A paradise for bird watchers
With its rivers and mountains, Taiwan's landscapes are diversified and awe-inspiring. Extreme differences in the elevation of various parts of the island and the Asian tropical oceanic climate are responsible for such diversity and abundance in the native flora and fauna. Environmental conservation is a strong emerging concept here, and it is influencing national policy and lifestyles all across the island. The six national parks and many environmental groups are testaments to Taiwan 's collective environmental awareness, and have been critical in making Taiwan a haven for birds (and bird watchers!). As the benefits of environmental conservation emerge, a greater range of biodiversity will follow, and more and rarer birds will flock to the sanctuary that is Taiwan . For bird watchers, Taiwan is one of the best sites in Asia to catch a peek at all kinds of birds.
Popular bird watching areas
Yilan swamplands, situated on the Lanyang Plains, make for an ideal habitat for all kinds of water foul. Numerous wild ducks call this place home from September to May -- their migration season. Popular bird watching spots include the Lanyang River estuary, Wusheijia, and Wuweigang, and are only two to three hours' drive from Taipei . These vast swamplands are an ideal environment in which to observe wild water foul in their natural surroundings.
Cigu Marsh, Tainan is a major rest stop for migrating black-faced spoonbills. Every October, bird watchers descend on the marshlands to view the hoards of spoonbills. Visitors also like to view the salt mounds, which give the marsh a unique look. Cigu Marsh is yet another ideal venue affording bird enthusiasts the opportunity to observe birds in their natural environment.
Kending National Park
This park features not only coral reef landscapes, but also ideal diving venues. Birds of prey are frequent visitors to Kending National Park , including the Grey Frog Hawk and Grey-faced Buzzard Eagle. The Grey-faced Buzzard is also named the Double Tenth Bird because this bird symbolizes the Double Tenth holiday ( Taiwan 's national day). According to park records, the maximum number of birds of prey passing through the park in one day numbered 30,000! For bird watchers who are partial to checking out birds of prey, Kending National Park is not to be missed!
Penghu is an archipelago consisting of 64 islands of various sizes. Some uninhabited islands make ideal homes for terns. Bird watchers visit such islands from May to June to view the large flocks of terns soaring in the sky. The lack of humans allows bird watchers to catch a rare glimpse of how birds live in a truly wild environment.
At an elevation of 3,500 kilometers, Mt. Hohuan is a paradise for birds that prefer high elevation. The beautiful snowy scenery draws crowds in the winter. June and July are prime bird watching months on the mountain. Enjoy the birds against the backdrop of the big azure sky and broad grasslands.
Bird watching tips:
Bird watching activities inevitably impact the environment. In order to reduce such impact, please follow these suggestions:
- Observe birds from a distance and try not to disturb them. Many migratory birds mate and propagate in Taiwan , so it is vital that you try not to disturb this process, or scare birds away from nests with younglings.
- Do not photograph birds with cameras with flashes.
- Some birds are weak and rest and roost temporarily in certain areas. Chasing them or scaring them could result in their death.
Resident bird species in Taiwan
Formosan Blue Magpie
The Formosan Blue Magpie is an endemic bird species in Taiwan , and is considered a national treasure. These magpies prefer thick forests at high altitudes (1,800 meters or higher). They are known for their gregariousness and for flying across valleys one by one in queues. Their blue sapphire tails make their unique flying patterns even more eye-catching, and are referred to by locals as the "long tail array." If you're lucky, you may be able to spot this bird in the Yangmingshan area.
The Mikado has a black and blue body. The male's eyes are surrounded with bright red coloring, and they have black tails striped with white lines. They typically appear at dawn or dusk, strutting like proud emperors -- hence their other name: "Emperor Pheasant." Mikado pheasants usually dwell in thick old-growth forests at an altitude of 1,800 meters or higher. Their numbers are steadily decreasing to due environmental exploitation by humans.
Steere's Liocichla can be found in the thick bush at the base of mountains. The birds are not too afraid of humans. Thus, it is easy for bird watchers to observe them. Despite their high speed in flight, Steere's Liocichla is easy to pick out -- their loud, clear chirps and olive-green body with bright yellow stripes around the nib give them away immediately!
