Birding Taiwan - May 2019

Published by Sandra Harding (sandraharding234 AT

Participants: Sandra Harding, Ron Dowling, Richard Chen and Schumi Wu


We booked a 12-day tour with Richard Chen aiming to see as many new birds as we could and in particular see the Fairy Pitta which is why we chose this time of year. The Fairy Pitta breeds in Taiwan at this time and should readily be seen. Both of us have birded widely and I was aiming to see about 30 new species.

Our flight was with China Airlines from Brisbane to Taipai City (Taoyuan International airport) on 29 April. While our trip commenced on 1 May we arrived early in the morning the previous day so visited the Taipei Botanical Gardens ourselves having booked in to the Hotel Midtown Richardson. Richard came to the hotel at 6 pm to let us know that Schumi Wu would be picking us up at 7 am. We had breakfast at the hotel. Finding a gluten free meal, the evening before was difficult and after wandering around several small lanes we had to rely on our map to get back to the hotel. The gardens were great for photographing Malayan Night Heron.

Costs in Australian dollars was around $17700 for two people.

Day 1 to Day 4

We went straight to Yongminshan to see the Taiwan Blue-Magpie which we did see even though the rain was keeping us close to the car and more views of Malayan Night Heron. There was a chance of Chinese Egret at Hsin Chu City where we could also look for waders. The Siangshan wetlands are Ramsar listed. It became very wet while we looked at waders and the Black-faced Spoonbill. I used Schumi’s big umbrella then we drove to Dasyuehan National Forest Recreation Area (Anmashan), seeing the Swinhoe’s Pheasant on the road on the way up to about 2000 m.

In the morning we left at 6 am and found a female Mikado Pheasant on the road continuing on to Siaosyueshan mountain station we found both male and female in the car park. Schumi made us coffee which was appreciated. Breakfast at 8:30 back at the restaurant at our hotel where the rain was torrential. We drove back to the Taiwan Partridge (Hill) spot (though tunnel) and we got the Partridge then back for lunch. We birded at Siaosyueshan where we waited for the rain to sop but it continued all afternoon. We had buffet meals at the restaurant and enjoyed some nice fish. The forest along the road had flowering (magnolia type) trees, with endemic hemlock trees from the time of the ice age. Ron and I coming from Brisbane, Australia were focused on the temperature displayed at the hotel. The mornings were 12.8 degs C and then the same in the evening with 99.9 % moisture. I had soft torfu with sweet chili sauce for breakfast. It was still raining and misty on day 3 but we had a good flock at the hotel and during the day caught up with Eurasian Nutcraker, Taiwan Yuhina, Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush, Taiwan Barwing, Steer’s Liocichla, White-eared Sibia, White-whiskered Laughingthrush, Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush, Grey-headed Bullfinch and Flamecrest. Owling was not happening given the weather.

On day 4 we were handed over to Richard and driver, Porqua Choi at a lunch stop on the way to Aowanda having been very lucky to see the Taiwan Bamboo-Partridge fly across the road and stand on a pipe on the side of the road. We had a great time with Schumi and highly recommend him. We arrived at Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area (2000 m) at 3:20 pm travelling through lots of tunnels and bridges. The rain held off but it was still overcast, only plain torfu for me for dinner.

Day 5 to Day 6

Another 5:30 start and I slept in so had 10 minutes to get ready. We did the firefly walk the night before which is a big event here and well organised. As we could not understand the Chinese language we just enjoyed the numerous fireflies. There was a hot water machine so I could make myself tea. The local tea is oolong tea. Conifers/fir trees and maple trees characterised the forest providing Yellow Tit. To get to the Fairy Pitta spot at Huben Ecovillage, Yunlin (200 m elevation) we drove through betel nut palm plantations. It was Ron’s birthday but he would have to wait until day 6 to see the Pitta and luckily the local guide was keen to take us out again the next morning. We spent the night at Douliu city where Ron saw several nightjars roosting on buildings. Dinner was at the sushi train. House swifts were nesting in the buildings.

