Birding in Taiwan



Bird Tours

Trip Report:  BIRDING IN TAIWAN, MAY. 21-24, 2005

ANNOTATED SPECIES LIST, Taiwan, MAY. 21-24, 2005

Trip Report:  BIRDING IN TAIWAN, NOV. 8–17, 2004


Taiwan Trip Report, March 21 – 28, 2003

ANNOTATED SPECIES LIST, Taiwan, March 21 – 28, 2003

Taiwan Trip Report, November 11-19, 2003

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





TAIWAN TRIP REPORT, 20–28 March 2003    Printable Version

by Jo Ann MacKenzie

LEADER:  Simon Liao (Canada), assisted by Ten-Di Wu (Taiwan)



            Taiwan is a mountainous island in the South China Sea, about 140 km (90 miles) off the Chinese mainland.  The forested beauty of the island led Portuguese sailors in 1590 to name it Ilha Formosa, meaning “Beautiful Island.”

This trip was designed to maximize birding opportunities and acquaint participants with a variety of habitats in a short period of time.  As the government of Taiwan presently wishes to promote eco-tourism, this was also a prototype for a Taiwanese-organized and led tour.  At the conclusion of the week, our group of twelve met with government officials for a summary of our thoughts and experiences.

            Birders should be aware that while Taiwan has 15 endemic species, there are numerous endemic subspecies, some of which may be raised to full species level in the future.


(E) = Endemic species

Thursday–Friday, 20–21 March;  Day 1:  Vancouver, BC, Canada to Changhua, Taiwan

            Our 12-hour EVA (Evergreen) Airways flight from Vancouver landed at 05:00 at Chaing Kai Chek International Airport, near Tayuan, 50 km west of Taipei.  Clearing Passport Control and collecting the luggage proceeded smoothly.  Outside the terminal, we boarded our comfortable mini-bus, and headed south along Hwy. #1, which approximately parallels the west coast of the island.  As the early morning light improved, we saw Crested Myna, Black-crowned Night-heron, Gray Heron and Eurasian Tree Sparrow, as well as Great and Cattle Egrets.  After a brief stop in the city of Taichung to pick up our assistant leader, Mr. Ten-Di Wu, we proceeded to the Tatu River estuary, where we saw an adult East Siberian Gull, Little Grebe and Oriental Skylark.  Continuing to Hambao Wetland, we heard, and eventually saw Golden-headed Cisticola, as well as Daurian Redstart, American (A. s. japonicus) and Red-throated Pipit, Plain Prinia, Brown and Long-tailed Shrike, and many more herons and egrets.  Incessant wind made ‘scope use difficult.

            After a delicious lunch (the first of many memorable meals) in colourful Lukang, we returned to the shore at Hambao for low-tide shorebirding.  The many waders on the mud flats included Snowy Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Red-necked Stint, Dunlin, Common Greenshank, Common Snipe and Great Knot.  We scrutinized more wetlands before moving on to the Choshui River (actually, a mostly-dried river bed) for the evening’s appearance of Savannah (Allied) Nightjar.  While we watched for the nightjars, two Lesser Coucals flew by.


Saturday, 22 March;  Day 2:  Changhua to Sun Moon Lake

            We drove to Pakua Mountain in the Tri-Mountain National Scenic area, just southeast of Changhua city for the “Gray-faced Buzzard Bird Fair”.  This was the 12th year for the annual fair, which celebrates an impressive conservation effort.  Hundreds of volunteers host thousands of visitors who come to witness the northward migration of Gray-faced Buzzards.  During the morning, we saw 60 of these raptors as they skimmed the mountain, rested in trees, and “kettled” overhead.  As we walked past fair booths, we saw a small flock of Japanese White-eyes and Arctic Warblers in a nearby tree.

In the afternoon, we headed inland to Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area.  After settling into the Sun Moon Lake Youth Activity Centre, with comfortable rooms in the style of the 1,000-year-old Tang Dynasty, we birded the extensive, well-treed grounds.  One fruiting tree teemed with birds — Black Bulbuls, Light-vented (Chinese) Bulbuls, Pale Thrush, Brown-headed Thrush, with a Scaly (White’s Ground) Thrush on the lawn below.  A Malayan Night-Heron (Tiger Bittern) lurked just inside the forest edge up the hill.  The evening was humid and hinting at rain when we went inside for dinner.  Later, from our rooms, we heard a Collared Scops-Owl calling, but before we could go out to look for it, the rain began, washing out any owling.


