery, friendly people, wonderful food and much to offer visitors.
Honourary Chairman, Wild Bird Federation of Taiwan and
Jo Ann MacKenzie,
Taiwan International Birding Association (Canada).
1 to 10 participants (no minimum)
Major habitats of the west coast, central mountains, Taroko Gorge,
the southeast, and Lanyu Island
Mostly easy to moderate walking; occasional steep steps and paths
in “high mountain” habitat
Accommodation with private bathrooms
Chilly at high elevations, especially at night; warm to hot and
humid at low elevations
Transportation by air-conditioned bus
Opportunities to sample Taiwanese culture and cuisine
5 May (Monday), Day 1
EVA Air at 1:50 a.m., from Vancouver to Taipei. It will be
necessary to be at Vancouver International Airport by 11:30 p.m. on
the evening of May 4, for flight check-in. (Some participants may
choose to join the group in Taipei instead.)
6 May (Tuesday), Day 2
Arrive Taiwan Taoyuan (formerly Chiang Kai-shek)
Airport (situated 40 km west of Taipei, in Taoyuan County), at 5:10
We will transfer to our bus, drive south to the Wufeng area, 300 to
400 m (1,000 to 1,300 feet) elevation. We will visit suitable
habitat to look for Collared Finchbill, Formosan Whistling Thrush,
Black-browed (Muller`s) Barbet, Gray-capped Woodpecker, Formosan
Magpie, and with luck, Fairy Pitta. The male pittas should be on
territory now, and we have a good chance of seeing this very special
bird. Then we will turn east and climb higher to Huisun Forest
Station. Possibilities include Ashy Wood-Pigeon, Black-browed
Barbet, Gray-capped Woodpecker, Gray-chinned Minivet, Gray Treepie,
Black Bulbul, Rufous-capped Babbler, White-bellied Yuhina, Chinese
Bamboo Partridge and Swinhoe’s Pheasant.
Night at Atayal Resort, in Huisun Forest Station, 770 m (2600 ft.)
7 May (Wednesday), Day 3
Early morning birding on the trails at Huisun Forest Station.
Leaving Huisun after breakfast, we backtrack somewhat, then continue
eastward through Puli, the geographic center of Taiwan, and begin to
climb again toward Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area (elev.
1200 m (3900 ft.). At Aowanda, we will check the stream for
Plumbeous Redstart and with luck, the rare Little Forktail, and
watch for Taiwan Yuhina, Yellow Tit, Fire-breasted and
Plain Flowerpeckers, Black-browed Barbet, minivets and raptors.
Leaving Aowanda, we continue to climb to Chingjing. Night in
Chingjing, elev. 1750 m
8 May (Thursday), Day 4
will make an early morning start to the Meifeng area in “high
mountain” habitat, to walk part of the Rueiyan River Road trail
system, nicknamed “Blue Gate Trails.” (Trail #1 is about 3 km, end
to end.) Local people call them Shueiguan [Water] Trails, because
of the water pipes that lie alongside. Possibilities include
White-tailed Robin, Mikado and Swinhoe’s Pheasants and
perhaps with much luck, the very shy
Taiwan Partridge. We will also be alert for White-eared Sibia,
Taiwan Yuhina, Collared Bush Robin, Taiwan Barwing, Steere’s
Liocichla, Pygmy Wren-Babbler, White-browed Shortwing (the
wren-babbler and shortwing are both hard-to-see skulkers), Vineous-throated
Parrotbill, Eurasian Nuthatch, and others.
In the afternoon, we will continue to look for mountain
species. Return to Chingjing for the night.
9 May (Friday), Day 5
morning birding at Blue Gate Trail #2. Then, we will drive higher
yet, to the Hehuanshan Forest Recreation Area, elev. 3275 m (10,750
ft.), the highest elevation of the tour, just inside the western
edge of Taroko National Park. (“Shan,” means “mountain “or
“hill” in Mandarin; in this case, “mountain.”) We will look for
White-whiskered Laughingthrush, Flamecrest,
Alpine Accentor, Vinaceous Rosefinch, Coal Tit, and Yellow Tit.
We will continue eastward through the upper part of the Taroko
Gorge, in Taroko National Park, to Tienhsiang looking for Styan’s
Bulbul. Night at Tienhsiang, elev. 485 m (1592 ft.)
(Saturday), Day 6
Early morning birding in the Tienhsiang area. Then we will drive
eastward, through the spectacular Taroko “Marble Gorge.” The gorge
is one of the scenic wonders of Asia, created by immense tectonic
forces combined with erosion by the Liwu River. We will look for
Brown Dipper and Little Forktail, both along the Liwu River, and the
Shakadang Trail in the lower part of the Gorge. We will exit
through the park’s East Gate and turn south to Hualien and drive
along Taiwan’s scenic east coast, crossing the Tropic of Cancer.
Near Chihshiang, we will look for the endemic Taiwan subspecies of
the familiar, but here native and wild Ring-necked Pheasant.
Continue south, to Taitung, and turn southwest to the Chihpen Forest
Recreation Area, elev. 700—800 m. Birding for the rest of the
afternoon. Night in Chihpen Forest Recreation Area.