After the disappointment on the previous day we were a bit worried about seeing the Pitta. We had been taken to ‘the’ spot and it was not there. A 5 am start got us to the forest about 6:30. A Pitta was calling close by but it did not come in to the tape so we would have to find a new territory. This took to 8:30 am when we found one calling in a valley and having worked our way through the forest to the call, we could not see it. Luckily the guide had good eyes and saw it way up in a tree. We could just make it out. From a bit different angle, we got a better view. That was a relief.

We had great views of a pair of Taiwan Scimitar Babblers even allowing us to take photos of them. It was also good to get clear views of Rufous-faced Warbler having become familiar with the call. The next spot was Alishan National Forest Recreation Area (2000 + m). We tried the lily flower soup and local mushrooms for dinner. At the site for the Golden Parrotbill we noticed a sign about not taping the birds and we were told that there were security cameras checking on people using tapes. We did not see the Parrotbill which would have been new for me but we had great views of two White-faced Flying Squirrels.

Day 7 to Day 8

A cold front had come through from the arctic promising more rain and planes were not going to Lanyu Island. Richard asked us if we wanted to change plans and go north rather than to Lanyu. We were keen to keep to the itinerary given that we had birds there that we would not see elsewhere. In Kwanghua we stayed at Firefly Cottage where the owner has protected the forest from clearing and established a hide. The birds come into seed and we saw Swinhoe’s Pheasant, Taiwan Partridge, Taiwan Fulvetta and White-tailed Robin behaving like a fast shadow at the edge of clearing. Birding along the road was successful for the Rusty Laughingthrush. After dinner we tried the homemade wine from a tree grape in their garden. It was what we called jojoba and it grew back in Brisbane. The family was very welcoming.

The rain was consistent and the question in our minds was whether it would clear enough over the next few days. Lunch comprised 10 different dishes shared between the four of us including local fern/greens cooked is sesame oil and chicken in tea-tree oil. Having looked at the usual spots for Black-necklaced Scimitar Babbler we drove about 6 hours on the highway south to Fengkang then north to Taitung City. In Taitung lunches sell out at 12 pm so you have to make sure you get there while there is still food in the buffet.

Day 9 to Day 12

At Taitung Forest Park we located the Taiwan Hwamei, Styan’s Bulbul and Common Pheasant and was surprised to see a Little Curlew feeding on the grass. We saw Zebra Dove in town. After checking out at 11 am we took our flight to Lanyu at 2 pm so it was all okay, our flight was going ahead. It is a pretty island with mostly a rocky shoreline. We had upstairs rooms in a small hotel in the village. I had eggs and rice for dinner while Ron had flying fish which was not gluten free. We tried some local ginseng flavoured liquor bought at the local shop. There were Oriental Pratincole on the airfield. In front of our hotel was a good spot for waders where water was seeping onto the beach.

On Lanyu we had perfect weather which was a change and it was nice to be next to the sea. The coastal vegetation at the base of central mountains was accessed by walking along paths through the farm lands. We had no trouble finding the Whistling Green Pigeon, Philippine Cuckoo Dove, Brown-eared Bulbul and Lowland White-eye. It was good to see the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher. The Lanyu Scops-Owl alluded us even though it was calling nearby and we looked for it day and night. Our list included Lesser Coucal, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Blue Rock-Thrush and Daurian Starling. The flight back was at 10:50 am and we drove to the Sialian Coffee B & B in Hualien arriving at 5:15 pm. Our stay here included a tour of the village of Taroko, learning about the indigenous population, making a traditional necklace with natural materials and hearing about the history of the owners. We had homemade mulberry and rosella jam at breakfast.