Sunday, 23 March;  Day 3:  Sun Moon Lake to Meifeng

The day began with 6 a.m. birding around the spacious and varied grounds of the Activity Centre.  We heard several Black-browed (Müller’s) Barbets calling, but it was some time before we had good, close looks at them.  Birds during the morning included Gray-cheeked Fulvetta, White Wagtail, Gray-chinned Minivet, Rufous-faced Warbler, Vivid Niltava, Rufous-capped Babbler, TAIWAN YUHINA (E), Bronzed Drongo, and Gray Treepie.  A highlight was the discovery of a Collared Owlet.

Leaving Sun Moon Lake, we drove to Tze En Tower, which was said to be a good place for Large Cuckoo Shrike.  Within five minutes, three of these birds arrived.  On the road again, we detoured into some scrubby habitat in Dream Valley for Collared Finchbill, and were rewarded with the first of 20 seen in total that day, as well as Striated Prinia.  At the bottom of a waterfall, we found a Plumbeous Redstart; again the first of several.

Following lunch at Renai (Wushe), we walked through the town of Lushan, looking unsuccessfully for Brown Dipper and Taiwan Whistling Thrush along the narrow river.  We found Striated Heron, and Simon glimpsed a Little Forktail, not seen by anyone else, unfortunately.

Returning to the bus, we continued northeast to Meifeng Experimental Farm and National Taiwan University Field Station.  The field station, at an elevation of about 2100 m, was to be our base of operations for three days of birding for endemic species, an important focus of the trip.  Within a few minutes of our arrival, we found a White-tailed Robin and STEERE’S LIOCICHLA (E) that had been attracted to a trickle of water spilling down through the undergrowth of the densely treed bank beside the main building.  The open field below had Red-flanked Bluetail and Brown Bullfinch.  Like the previous evening, the atmosphere was murky, promising a damp night.


Monday, 24 March;  Day 4:  Meifeng to A Li Shan

Rain began about 03:00 and was still pounding down when we gathered at 05:30 for the drive to Dui Yen Trail for what was to be a prime opportunity for endemic species.  Conditions worsened.  When it wasn’t pouring rain, we were enveloped in lowering clouds.  In spite of the poor visibility, we did find good birds:  TAIWAN PARTRIDGE, WHITE-WHISKERED (TAIWAN) LAUGHING THRUSHES, COLLARED BUSH-ROBIN, WHITE-EARED SIBIA (all E), Varied, Green-backed and Black-throated Tits, another Red-flanked Bluetail, more White-tailed Robins, Gray-chinned Minivets, Taiwan Yuhinas, and White-bellied Yuhina.

After returning to Meifeng, we found two Eurasian Jays and more Taiwan Yuhina, Vinaceous throated Parrotbill, Green-backed and Varied Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch and Tawny Owl.  Later, we searched for three Yellow-throated Buntings which had wintered on the farm.  On the way, we saw Olive-backed Pipits, more Pale Thrushes, another Scaly Thrush, and a pair of Chinese Bamboo Partridges, but could not find the buntings.

After lunch, with the rain still pouring, there was a sudden change of plan.  The weather forecast predicted more rain for our entire time at Meifeng, which would be disastrous for our search for endemic species at that elevation.  So, our resourceful leaders arranged for us to move to A Li Shan, another mountain with facilities at similar elevation, where it was not raining.  We packed up and departed in 30 minutes.  On our way, we stopped to walk a trail on Bei Dong Yen Mountain (Northeast Eye Mountain).  We had great luck, with YELLOW (TAIWAN) TIT (E), and two male SWINHOE’S PHEASANTS (E) in flight.  The pheasants flushed from ahead and above, and flew around us, out over the valley and parallel to the slope.  The scene was spectacular, with the misty mountains in the background — the most memorable birding moment of the trip!


