Birding in Taiwan
One might view birding as an old man’s hobby. Wealthy and able to travel in retirement, some sort of minimal stress activity is needed to keep sharp and keep life exciting. This is the old stereotype of a hardcore bird watcher. Things change, however, and birding in Taiwan has opened up to a whole new audience. Younger people are getting more excited about Taiwan’s wildlife and outdoors, which is why birding in Taiwan is the perfect activity for all people. From casual birding to more hardcore birdwatching, Taiwan is a perfectly accessible country to do so. The country is on record for having over 80 endemic subspecies and species of avifauna, found in the forests, alpine mountains, wetlands and city parks throughout the island country.
What is Needed for Birding in Taiwan
Birding in Taiwan, and really the world, is so well received and loved because of accessibility. Minimal equipment is needed for birdwatching, really if you have a pair of working eyes (or just one!) you can watch birds in all their glory. If you want to step it up just a little, you only need a pair of binoculars, a field guide you like, and maybe a camera if you want to also work on your bird photography. However, beyond that, there are pieces of equipment that will absolutely elevate your birding experience. Let’s take a look at what equipment is needed for birding in Taiwan.
As stated above, to really up your birdwatching game, a good pair of binoculars is necessary. Picking the ideal pair of binoculars can be both exciting and pretty overwhelming. Prices vary greatly amongst an abundance of brands. A good pair of binoculars will set you back anywhere from $100 to $2,500. If you’re new to birding in Taiwan, a pair on the cheaper end of the spectrum will do just fine.
- Be sure to test them out, make sure the weight feels good on your neck.
- The image should be brighter, not darker than what you see with your eyes.
- In Taiwan, a waterproof pair is ideal.
As you may have guessed, a monocular is a single lens system. You may ask, why get a monocular when I can get binoculars? Well, good point. But, there are some nice applications for monoculars, especially when it comes to birding. For one, monoculars are more lightweight, and easier to carry if you plan to do some hiking while bird watching in Taiwan. Also, some have photograph functions, and can attach to your smartphone! If you’re looking for the best monoculars, have a look here.
This is important if you wish to get to another level of birding in Taiwan. Field Guides offer important information for each species of bird documented in the region, whether passerine or domestic species. Field Guides for birding will help you identify any bird you come across, with a wealth of information on every species. For Taiwan, there are a handful of options, from less in depth, easier to carry pamphlets, to the incredibly informative Field Guide to the Birds of Taiwan book.
Having a camera is definitely not necessary for birding in Taiwan. In fact, it may take you out of the moment. However, having a camera for birding in Taiwan can also elevate your experience! If you are unaware of the species, taking a photo to check later is always helpful, as birds can fly away before getting a good look. Cameras, and the lenses required for bird photography, are expensive. Realistically a lens with 200mm zoom is the bare minimum. Oftentimes bird photographers will have a lens 400mm and above. There are first and second hand shops in Taipei, as well as highly reputable online shops.
This is far from essential, but sometimes while birding in Taiwan, you are posted nearby a nest, waiting for a Taiwan Barbet to emerge from it’s hole in the tree. So for extra casual, some say “slow” birdwatching, a small, comfortable camping chair is a good idea.
Where to Go Birding in Taiwan
For birding in Taiwan, there are many location options depending on your mode of transportation, interest, and desire to travel. We can break them down in to some easy categories such as City Parks, Wetlands, and Mountain Recreation Areas.
A great place to start for beginners is a large city park. In Taipei, Da’an Park is a fantastic place to spot a large variety of species. Oftentimes groups of birdwatchers can be found in their chairs, telephoto lens in place, waiting for the Taiwan Barbets to come out of their hole in the tree. The Taipei Botanical Gardens is another place for casual walking and birding. Wulai, on the outskirts of Taipei is a great place for a variety of birds.