In Taroko National Park we drove up Mt Hehuan to the pass at 3250 m looking for the Alpine Accentor with no luck but the Taiwan (Vinaceous) Rosefinches were close enough to photograph. The park is very pretty with gorges and winding roads. Continuing on to Cingjing (1200m), where we had one night we could still feel the altitude. The Thai/Burmese meal that night reflected the population here, who are descended from Chinese soldiers left behind in Taiwan. Another memorable meal I had a few times during the trip was oyster omelette. We finally caught up with the Black-necklaced Scimitar-Babbler in Cingjing and in the afternoon, we stopped to look for the Taiwan Cupwing (Wren-Babbler) and had a great view which was a nice final new bird for me.

The Highway service centres are amazing being the size of a shopping centre here in Australia but do not cater for coeliacs. We had another visit to Siangshan to look for the Chinese Egret and Ron was hopeful we had it. Driving back to Wulai was a great effort for Porqua, our driver who was most helpful during the trip by taking our photos at all the notable sites. It was easy birding in Taiwan as you could leave bags in the car with no risk. Security cameras are everywhere even in cars. The hot springs at our hotel (Mini Valley) in Wulai provided a nice bath prior to going to the airport on Sunday. Before we left we looked for the Chestnut-bellied Tit and I glimpsed it in flight but did not get enough detail. Richard checked our flights and we were no longer going straight to Brisbane but via Sydney, arriving home in the afternoon on 13 May.

Using IOC 2018 taxonomy I got 34 new birds and a trip list of 138 species.

