It’s not just humans who find Taiwan’s cooler months exceptionally comfortable. Between October and April, millions of migrating birds reach the island via the East Asian–Australasian Flyway, drawn by plentiful food and lowland temperatures that seldom dip below 12 degrees Celsius.
One of the most interesting avian visitors is the endangered Black-faced spoonbill, of which there’s probably no more than 4,000 in the world. Birdwatchers both casual and fanatical adore this sizable white-feathered wader for the way in which it sweeps its unwieldy beak through shallow water in search of little fish, snails, shrimp and crabs.
Around 650 avian species have been recorded throughout Taiwan and its outlying archipelagos. More than 80 species and subspecies are endemic, meaning they’re found nowhere else on Earth. Perhaps the rarest is the critically-endangered Chinese crested tern, the rediscovery of which in 2000 electrified the birding world. Long thought extinct, thanks to protection efforts led by conservation officials it hangs on in tiny numbers in the remote Matsu Islands.
The variety of birds is astonishing considering Taiwan’s size. It has half the land area of Tasmania and only a little more than the US state of Maryland. However, it possesses a stunning range of landscapes, from coastal wetlands to frigid mountain peaks, creating exceptional biodiversity. Throughout the year, you’ll spot egrets and Black-winged stilts [pictured above left] in rice fields and around rivers. As soon as you move away from the crowded lowlands and into the hilly interior, you’ve a good chance of spotting Crested serpent eagles. Despite their name, they more often feed on lizards and small birds than snakes. Herons [pictured lower right] are also very common.
Even if you’ve no time to travel beyond Taipei, you can enjoy some birdwatching within the capital. Taipei Botanical Garden, a lovely oasis of greenery accessible by public transport, is a fine place to see – and get surprisingly close to – Malayan night herons, Japanese white-eyes and other attractive avians.
Contact Life of Taiwan today to arrange a tailor-made tour of Asia’s most fascinating destination. To read more about Taiwan’s natural wonders, take a look at Part 1 and Part 2 in this series of articles.