Birding in Taiwan


Birding Stories


David Stirling


Macdonald Burbidge













Dr.Rob Butler


Karen Shih


Madelon Schouten



George Clulow


Bill Keay


Simon Liao


Yang Chung-Tse


Allan Ridley


Hue Mackenzie


Hugh Currie


Kijja Jearwattanakanok


Peter Candido -

Re-Tern to Taiwan


Dave & Carol Roelen


Mark Wilkie























BIRDING TAIWAN, July 7 - 8, 2006


Dave & Carol Roelen


Torrance, California, U.S.A.


            HUGS!  Hugs all around for we have just seen the absolutely magnificent Formosan Magpie, a long-tailed blue bird with striking red bill and legs.  What a sight!  In the low mountains of central Taiwan we share our sighting in Simon Liao’s customary enthusiastic hugs fashion.  Simon is our guide from the “Birding In Taiwan” organization and has brought us to a known site for this endemic bird and after some searching we find a small group of the birds at close range … and this is only the beginning!

            Having just arrived at Taipei’s Chiang Kai Shek International Airport, we find ourselves traveling south along the west coast toll road through small towns and up towards the cooler central mountains.  We are on a very brief 48-hour layover and Simon is taking us on a whirlwind birding trek.  Climbing from sea level, we stop at sites near Wufong for lower level birds.  Within our first two hours in Taiwan we find a Collared Finchbill, Black Bulbul, and Light-vented Bulbul near a clump of bamboo that usually hides the endemic Fairy Pitta.  Simon hears a pitta call, but nothing comes into view.  Other birds move in and out, but we must move on to the mountains for any chance of seeing the Taiwan endemics that escape the hotter, humid lowlands during summer in favor of cooler climes.

            Our first day’s destination for the night is the Chingjing Resort, an active farming area with comfortable lodgings for tourists, both foreign and domestic.  Checked in, we set off in early afternoon for the famous Blue Gate Trails just a few kilometers north of Wushe and Chingjing both of which lie in the center of the island with the coast almost equal distance east and west.  The Blue Gate Trails are legendary for birders hoping to see Taiwan’s endemic pheasants and partridges.  Wearing Wellingtons we walk the muddy track, Simon leading with his passionate pink boots.  We definitely can’t misplace our leader.  We have already seen several common species including Crested Myna, Red Collared-Doves, Ashy Wood-Pigeon, Black-naped Monarch, White-throated Laughingthrush, when suddenly endemics start appearing.  Taiwan Barwings are seen well and often, then Taiwan Yuhinas in noisy groups, followed by secretive Steere’s Liocichla and the striking White-eared Sibia … all Taiwan endemic species.

            But then suddenly hugs are happening again as we spy a special endemic subspecies:  An Island Thrush.  We see the thrush clearly on this our first venture in Taiwan.  Simon has only seen this bird infrequently over the years.  He is ecstatic and so are we.  This white-headed thrush is a beautiful and cooperative bird that appears to be nesting.  It moves back and forth below us in the dense, wet forest.  Hugs!

            Our birding day now over we drive towards Chingjing.  We stop along the way to sample fresh mountain peaches from a roadside fruit stand.  That evening a typical and excellent Chinese meal is enjoyed while we recount the day’s events before retiring.  Sleep comes easy.  We’ve been on the go since 6:30 a.m. local time after a 13-hour flight from Los Angeles.

            Early morning finds us again at the Blue Gate Trail entrance.  The trail (also know locally as the “water trail”) is made muddy as water leaks from the jumble of black plastic pipes paralleling the path.  The pipes deliver fresh mountain water to the villages below.  The wren sound we hear is actually water escaping through a small hole in a pipe.  Closely together now behind Simon we walk slowly and quietly hoping for a glimpse of either a Mikado or Swinhoe’s Pheasant.  These birds are secretive and highly skittish.  Silently Simon motions us forward.  Ahead, skirting the mud is a Swinhoe’s Pheasant!  We have nice views of the bright, but camouflaged female as she tries to outpace us.  After much searching we fail to see a male.  More birding along the Blue Gate produces Vivid Niltava, Rufous-faced Warbler, Ferruginous and Snowy-browed Flycatchers and then it is time to move further up the mountain.

            Climbing the narrow two-lane Hehuan Shan (Hehuan Mountain) road takes us to an elevation of 10,750 feet and a rest stop turnout where birds and refreshments greet us.  Vendors sell food and liquid refreshments in the crowded parking lot.  An endemic White-whiskered Laughingthrush walks apparently unconcerned between and below the vending vehicles.  After a sausage and drink we travel on and find the small, kinglet-like Flamecrest and Collared Bush Robin, both endemics, and a Eurasian Nuthatch, all in the coniferous forest.  While we missed these on our brief mountain visit, the Alpine Accentor, Spotted Nutcracker, Yellow Tit, Mikado Pheasant, and Taiwan Partridge (plus others) are all possible (and some assured) with a little more time.

            Reversing direction and heading downhill and north toward CKS International Airport for tomorrow’s Borneo flight, Simon takes us to several “secret” sites for missed species.  Simon must have missed hugging as we soon have in our binocular views the much sought after Formosan Whistling-Thrush as it seeks food amongst rocks along a narrow turbulent stream.  This is a large, blue-black thrush with red eyes that fans its tail … striking!  Striking too was a Steak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, male and female Plumbeous Redstart and a Black-browed (Muller’s) Barbet.  In our brief Taiwan visit we saw 10 of the 15 endemic species and 50 regularly occurring birds.

            Birding now over, we drove late in the day into evening towards our hotel in Taoyuan west of Taipei.  But birding isn’t everything!  En route Simon took us to a roadway rest stop that was a mix of Chinese and western culture with games, drinks, food, gifts, all in a brightly lighted and happy carnival atmosphere … a happening, where the Taiwanese come for an evening out.  Lots of fun.  Simon and “Birding In Taiwan” were perfect hosts (they are more than bird guides) for visitors to the friendly island of Taiwan.  Food was wonderful, conversation great, and the “no worries” logistics spot on.               

            The International Taiwan Birding Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to bird conservation and the preservation of the varied habitats of Taiwan.  Visit their extensive website at  International Taiwan Birding Association leads birding tours at different times of the year.  If you wish to join a birding tour or desire more information, contact Jo Ann MacKenzie at                  


Once in Taiwan, be prepared for friendly people, beautiful birds, and good food.  And, of course, HUGS!