Tuesday, 25 March;  Day 5:  A Li Shan to Douliou

            On the road at 06:00 to drive to higher elevation.  Along the way, we found a Eurasian Nutcracker feeding by the roadside.  We stopped along the Yushan Landscape Highway, at the “Couple Trees”, charred remnants of a 1963 forest fire.  The two huge tree skeletons seem to reproach mankind for the carelessness that caused the fire.  Here, at elevation 2610 m, we found Vinaceous Rosefinch, Alpine Accentor, more liocichlas and laughingthrushes, and a Honey Buzzard.  Geologically, the area is 9–13 million years old.  Continuing on to the Tataka Recreation Center, we noted the distant peak of Jade Mountain, at 3952 m, the Yushan Main Peak and the highest peak in East Asia.  Birds here included TAIWAN BUSH-WARBLER (E), TAIWAN BARWING (E), Gray-headed (Beaven’s) Bullfinch, Verreaux’s Bush-Warbler, many Brambling, and a Bluethroat, which was a surprising find.

            After lunch in A Li Shan, we birded the A Li Shan Park Gardens above and behind the police building.  Wu found three more Taiwan Barwings, but the birds departed before the rest of us could see them.  After much searching we saw several FLAMECRESTS (E) in the coniferous trees.  An astonishing find was a Streak-throated Fulvetta, which should have been on the other side of the mountains!

            In mid-afternoon, we descended to the lowlands, to bird some of the last remnant of undisturbed lowland forest in Taiwan.  Finding Maroon Oriole was a happy surprise.  The Taiwan race, Oriolus traillii ardens, is deep red, not maroon.


Wednesday, 26 March;  Day 6:  Douliou to Tainan

            Early in the morning, we went to Thiany Kin (Mango Valley), at Pillow Mountain.  In the deeply shaded valley, we came up behind a Malayan Night-Heron slowly walking down the middle of the road.  The bird ignored our bus and kept walking, like a feathered gnome, refusing to move aside.  After several minutes, it turned and looked at us, as if to challenge our presence on the same road.  Then, after much wing shaking, erecting and lowering of throat and nape feathers, the bird flew into the roadside vegetation.

Arriving at our destination, we walked along a small stream, through lowland bamboo forest habitat, perfect for Fairy Pitta.  The pittas would be back on territory there in about four weeks’ time.  Some of the birds noted were Dusky (Gould’s) Fulvetta, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Maroon Oriole, and Japanese Sparrowhawk.  Unfortunately, this site in is to be dammed and flooded to ease a water shortage.  Leaving the valley, we drove to the Tsengwen River estuary, where we found the Blackfaced Spoonbill viewing blinds crowded with observers, mostly school groups, eager to see and learn about this globally threatened, critically endangered species which arrives in Taiwan in October and departs in April.  Some 700 spoonbills pass through the estuary, about 2/3 of the world population, with approximately 300 remaining through the winter.  Sadly, this winter, 73 birds died of an epidemic of botulism, C. botulinum toxin type C.  The good news was that 12 sick birds recovered after intensive treatment.  Further birding in the estuary produced Spotted Redshank, Long-billed Dowitcher, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Cinnamon Bittern and White-breasted Waterhen among other species.  We tried for Chinese Bittern, but ran out of daylight.  While searching for the bittern, Wu spotted a Slaty-breasted Rail, but the bird did not remain in view long enough for anyone else to see it.


Thursday, 27 March;  Day 7:  Tainan to Taipei

            “Meeting Day”.  (See Introduction.)


Friday, 28 March;  Day 8:  Taipei to Vancouver

As we had still not found two Taiwan endemic species, we went to Yangminshan National Park, just north of Taipei.  There, with the help of Kuang-Ying Lafei Huang, of the Conservation and Research Division, Yangminshan National Park Headquarters, we quickly located a FORMOSAN WHISTLING THRUSH (E), along with a migrant Yellow-browed Warbler in the same tree.  Three FORMOSAN MAGPIES (E) took a little longer, but eventually we had excellent views.

            For part of the afternoon, we went to the very impressive National Palace Museum, an essential destination for any visitor to Taipei.

            The last event was a farewell banquet, hosted by the Government Information Office.  Following the banquet, we drove to Chaing Kai Chek International Airport for our EVA Airways flight to Vancouver


            The trip was very successful.  In addition to an overview of Taiwan and various bird habitats, the group recorded a total of 149 species, including 2 that were heard only.  We saw 13 of Taiwan’s 15 endemic species, missing only Mikado Pheasant and Styan’s Bulbul (we did not travel within the bulbul’s range).  See Taiwan Bird Lists, March 21–28, 2003 for details.


For more information, please contact Simon Liao, in Canada, at: