Birds in Taiwan

 

 

Black bulbuls (Hypsipetes leucocephalus), drinking from a stream, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Calling Javan myna (Acridotheres javanicus), Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

A small party of various birds in the Aogu Wetlands: Common coots (Fulica atra), two little grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis), a sleeping male shoveler (Spatula clypeata), and a feeding female wigeon (Mareca penelope). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Male Swinhoe’s pheasant (Lophura swinhoii), Dasyueshan National Forest. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Light-vented bulbuls (Pycnonotus sinensis) take off after quenching their thirst in a stream, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Since 2004, I have spent a considerable time of each year in Taiwan, living in the city of Taichung. During this time, I have managed to get photographs of a large number of Taiwanese bird species.

As is obvious from the collection of pictures below, I prefer to depict birds in their natural surroundings, or studies of their behavior, rather than taking close-ups, which I find rather boring.

 

 

 

Accipitridae Hawks, eagles, and allies
A huge family, comprising about 66 genera and c. 250 species of small to large raptors, distributed worldwide, with the exception of Antarctica.

 

Accipiter Sparrowhawks, goshawks
Comprising 51 species, this is the largest genus in the family. In Europe, these birds are known as sparrowhawks (smaller species) or goshawks (larger species), in America simply as hawks. The generic name is the Latin word for hawks, derived from accipere (‘to grasp’), naturally alluding to the sharp talons.

 

Accipiter trivirgatus Crested goshawk
This raptor is widely distributed in the Indian Subcontinent, in the Himalaya, montane areas of eastern and southern India, and Sri Lanka, and from Southeast Asia eastwards to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards to the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Subspecies formosae is endemic to Taiwan and is the most widespread species of the genus in the island, found from the lowlands up to an altitude of c. 1,000 m. It lives in forests, shrubland, and larger city parks. When hunting, it sits motionless in a tree, scanning the surroundings for prey.

 

 

Taiwan 2018d
This female is sitting in a silk-cotton tree (Bombax ceiba) at the outskirts of Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This male was observed in a suburban area of Taichung. Males have an orange iris, whereas that of females is yellow. Note that the bird is wearing a blue ring. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Butastur
This genus contains only 4 species, usually called buzzards, or sometimes buzzard-eagles, the latter to distinguish them from typical buzzards of the genus Buteo.

Grey-faced buzzard is dealt with below. Rufous-winged buzzard (B. liventer) is found in Southeast Asia and Indonesia, whereas white-eyed buzzard (B. teesa) lives on the Indian Subcontinent, in south-western China, and in northern Indochina. The fourth species, grasshopper buzzard (B. rufipennis), is mainly distributed in the Sahel zone of northern Africa, and is observed in winter in East Africa.

 

Butastur indicus Grey-faced buzzard
This medium-sized raptor breeds from Ussuriland in south-eastern Siberia southwards through north-eastern China to Korea and Japan, spending the winter in southern China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Taiwan lies on a major migration route for this species, and in October, thousands move south along the central mountains, whereas the northward movement takes place in March-April along the low mountains in the western part of the island. A few spend the winter on Lanyu Island.

 

 

Grey-faced buzzards on migration, soaring over their night roost, near Manzhou, southern Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Alcedinidae Kingfishers
Kingfishers constitute c. 114 species of small to medium-sized, often brilliantly coloured birds, characterized by having a large head, a long, sharp, pointed bill, and very short legs. As their name implies, most of these birds eat fish, although many species live away from water, eating mainly small invertebrates.

These birds are divided into three subfamilies: river kingfishers (Alcedininae), tree kingfishers (Halcyoninae), and water kingfishers (Cerylinae). One species of the former subfamily is presented below, whereas members of the other two subfamilies are dealt with on the page Animals: Himalayan animals.

 

Alcedo
A small genus of 7 species, all feeding almost exclusively on fish. 4 species are restricted to warmer parts of Asia, 2 to sub-Saharan Africa. The seventh species is presented below.

The generic name is the Latin word for kingfisher.

 

Alcedo atthis Common kingfisher
This bird has a very wide distribution, from western Europe across Asia to Sakhalin and Japan, and southwards to North Africa, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and New Guinea. The eastern subspecies bengalensis is fairly common in Taiwan, mainly in the lowland.

 

 

These kingfishers were both observed along drainage canals in Taichung. In the upper picture, the bird is sitting on a stick, which has been stuck into an outlet pipe. It seems that this stick is being used as a night roost for a heron, judging from the smudges of dung on the wall. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Alcippeidae Fulvettas
Recent genetic research has had the effect that the small fulvettas, which were previously placed in the family Timaliidae, have been transferred to four different families, 10 species to Alcippeidae, in which Alcippe is the sole genus. For some years, these species were lumped with ground-babblers in the family Pellorneidae.

A group of 8 fulvettas are now placed in the family Paradoxornithidae (see below), a group of 7 have been been moved to a new genus, Schoeniparus, in Pellorneidae, and the bush blackcap, previously called Lioptilus nigricapillus, has been transferred to the genus Sylvia in the family Sylviidae.

 

Alcippe morrisonia Grey-cheeked fulvetta
This small bird is endemic to Taiwan, where it is very common in forests at lower and medium altitudes.

An alternative name of this species is Morrison’s fulvetta, alluding to Mount Morrison, today called Yu Shan (‘Jade Mountain’), at 3952 m the highest mountain in the Far East. Originally, this mountain was named for Robert Morrison (1782-1834), a Scottish Protestant missionary, who worked in Macao, Guangdong, and the Malaccan Peninsula.

 

 

Grey-cheeked fulvettas, feeding in flowers of Taiwanese cherry (Prunus campanulata), Aowanda National Forest. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Anatidae Ducks, geese, and swans
At present, this large worldwide family contains 43 genera with about 146 species, of which 37 have been encountered in Taiwan.

 

Anas
Following genetic studies, this formerly large genus has been divided into 7 genera, including Spatula and Mareca. Today, the genus Anas contains 31 species. The generic name is the Latin word for duck.

 

Anas acuta Northern pintail
This duck, which was named due to its long, pointed tail, is a common winter visitor to Taiwan. It breeds across the northern hemisphere, avoiding avoids the harshest areas of the Arctic. It is found from Iceland, Norway, and Denmark eastwards to the Pacific, and also from Alaska and Canada southwards to central United States. In central and eastern Europe, and in Turkey, it is a rare breeding bird.

The winter months are spent in the southern half of North America, in Central America and the Caribbean, in the major part of Europe and the Middle East, in northern and eastern Africa, and in the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, southern China, Taiwan, and the northern Philippines.

 

 

Northern pintail, males and females, Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Anas zonorhyncha Chinese spot-billed duck
This species has a patchy distribution in Taiwan and is nowhere abundant. Formerly, it was regarded as a race of the Indian spot-billed duck (Anas poecilorhyncha). It is distributed from south-eastern Siberia southwards through Mongolia and China to Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, and thence eastwards to Japan and Taiwan, whereas the Indian spot-billed duck is found in the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Research has shown that interbreeding rarely takes place where the two species overlap.

Both were named for the yellow point of the otherwise black bill.

 

 

Chinese spot-billed ducks, Zhu’an Wetlands, near Yilan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This bird is taking off from a fish pond in the Zhu’an Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Mareca Wigeons and allies
A small genus of 5 species, comprising 3 species of wigeon, the gadwall (M. strepera), and the falcated teal (M. falcata). Previously, they were all included in the genus Anas. The generic name is from a Brazilian-Portuguese word, marréco, meaning ‘small duck’.

 

Mareca penelope Eurasian wigeon
In breeding plumage, the male Eurasian wigeon is a very pretty bird, whereas the female is a uniform pale brown, with darker wings and whitish belly.

It breeds in Temperate Eurasia, from Iceland and Scotland eastwards to the Pacific, whereas the wintering quarters encompass the major part of Europe and the Middle East, northern and eastern Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, southern China, Taiwan, and the northern Philippines. In North America, it is a regular winter visitor to the Pacific lowlands, from Canada southwards to California. Small numbers are also seen elsewhere in the continent. In Taiwan, it is a common winter visitor.

This species was named Anas penelope by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), also called Carl von Linné, in 1758. He may have referred to Penelope, who, in Homer’s Odyssey, was the wife of Odysseus. She was known for her fidelity to him, while he was away on his journeys. However, as most ducks are certainly not known for their fidelity, this connection is hard to discover. Another possible explanation may be the Proto-Greek word penelops, mentioned as ‘some kind of bird’ by Greek grammarian Hesychius of Alexandria, who, probably in the 5th or 6th century A.D., compiled a lexicon of unusual and obscure Greek words. (Source: R. Beekes 2009. Etymological dictionary of Greek. Brill)

The pictures below are all from the Aogu Wetlands.

 

 

Swimming wigeons, drawing streaks on the surface. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Sleeping ducks, in front six wigeons, five males and one female, in the background northern shovelers (Spatula clypeata). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Feeding pair of wigeon. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Swimming male. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Dabbling ducks often form pairs in the wintering area, after which the pair will migrate to the breeding area together. Already in the wintering area, the pair may show territorial behaviour, as seen from the pictures below.

 

 

(Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Spatula Shovelers and allies
The ducks of this genus, comprising 10 species of shovelers and teals, were formerly placed in the genus Anas. The genus Spatula had originally been proposed in 1822 by German zoologist and lawyer Friedrich Boie (1789-1870), who described many new species and several new genera of birds. He and his brother Heinrich also described about 50 new species of reptiles.

The generic name is the Latin word for ‘spoon’ or ‘spatula’, alluding to the spatulate bill of shovelers.

 

Spatula clypeata Northern shoveler
This species has more or less the same breeding and wintering distribution as the pintail (above). It is an abundant winter visitor to Taiwan.

 

The following 3 pictures show a large congregation of resting northern shovelers in the Aogu Wetlands. In the uppermost picture, Eurasian wigeon (Mareca penelope), great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), grey heron (Ardea cinerea), and little egret (Egretta garzetta) are also seen, and in the centre picture a single common teal (Anas crecca).

 

 

(Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Feeding male shovelers, Aogu Wetlands. A common coot (Fulica atra) is seen in the background. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

In the pictures below, likewise from the Aogu Wetlands, two female shovelers are feeding by swimming in circles, whereby they create an upwards flow of water and then snap whatever small animals may appear. This way of feeding is well-known among phalaropes (Phalaropus). The bird in the background in the upper picture is a little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis).

 

 

(Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Apodidae Swifts
This family contains about 19 genera and 113 species of fast-flying birds, which catch insects in the air. They are superficially similar to swallows, but are not even distantly related to them, the resemblance being a result of convergent evolution due to similar life styles.

 

Apus Typical swifts
A genus with 20 species, distributed in Eurasia and Africa, and on islands in the Pacific Ocean. The generic name is the Latin word for swifts, derived from Ancient Greek a (‘without’) and pous (‘foot’). Due to the tiny, weak legs of these birds, the Ancients believed that they were a type of swallow without feet.

 

Apus nipalensis House swift
Previously, it was thought that the most common swift of East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia was a subspecies of the widespread little swift (Apus affinis).

Today, however, birds from Nepal eastwards to Japan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia, are regarded as a separate species, the house swift. It is very common in Taiwan, often breeding in dense colonies on high-rise buildings.

 

 

House swift colony on a building in the city of Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Ardeidae Herons, egrets, and bitterns
Herons comprise about 64 species of long-legged and long-beaked, fish-eating water birds, distributed almost worldwide. Some species are called egrets, mainly birds with ornate plumes during the breeding season, whereas birds of the genera Botaurus, Ixobrychus, and Zebrilus are called bitterns.

About 21 species have been encountered in Taiwan.

 

Ardea
A genus with about 13 species of mainly large herons, distributed almost worldwide. The generic name is the classical Latin word for herons.

 

Ardea alba Great white egret
This large heron has an almost global distribution, found in Europe, Africa, most of Asia, Australia, and the Americas. Traditionally, it was placed in the genus Egretta (below), mainly due to its white plumage. Some authorities have also placed it in a separate genus, Casmerodius. However, it shows many affinities to large herons in the genus Ardea.

Subspecies modesta is common in the lowlands of Taiwan.

 

 

Large congregation of great white egrets, a few little egrets (Egretta garzetta), and a single grey heron (Ardea cinerea), Budai Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2008
Numerous great white egrets and little egrets on the lookout for fish along a canal, Qigu Wetlands, near Tainan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Great white egret, Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ardea cinerea Grey heron
The grey heron is distributed in the major part of Eurasia, Africa, and Madagascar. It is common in Taiwan, but not as numerous as great white egret and little egret. In America, it is replaced by the similar, slightly larger great blue heron (A. herodias).

Other pictures, depicting the grey heron, may be seen on the pages Fishing, and Animals: Urban animal life, whereas the great blue heron is presented on the page In praise of the colour blue.

 

 

Grey heron, resting on a rock in the Fazi River, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

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Taiwan 2018
Grey heron, feeding in the Han River, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This bird takes off from the Suei Wei River, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Grey heron, Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Grey heron in flight, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ardea intermedia Yellow-billed egret, intermediate egret
This bird resembles a smaller edition of the great white egret. It also has a very wide distribution, found in sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, East and Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and Australia. In East Asia, it breeds as far north as South Korea and southern Japan. These northern birds are migratory, spending the winter in Taiwan, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia.

The yellow-billed egret is a fairly common winter visitor to Taiwan, but tends to be overlooked due to its similarity to great white egret.

Some authorities place this bird in a separate genus, Mesophoyx.

 

 

Yellow-billed egret, Sandiao Cape, north-eastern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Bubulcus ibis Cattle egret
This species, the sole member of the genus, is very widely distributed, found in most warmer areas of the world, only avoiding rain forests and desert areas. As its name implies, it often follows cattle to snap grasshoppers and other small animals, flushed by the grazers. It is also often observed in newly ploughed fields.

Originally, this bird was native to southern Spain and Portugal, the northern half of Africa, and across the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Japan, and thence southwards to northern and eastern Australia. In the late 1800s, it began expanding its range into southern Africa, and in 1877 it was observed in northern South America, having apparently flown across the Atlantic Ocean. By the 1930s, it had become established as a breeding bird in this area, rapidly spreading to North America, where it is now found as far north as southern Canada. In later years, it has also spread northwards in Europe.

Today, some authorities split the cattle egret into two species, the western (B. ibis) and the eastern (B. coromandus). The latter is a common resident in the lowlands of Taiwan.

 

 

This cattle egret, which is in breeding plumage, is feeding in grass along a pond, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This bird, in the pure white winter plumage, is feeding on a lawn, Nanhua Ecological Park, near Yujing, south-western Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018
Taiwan 2018
These birds are following a tractor, ploughing a rice field at the outskirts of Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Cattle egrets, feeding in a newly harvested rice field at the outskirts of Taichung, together with Javan mynas (Acridotheres javanicus) and a single crested myna (A. cristatellus, in front, left). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Egretta Egrets
A genus of 12 medium-sized herons, the major part breeding in warmer areas around the globe. Most members have black legs with bright yellow toes, and many develop ornate plumes during the breeding season.

The generic name is derived from Provençal French aigrette, a diminutive of aigron (‘heron’).

 

Egretta garzetta Little egret
The little egret is found in most tropical and subtropical areas of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. In 1994, a small population was established on the Caribbean island Barbados, and the species has since spread to other Caribbean islands and to the Atlantic coast of the United States. It is very common in the lowlands of Taiwan.

The specific name is the Italian name for this bird.

A near relative, the snowy egret (E. thula), is presented on the page In praise of the colour yellow.

 

 

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Taiwan 2018
Taiwan 2018c
The little egret has black legs with bright yellow toes. These birds were photographed in the city of Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Standing on a house roof in Taichung, this little egret is preening its plumes. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2015
Little egrets, feeding in a drainage canal, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This picture shows a pair of little egrets in courtship display. One bird, presumably the male, walks around with its bill stretched towards the sky, while the other bird, presumably the female, puffs up the plumes on its back. – Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This little egret is resting on a wire in Taichung. Not a very comfortable place to rest for a bird with long legs! (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Gorsachius Night-herons
A small genus of 4 species of small herons, 3 of which are found in warmer parts of Asia, one in sub-Saharan Africa. They were previously placed in the genus Nycticorax (below).

 

Gorsachius melanolophus Malayan night-heron
This small species mainly breeds in Southeast Asia and the Philippines, with northern outposts in north-eastern India and Taiwan. The majority of the population is resident, but Indian birds, as well as some northern birds of Southeast Asia, spend the winter in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The main habitats of this bird are forests and marshy areas, but in Taiwan, where it is common, it is often found in city parks, where it can become remarkably confiding.

 

The upper picture below shows a pair of Malayan night-herons on a lawn in a park in the city of Taichung. The bird to the left is probably a male in breeding plumage, showing deep blue lores and a long crest, whereas the other bird presumably is a female, which is not yet sexually mature, or has retained the immature plumage – a character known from females of this species. (Source: Chuan-Chiung Chang: Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus breeding in immature plumage, Forktail 16 (2000), 167-168)

 

 

Taiwan 2017a
(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Malayan night-heron in breeding plumage, feeding in a drainage canal, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Front view of a female Malayan night-heron, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Tyrkiet 2018e
This Malayan night-heron is walking down a road in Taichung, moving its breast-feathers from one side to another. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This bird is sitting on its day-roost, a garden wall in Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Immature Malayan night-heron, feeding on a trail in a city park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This immature bird was feeding along a drainage canal in Tunghai University Park, Taichung, when a dragonfly passed close by. Immediately, the bird flashed its wings to reveal a black, white and red ‘eye’ pattern – perhaps a means to scare away enemies? (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Ixobrychus Small bitterns
A genus of 9 species of diminutive herons, distributed almost worldwide. Most species are Asian, but North America, South America, Eurasia, and Australasia are all home to a single species. The tropical species are largely resident, but the North American and Eurasian species are partially migratory. A tenth species, the New Zealand bittern (I. novaezelandiae), has gone extinct.