Animals: Wild goat, Muntjac (Hawthorn), Macaques, Squirrels

Species Lists

Taiwan Partridge - Arborophila crudigularis
Taiwan Bamboo - Partridge Bambusicola sonorivox
Swinhoe's Pheasant - Lophura swinhoii
Mikado Pheasant - Syrmaticus mikado
Common Pheasant - Phasianus colchicus
Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
Black-faced Spoonbill - Platalea minor
Yellow Bittern - Ixobrychus sinensis
Malayan Night Heron - Gorsachius melanolophus
Black-crowned Night Heron - Nycticorax nycticorax
Western Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
Grey Heron - Ardea cinerea
Great Egret - Ardea alba
Intermediate Egret - Ardea intermedia
Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
Pacific Reef Heron - Egretta sacra
Black-winged Kite - Elanus caeruleus
Crested Serpent Eagle - Spilornis cheela
Mountain Hawk-Eagle - Nisaetus nipalensis
Crested Goshawk - Accipiter trivirgatus
Besra - Accipiter virgatus
Black Kite - Milvus migrans
White-breasted Waterhen - Amaurornis phoenicurus
Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
Pacific Golden Plover - Pluvialis fulva
Grey Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
Little Ringed Plover -Charadrius dubius
Kentish Plover - Charadrius alexandrinus
Lesser Sand Plover - Charadrius mongolus
Little Curlew - Numenius minutus
Bar-tailed Godwit - Limosa lapponica
Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres
Broad-billed Sandpiper - Calidris falcinellus
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper - Calidris acuminata
Curlew Sandpiper - Calidris ferruginea
Long-toed Stint - Calidris subminuta
Red-necked Stint - Calidris ruficollis
Terek Sandpiper - Xenus cinereus
Common Sandpiper - Actitis hypoleucos
Grey-tailed Tattler - Tringa brevipes
Common Redshank - Tringa totanus
Marsh Sandpiper - Tringa stagnatilis
Wood Sandpiper - Tringa glareola
Common Greenshank - Tringa nebularia
Oriental Pratincole - Glareola maldivarum
Whiskered Tern - Chlidonias hybrida
White-winged Tern - Chlidonias leucopterus
Rock Dove - Columba livia
Ashy Wood Pigeon - Columba pulchricollis
Oriental Turtle Dove - Streptopelia orientalis
Red Turtle Dove - Streptopelia tranquebarica
Spotted Dove - Spilopelia chinensis
Philippine Cuckoo-Dove - Macropygia tenuirostris
Common Emerald Dove - Chalcophaps indica
White-bellied Green Pigeon - Treron sieboldii
Whistling Green Pigeon - Treron formosae
Lesser Coucal - Centropus bengalensis
Pacific Swift - Apus pacificus
House Swift - Apus nipalensis
Common Kingfisher - Alcedo atthis
Taiwan Barbet - Psilopogon nuchalis
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker - Yungipicus canicapillus
Fairy Pitta - Pitta nympha
Grey-chinned Minivet - Pericrocotus solaris
Brown Shrike - Lanius cristatus
Black-naped Oriole - Oriolus chinensis
Maroon Oriole - Oriolus traillii
Black Drongo - Dicrurus macrocercus
Bronzed Drongo - Dicrurus aeneus
Black-naped Monarch - Hypothymis azurea
Japanese Paradise Flycatcher - Terpsiphone atrocaudata
Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
Taiwan Blue Magpie - Urocissa caerulea
Grey Treepie - Dendrocitta formosae
Spotted Nutcracker - Nucifraga caryocatactes
Large-billed Crow - Corvus macrorhynchos
Coal Tit - Periparus ater
Green-backed Tit - Parus monticolus
Yellow Tit - Machlolophus holsti
Collared Finchbill - Spizixos semitorques
Light-vented Bulbul - Pycnonotus sinensis
Styan's Bulbul - Pycnonotus taivanus
Black Bulbul - Hypsipetes leucocephalus
Brown-eared Bulbul - Hypsipetes amaurotis
Grey-throated Martin - Riparia chinensis
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Pacific Swallow - Hirundo tahitica
Asian House Martin - Delichon dasypus
Striated Swallow - Cecropis striolata
Taiwan Cupwing - Pnoepyga formosana
Rufous-faced Warbler - Abroscopus albogularis
Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler - Horornis acanthizoides
Black-throated Bushtit - Aegithalos concinnus
Taiwan Bush Warbler - Locustella alishanensis
Golden-headed Cisticola - Cisticola exilis
Plain Prinia - Prinia inornata
Black-necklaced Scimitar Babbler - Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis
Taiwan Scimitar Babbler - Pomatorhinus musicus
Rufous-capped Babbler - Stachyridopsis ruficeps
Dusky Fulvetta - Alcippe brunnea
Grey-cheeked Fulvetta - Alcippe morrisonia
Taiwan Hwamei - Garrulax taewanus
Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush - Garrulax ruficeps
Rusty Laughingthrush - Garrulax poecilorhynchus
White-whiskered Laughingthrush - Trochalopteron morrisonianum
Steere's Liocichla - Liocichla steerii
Taiwan Barwing - Actinodura morrisoniana
White-eared Sibia - Heterophasia auricularis
Taiwan Fulvetta - Fulvetta formosana
Taiwan - Yuhina brunneiceps
Japanese White-eye - Zosterops japonicus
Lowland White-eye - Zosterops meyeni
Flamecrest - Regulus goodfellowi
Eurasian Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes
Eurasian Nuthatch - Sitta europaea
Asian Glossy Starling - Aplonis panayensis
Crested Myna - Acridotheres cristatellus
Jungle Myna - Acridotheres fuscus
Common Myna - Acridotheres tristis
White-cheeked Starling - Spodiopsar cineraceus
Daurian Starling - Agropsar sturninus
White-rumped Shama - Copsychus malabaricus
Grey-streaked Flycatcher - Muscicapa griseisticta
Ferruginous Flycatcher - Muscicapa ferruginea
Vivid Niltava - Niltava vivida
White-tailed Robin - Myiomela leucura
Collared Bush Robin - Tarsiger johnstoniae
Little Forktail - Enicurus scouleri
Taiwan Whistling Thrush - Myophonus insularis
Plumbeous Water Redstart -Phoenicurus fuliginosus
Blue Rock Thrush - Monticola solitarius
Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus
White-rumped Munia - Lonchura striata
Scaly-breasted Munia - Lonchura punctulata
Chestnut Munia - Lonchura atricapilla
Grey-headed Bullfinch - Pyrrhula erythaca
Taiwan Rosefinch - Carpodacus formosanus