There are many wetlands along the west coast of Taiwan, with nice walkways and ample opportunities to birdwatch. Guandu Nature Park is a wonderful area for wetland birds as well as broadleaf forest species.
Moving south, in Chiayi there are the Baodi Wetlands and Aogu Wetlands. Aogu Wetlands is a gigantic reforestation project, reforesting land once used by Taiwan Sugar Corporation.
Mountain Recreation Areas
The best opportunity to spot the majority of Taiwan’s endemic species is by going to Taiwan’s mid elevation and high elevation recreation areas. Daxueshan offers a high chance of spotting the Swinhoe’s Pheasant and the Mikado Pheasant right along the road.
Yushan National Park has roughly 200 native species of bird inside the park alone, and is overall a wonderful trip for birding in Taiwan or hiking Taiwan’s tallest peak!
What Birds Can I Find in Taiwan?
To note, there are 674 species of birds documented in Taiwan. 29 endemics and 55 endemic subspecies. We will list a handful of endemic species and common birds found across the island of Taiwan.
The Mikado Pheasant (Syrmaticus mikado) is an endemic bird to Taiwan’s mountainous regions. The Mikado Pheasant is an unofficial national bird of Taiwan, along with a couple others on our list below, as it is shown on the $1,000 New Taiwan Dollar bill. Since the Mikado Pheasant inhabits high mountain regions, from 2,000 meters elevation to 3,200, casual birding encounters aren’t as easy to come by, however while driving along the high mountain roads there is a good chance to come across one.
One of the other unofficial birds of Taiwan is the Swinhoe’s Pheasant (Lophura swinhoii), because its colors resemble the flag of Taiwan. The Swinhoe’s Pheasant is named after explorer and naturalist Robert Swinhoe, and can be spotted in mountainous broadleaf forests, in Central Taiwan, up to 2,300 meters elevation.
The endemic Taiwan Barbet (Psilopogon nuchalis), or “Five Colored Bird,” is one you are guaranteed to hear in parks and forests across Taiwan. Their distinct call, took took toooooook, echoes from the treetops. The Taiwan Barbet can be found in forests up to 2,800 meters elevation.
Formosan Blue Magpie
The Formosan Blue Magpie (Urocissa caerulea) is the third and final unofficial national bird of Taiwan. It is an endemic bird in the crow family. The Taiwan Blue Magpie is common in broadleaf forests from 300 to 1200 meters elevation. They are not shy of people, and are often found in residential areas, parks, and are usually found in groups of three to four.
How to Be a Respectful Birdwatcher
As with all wildlife experiences, being respectful of the wildlife is incredibly important. Birding in Taiwan is no different, and there are some simple steps to take to ensure you are being a respectful birdwatcher.
Most importantly, do not touch the birds, and avoid disturbing them, and especially do not disturb a bird’s nest. The safety of the birds always comes first, and the most common way to disturb a bird is with excessive noise and movement. Relax, observe from a distance, and enjoy.
There are a few ways to ensure you keep a safe and respectful manner while birding in Taiwan. This may be a bit location dependent, but using a bird hide or a tower to view from a distance, relatively unseen, is a great way to watch birds. These will also keep you dry in rainy weather, or hidden from the sun in intense heat.
Another is to respect the law of the land. If you are birding on public or private property, be respectful of the environment around you and any laws or regulations in place to keep it as pristine as possible.
What Season is Best for Birdwatching in Taiwan?
You know what’s so fun about birding in Taiwan? The season never really ends! With each season comes various migratory species in different parts of the country. However, like most activities, some seasons are better than others for birding in Taiwan.
Spring is the most fruitful season, but autumn and winter can be just as good, with a documented 162 winter visitors in 2020. Summer in higher elevations is great as well, but the summer heat can be difficult to bear at subtropical and tropical elevations.
Various seasons offer opportunities to catch special migratory events. October for instance, in the morning, at the southern tip of Taiwan in Sheding Park, is a fantastic chance to witness the raptor migration.