11 May (Sunday), Day 7
Morning birding in mid-elevation habitat. Birds here include
Formosan Whistling-Thrush, Formosan Magpie, White-eared Sibia,
White-bellied Pigeon, Oriental Cuckoo, Dusky Fulvetta, Spotted
Flycatcher and Emerald Dove. After lunch, proceed to Taitung
airport, arriving in time for our 20-minute flight to Lanyu (Orchid)
http://www.sinica.edu.tw/tit/scenery/1095_scn2.html about 90 km
(56 miles) east of the southern tip of Taiwan.
Most of Lanyu’s inhabitants are aboriginal Yami people,
whose culture is closer to that of the Philippines than of Taiwan.
After transferring to Hungtou (Red-head) village, we will spend the
rest of the day birding this fascinating island. Lanyu is very
different from Taiwan and we will look for the specialties:
Philippine [Brown] Cuckoo Dove, Japanese [Black]
Paradise-Flycatcher, Brown-eared Bulbul and Lowland White-eye.
After dark, we will search for “Lanyu” Scops-Owl, Otus
elegans botelensis, a subspecies of Ryukyu Scops-Owl endemic to
Lanyu Island. Night in Hungtou.
(Monday), Day 8
Early morning birding on Lanyu Island. In the afternoon, we will
travel on ferry back to the Taiwan mainland. The crossing will take
about 2 ½ hours during which we will watch for Streaked and
Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and with much luck perhaps come
across Bonin Petrel, Bulwer’s Petrel or Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel.
After docking at Pingtung on the Eluanbi Peninsula and boarding our
bus, we will drive to Kenting, Taiwan’s tropical “far south.” Night
(Tuesday), Day 9
Birding in the Kenting area, including Kenting National Park and
Long Luan Tan Lake, looking for Ruddy-breasted Crake, White-breasted
Waterhen and other wetland species. Endemic Styan’s Bulbul
is easily found in the Kenting area. Distinctively-shaped Taichien
Shan (mountain) is the first height of land that northward-bound
migrants see as they approach Taiwan; we will watch for both common
and unusual species. Night in
Kuangtselin at a hotel with private hot spring baths.
14 May (Wednesday), Day 10
Morning birding in the Tsengwen Dam area, elev. 220 m, (859 ft.) We
will have another chance for Maroon Oriole, Collared Finchbill,
Spot-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Oriental Cuckoo and other species of
mid-elevation woodland below the dam. The view over the valley
provides good opportunity for raptor-watching. At the Kwantien
Wetland, we will look for Pheasant- tailed Jacana. Night in Tainan.
15 May (Thursday), Day 11
day in wetland habitat. Black-faced Spoonbills winter in the
Tainan-Chiku wetlands; there is a chance of finding a few late
lingerers, and possibly other unusual waders. We will also bird the
extensive wetlands of Aougu. Then we will continue north,
re-crossing the Tropic of Cancer, to Chiayi. Night in Chiayi.
There may be an opportunity to browse through the lively Night
16 May (Friday), Day 12
Morning drive to return to “high mountain” habitat in Alishan Forest
Recreation Area. We will look for species we may have missed in
this habitat earlier. Night in Alishan village, 2200 m (7,200 ft.)
17 May (Saturday), Day 13
morning birding, Alishan. We will drive higher, to the Tataka
Recreation Area, 2600 m (8,536 ft.) in Yushan National Park for more
“high mountain” specialties. Yushan National Park is known as “The
ridge of the roof of Taiwan.” We will be within sight of Yushan
Peak, also called Jade Mountain. At 3952 m (just under 13,000 ft.),
Yushan Peak is the highest mountain in East Asia. Possible species are Taiwan Bush-Warbler (which should be
singing, and therefore “findable”), Eurasian Nutcracker, Gray-headed
Bullfinch, White-whiskered Laughingthrush, Flamecrest,
Yellowish-bellied Bush-Warbler, Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler. Then
it will be time to leave the high mountains and drive to lowlands.
Night in Changhua.
18 May (Sunday), Day 14
breakfast, drive north to Taipei county, with a stop for a cultural
highlight, the Sanshia Temple, noted for its exquisite stone and
wood wildlife carvings, including more than 100 different birds.
Lunch. The afternoon will be flexible; we will try for Brown Dipper
and Malayan Night-Heron if we have not already found them. Continue
to Taipei (elev. 6 m; 20 ft). Supper, followed by a visit to one of
Taipei’s famed Night Markets.
Taoyuan International Airport to await our EVA Airways departure at
11:50 p.m., to Vancouver; arriving at
7:20 p.m. the same day.
Maximum of 10
participants with 2 leaders
Vancouver, BC, Canada: 14 days
(sharing); $5600 (single)
Taipei, Taiwan: 13 days
(sharing); $4500 (single)
BOOKING DISCOUNT: Register at least 60 days before
departure; get 5% off tour price.
For further information, please contact:
– 21 Avenue
Surrey, BC, V4A 6A8,
TAIWAN INTERNATIONAL BIRDING
Good birds, good
food, good friends!