Birding in Taiwan



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ANNOTATED SPECIES LIST, Taiwan, November 11–19, 2003


BirdingASIA -Birdwatching in Taiwan

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 SPOTLIGHT 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.






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Birdwatching in Taiwan

by Woei-Horng Fang and Brian Sykes from BirdingASIA 2, December 2004.

Introduction Taiwan, a jewel in the Western Pacific
Taiwan is located on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean, lying about 160 km off the south-east China coast between Japan and the Philippines. It is about 400 km long from north to south, 150 km at its widest point near the centre, 36,000 km¾ in area and with 1,000 km of coastline it is about half the size of Sri Lanka. An immense, very scenic mountain range rising to 3,998 m at Yushan (formerly Mount Morrison) and with 15 major peaks above 3,500 m makes up its spine, which lies closer to the east coast where the lower slopes fall steeply to the sea, whereas in the west they descend to a wide fertile densely populated and developed agricultural plain where the bulk of the more than 20 million human inhabitants live. The wetland areas of the west coast are very important stop-over and wintering areas for thousands of northsouth migrant waterbirds, and the numerous scattered uninhabited offshore islets attract pelagic species that roost and nest.

The mountains may be cool and wet at any time of year, and snow may be expected at high altitudes in winter. The summer is hot and humid at low altitude and the wettest time of year. The main season for tropical storms (typhoons) is from July to November. Winter is cool and wet in the north, cool and dry in the south. The islands location on the edge of the Eurasian tectonic plate means that earth tremors are frequent but not usually serious, although more severe earthquakes are not unknown, the last serious one (Richter 7.3) in October 1999 causing serious damage in the mountains.

Fairy Pitta
(Wen-Hsin Huang)

The long isolation of Taiwan since the Ice Ages has resulted in 15 endemic species (see Appendix) and around 70 endemic subspecies within the 550 bird species so far recorded. Other rare and interesting species the visitor may hope to see include Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes, Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor, Saunders's Gull Larus saundersi, Chinese Crested Tern Sterna bernsteini, Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus and, in summer, the Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha.

Planning a visit

General information
Taiwan has a wide range of facilities to suit all tastes and budgets. Transportation to most sites is straightforward, car hire is readily available, and food and accommodation are normally easy to find, although as detailed under specific sites it is sometimes necessary to arrange accommodation in advance and to carry snacks. Visitors should take clothing for all conditions and be prepared to accept the loss of one or two days birdwatching due to poor weather in the mountains or if the island is hit by a typhoon.

Maps and guides
It is well worth purchasing a road map prior to arrival. Nelles Maps 1:400,000 series Taiwan Republic of China is widely available and useful, although it does not show all the sites mentioned. Two field guides cover Taiwan:

A field guide to the birds of
Taiwan, byWu Sen-Hsiong et al. Taiwan Wild Bird Information Centre & Wild Bird Society of Japan, 1991. 276 pages. ISBN 957-9578-00-1. Only common and systematic names are given in English (there are a few typos and taxonomic errors); the main text is Chinese. The illustrations are good, distribution maps are generally helpful and it is a very useful pocket field guide. It is hard to obtain outside Taiwan, but should be available in Taipei through WBFT.

A field guide to the birds of
China, by John MacKinnon & Karen Phillipps. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2000 xiii + 586 pages. 128 colour plates. Hardback ISBN 0-19-854940-7; paperback, ISBN 0-19-854941-5. The widely available comprehensive English-language guide covering more than 1,300 species found in China. For obvious reasons not very user-friendly as a field guide for Taiwan alone, and some distinctive Taiwanese subspecies are not illustrated and not well described. An extended review appeared in OBC Bulletin 32, 2000, pp.44-48.

(Wen-Hsin Huang)

When to visit
It should be possible to see the majority of the endemics in a short staymost, if not all can be found within a week at any time of year. Overall October to March is the best period for birdwatching with interesting migrants and winter visitors, but the summer months offer the possibility of breeding Fairy Pitta and Chinese Crested Tern. When planning a visit check when the three-day Lunar New Year Festival falls in the year (somewhere between the last week of January and mid-February). This holiday and the National Day, 10 October ("Double-Ten"), are very busy: families visit relatives in other parts of the island, the road network is very crowded, transportation is booked up and most businesses close for several days. A visit at these dates is not recommended.

Useful contacts

Wild Bird Federation
1st Fl., No. 3, Lane 36, Jinglong Street
Taipei 106, Taiwan
Tel: 886-2-86631252 ï Fax: 886-2-29303595

The Wild Bird Federation Taiwan is able to provide information for visiting birdwatchers. They should be contacted if a visit to Matsu-do during the Chinese Crested Tern breeding season is planned. This is a restricted area and the WBFT has up-to-date information on when the site is open and arrangements for visitors. They can also help arrange accommodation and access to the site. Foreign visitors should bear in mind that the Taiwan authorities have the right to withdraw access to the site if rules and protocols are broken.

Tourism Bureau of the Republic of China
9th Fl., No. 280, Jhongsiao East Road, Section 4
Taipei 105, Taiwan
Tel: 886-2-23491635~6. Fax: 886-2-27717036

Independent travellers are recommended to use the above website, as it contains useful general information on visa applications, basic internal travel, overseas offices etc.

Taiwan Ecotourism Association
3rd Fl., No. 30-2, Lane 240,
Guangfu South Road
Taipei 106, Taiwan
Tel: 886-2-27784567. Fax: 886-2-27213453

The birdwatching sites
Space constraints dictate that sites can only be covered briefly and inevitably some locations have had to be omitted. Our objective is to describe a suite of alternative sites where the endemics and a wide range of other interesting species may be seen. The English spelling of place names is inconsistent; the spelling used below is that most often used in tourist brochures and on road signs etc. Alternatives known to be in use are also shown.

Sites around
Most overseas visitors arrive at Taipeis Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport and independent visitors typically spend a day or two in Taipei completing arrangements. The following sites may conveniently be visited whilst based in the city. The main Taipei Railway Station (TRS) in the centre of Taipei is an excellent starting point, as the Metro Rapid Transit (MRT) and many bus services leave from this point.

About 65 species have been recorded in the eight hectare Taipei Botanical Garden, a good starting point for birdwatching in Taiwan. From the TRS take the MRT Danshui line to Nanmen (South Gate) Station (about 15 minutes). It holds over 1,500 botanical species, the habitat includes seasonal freshwater ecology ponds and a number of fine old trees where the Malayan Night Heron roosts and has bred recently. The birds preference is for humid, dark areas where they stand quietly or forage on the ground. Although locally common elsewhere in low-altitude broadleaf forest, the Botanical Garden has proved a very reliable site for this species, although more than one visit may be needed to locate it. Other species recorded include Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus, Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae, Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus, Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea, Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus and occasional rarities including Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis. Allow two hours or more; the gardens may be busy in early mornings and at weekends.

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Copyright © Oriental Bird Club 1984-2005. All rights reserved.

 SPOTLIGHT 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.