Birding in Taiwan

 

 
Birding Stories

 

Birding Taiwan

John C. Deppman

Fort Myers, FL

Kwangtien Wetland: John C. Deppman (standing, right) speaks to students. Simon Liao, (standing, left center). Nov. 14, 2004.

In November, 2004, I joined a group of birders on a tour of Taiwan.  The country is not large and we were able to cover it well during our 10 days there.  We traveled from Yangmingshan National Park near Taipei at the northern tip of the island down to Kenting National Park at the very southern end, and back again.  In between we made numerous stops along the west coast of Taiwan and ventured into the central highlands to Taroko National Park to track down the high altitude species.

I had first learned about the trip in a full-page ad in the ABA’s Birding magazine.  It was offered by Simon Liao of Vancouver on a non-profit basis and was quite reasonably priced.  Simon proved to be well-connected in Taiwanese circles (he is past president of the Taiwan Wild Bird Society), which was almost immediately evidenced by our receiving a free upgrade to business class on our Eva Airlines flights between Vancouver and Taipei.

Our group was comprised of 2 leaders, Simon and Ten-Di Wu, who served as a local guide, and seven participants: 3 Americans, including myself, and 4 Canadians, including Jo Ann & Hue MacKenzie, friends of Simon from Vancouver who have been to Taiwan several times with him and assisted in the over-all organization of the trip.  In addition, 2 locals joined us for all or part of the trip throughout the country.  Overall the group was the perfect size, not only for the bus we used, but to fit around the circular Chinese-style tables we used for almost every meal.

 

We arrived very early in the morning the first day and drove south from the airport to HuiSun Forest Station located in the central highlands East of Taichung.  Almost immediately we saw the endemic Formosan Magpie (or Taiwan Blue Magpie) – an auspicious beginning because we were told that this can be quite a difficult bird to locate.  During two days of birding in the forest, we also saw the endemic Swinhoe’s Blue Pheasant as well as Malayan Night-Heron, Yellow-throated Minivet, White-bellied Yuhina, Gray Treepie, Chinese Bamboo-Partridge, and Gray-headed Pygmy Woodpecker. 

Thereafter we continued further east into the mountains, stopping at Ao Wan Da National Forest Recreation Area and reaching Taroko National Park for a 2 day stay at an altitude of 2300 meters where it was decidedly cool at night.  Birding at this altitude and reaching a high point at Mt. Hehuanshan of 2700 meters produced a bonanza 6 new endemic species for us: Taiwan Yuhina, Taiwan Tit (or Yellow Tit), White-eared Sibia, Taiwan Barwing, White-whiskered Laughingthrush, & Steere’s Liocichla.  We also saw many other noteworthy species, including Plumbeous Water Redstart, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Collared Bush-Robin, Ashy Wood-Pigeon, Vivid Niltava, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, and the stunning Siberian Rubythroat.

Returning to the lowlands the following day, we stopped in Lukang, the second oldest city in Taiwan, where we toured the Matzu Temple and enjoyed the delicious local specialty for lunch: oysters, including oyster soup, fried oysters & oyster pancakes.  Thereafter, we birded at the nearby Hambau Wetlands, a major habitat in the world for Saunder’s Gull. 

We continued south, birding along the west coast of Taiwan, spending a night each in Douliou and Tainan.  A highlight in this region is the Nanying National Scenic Area at the Tsengwen River estuary.  This is the primary wintering ground for the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill.  An attractive viewing platform is provided here and we were able to scope hundreds of the Black-faced Spoonbills, as well as a variety of other shorebirds. 

The Kwangtien Wetland is also located not far from Tainan and it is here that a conservation area has been established for beautiful Pheasant-tailed Jacana.  They prefer the water chestnut farms and wetlands of this region and several viewing platforms are provided so birders can observe them.

To see the endemic Styan’s Bulbul (or Taiwan Bulbul) it is necessary to travel south, for this species is not found in the northern or western part of the island.  And, indeed, we easily found the bird just outside our hotel in Kenting, which lies at the southern tip of the island. 

The impressive Kenting National Park is located here and is well laid out, containing many amenities for the visitor.  Longluantan Nature Center at the park is the nicest I have seen with several exhibits and displays, a gift shop, a small theater and an indoor viewing area containing some 8 mounted scopes of high-quality.  While in Kenting National Park we were happy to locate the elusive Hwamei, as well as Red-tailed Brown Shrike, Richard’s Pipit, Blue Rock-Thrush, and Black-naped Oriole.

Overall it was a highly successful trip.  We managed to see 12 of the 15 endemic species, and with a bit of luck might have seen 2 more.  Altogether I had about 50 “lifers.”  The accommodations were all of good quality, or better, and the food was consistently outstanding.

White-eared Sibia

Formosan Magpie