With its huge array of habitats, Taiwan is a magnet for birds and birdwatchers alike. Over 500 species of birds have been recorded here, including 15 native species and 70 native sub-species. October to March is ideal for bird-watching and summer is when the globally endangered fairy pitta and Chinese crested tern breed. You may spot some of these breeds during a weeklong stay.
The best sites for bird-watching are high-altitude. Taichung’s Dasyueshan Mountain Recreation Area, Nantou’s Yushan National Park, and Mt. Beidawu in the south are excellent. Huisun Forest Reserve (Nantou), home to Taiwan’s largest old-growth forest, is also great, as is the Fuyuan Forest Recreation Area (Hualien) with 100 species, including the striking Maroon Oriole.
There are plenty of opportunities to spot native species even in Taipei. A hike in Yangmingshan or Taipei Botanical Gardens will put quite a few in your path, like the Taiwan barbet and the Formosan blue magpie. Guandu Nature Park is a haven for 200 species of shorebirds and waterfowl, including the Oriental turtle dove, scimitar babbler, and black-crowned night heron. Over 800 species of animals also visit this wetland park.
The sparsely populated east coast is a bird sanctuary, with close to 400 species. The East Rift Valley, the alluvial plain between two mountain ranges, hosts pheasants and rare predatory birds. In the south, Hengchun Peninsula is the number one site for predatory bird migration in East Asia. Tens of thousands of eagles glide over the peninsula and Kending National Park on a single day in October. The west-coast wetlands are essential stop-over areas for water birds. Tainan’s Black-Faced Spoonbill Reserve protects the endangered bird which winters in wetlands in Tainan and the southwest.
See www.birdingintaiwan.com for more.