Melodious Laughing Thrush
White-eared Sibia and Formosan Yuhina are more special among many kinds of thrushes. The White-eared Sibia has unique features, such as the orange abdominal region and white and wide eye lines extending from the nib. The Formosan Yuhina has a dark-brown erect crest on the top of its head and a lovely moustache! These two kinds of birds both have loud, clear calls. You can usually hear their greetings at dawn, so listen carefully in the early morning.
The appearance of the Formosan Bulbul is similar to the Chinese Bulbul, which is common in western Taiwan . The difference is that the Formosan Bulbul has a pair of moustaches and black coloring on the top of its head. Formosan Bulbuls are spread out in the eastern regions of the island, including Hualien, Taitung, and the Hengchun Peninsula . They usually roost in broad-leaved forests at a lower elevation. Although these two kinds of birds have similar habits, Formosan Bulbuls prefer the east while Chinese Bulbuls are concentrated in the west of Taiwan . This kind of bird demography is a rare phenomenon for an island as small as Taiwan .
Migratory birds in Taiwan
The Black-faced Spoonbill has a long, black beak, and black coloring around its eyes. This type of spoonbill resembles the egret, and is born on the Korean peninsula. They migrate to Taiwan every year around October, and have been coming in increasing numbers in recent years thanks to improved environmental conservation practices. The Cigu Marsh (above) is an ideal venue in which to catch a glimpse of this elegant migratory bird.
The Brown Shrike is a well known migratory bird that passes through Taiwan on its way south every year. This bird has a body that is approximately 20 centimeters in length, a big, wide head, and black lining around its eyes. The Brown Shrike gets its name from its long, brown tail feathers. Shrikes have an especially strong sense of territoriality and prefer to travel alone. They typically roost in high places in order to spot prey more easily and maintain their contemplative aloofness.
Cormorants usually come of age near lakes and marches, and propagate in northern China and Mongolia , among other cooler regions. They usually migrate south in the winter; however, this kind of bird is not easily sighted in Taiwan . Cormorants eat mainly fish and can dive down into water at a depth of one to three meters to snatch their prey, staying underwater for 30 to 45 seconds per dive. After their dives, they often stand on the shore, opening their wings to dry in the sun. Because of this unique behavior, some fishermen raise Cormorants to help them catch fish.
Grey-faced Buzzard Eagle
Grey-faced Buzzard Eagles, a kind of raptor, congregate in Siberia , northeast China , Japan , and Korea . In October every year, they head south to Taiwan , the Philippines , etc., waiting out the winter until March, at which time they fly back north to mate. Grey-faced Buzzards have a brown back, grey-and-white cheeks, and a white chest and abdomen. They have particular methods of hovering, taking off, and landing. You can enjoy the impressive sight of large flocks of Grey-faced Buzzards soaring through the skies above the Kending area.
Common Terns are the most "common" kind of migratory birds in Taiwan . Their elegant soaring adds to the beauty of seacoasts in the summer. Thanks to geographic conditions and abundant fishing grounds in Taiwan , there are up to 8 kinds of Common Terns that come to the island in the summer. People can easily spot their graceful soaring bodies just above the surface of the ocean when visiting the offshore islands, such as Penghu , Matsu , etc.
For more information, please visit: www.birdingintaiwan.com/birdsintwn.htm
Taiwan Wild Bird Associations
- Wild Bird Federation Taiwan
- Addr: 1F, 3, Lane 36, Chinglung St., Taipei, Taiwan, 116
- Tel: (02)8663-1252
- Fax: (02)2930-3595
- Web: www.bird.org.tw
- Wild Bird Society of Taipei
- Addr: 1F, 3, Lane 160, Sec.2, Fusing, South Rd., Taipei, Taiwan, 106
- Tel: (02)2325-9190
- Fax: (02)2775-4209
- Web: www.wbst.org.tw
- Taiwan Wild Bird Information Center
- Addr: 1F, 3, Lane 36, Chinglung St., Taipei, Taiwan, 116
- Tel: (02)2262-5108
- Fax: (02)2265-6462