These birds mainly breed in reedbeds, and their secretive way of life often makes it difficult to observe them.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek ixias, a reed-like plant, and brukhomai (‘to bellow’), the latter alluding to their harsh call.

 

Ixobrychus cinnamomeus Cinnamon bittern
This species, also called chestnut bittern, breeds in reed beds, from eastern India and Sri Lanka eastwards to eastern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia and the Philippines to Indonesia. In the major part of this large distribution area, birds are resident, but the northernmost Chinese populations are migratory.

 

 

Male cinnamon bittern, Aogu Wetlands. The female has a more brownish plumage in the parts, where the male is cinnamon-coloured. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Ixobrychus sinensis Yellow bittern
This bird breeds from the northern part of the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Taiwan, and from Ussuriland and Sakhalin in south-eastern Siberia southwards through China, Japan, and Southeast Asia to Sumatra, Borneo, and the Philippines. Disjunct breeding also takes place on islands east of New Guinea, and in Sri Lanka, Oman, and the Seychelles. The species is mainly resident, but north-eastern populations are migratory. It is a fairly common resident in the lowlands of Taiwan.

 

 

Female yellow bittern, Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Mesophoyx, see Ardea intermedia.

 

 

 

 

Nycticorax Night-herons
Today, this genus contains only 2 species, the black-crowned night-heron (below), which is distributed almost worldwide in warmer areas, and the Nankeen, or rufous, night-heron (N. caledonicus), which is distributed in Australia, New Zealand, Java, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Palau, and the Solomon and Caroline Islands.

In historic times, 4 other species of the genus, which were all restricted to small islands in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, have gone extinct.

The generic name is derived from the Greek nyktos (‘night’) and korax (‘raven’), referring to the mainly nocturnal feeding habits of these birds, and to their hoarse, raven-like call.

 

Nycticorax nycticorax Black-crowned night-heron
This smallish heron is found in most warmer parts of the world, also in Taiwan, where it is a common breeding bird in the lowlands.

 

 

Adult black-crowned night-herons, and a single immature bird, sitting in mangrove, resembling nodes in a music book, Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

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Taiwan 2015
In Taiwan, black-crowned night-herons are often confiding, as these two birds, feeding in park ponds in the city of Taichung. Note the long, white, nuptial plumes on the bird in the lower picture. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Adult bird on a house roof, Taichung. The rising sun is illuminating the nuptial plume. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This adult bird is sleeping in mangrove in the Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Black-crowned night-herons on the lookout for fish, Han River, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Immature bird, taking off from the edge of a pond, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This immature bird is feeding in a drainage canal in Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Find the night-heron! – Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Campephagidae Cuckooshrikes and allies
Members of this family are small to medium-sized passerines, found in subtropical and tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and New Guinea. The family has about 93 species, divided into 11 genera.

These birds are not closely related to cuckoos or shrikes. The name may refer to the grey colour of many cuckooshrikes, which makes them superficially resemble cuckoos.

 

Pericrocotus Minivets
A genus with about 15 species, found in forests from eastern Iran and Afghanistan eastwards across the Indian Subcontinent to China and Ussuriland in south-eastern Siberia, and thence southwards through Japan, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines to Indonesia.

Several of the species are very colourful, the males being predominantly red and black, the females yellow and black. Two species are shown on the page In praise of the colour orange.

 

Pericrocotus solaris Grey-chinned minivet
This bird is distributed from the Himalaya eastwards to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards to Cambodia and Vietnam. It lives in forests at altitudes between 1,000 and 2,000 m.

It was described in 1846 from Darjiling by English zoologist Edward Blyth (1810-1873), who worked as a curator of zoology at the museum of the Asiatic Society of India in Calcutta (today Kolkata).

 

 

Male grey-chinned minivet, taking off from a branch, Buluowan, Taroko Gorge. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Charadriidae Plovers and lapwings
This family of small to medium-sized waders comprise about 10 genera with about 65 species. They are distributed almost worldwide, the vast majority near wetlands.

 

Charadrius Ringed plovers, dotterels
These birds, comprising about 32 species of mainly small waders, are found throughout the world, usually in wetlands.

The generic name is the Latin word for a yellowish bird, mentioned in Biblia Vulgata, a Latin translation of the Bible from the late 4th Century. The word was derived from Ancient Greek kharadrios, a bird found in river valleys, from kharadra (‘ravine’).

 

Charadrius alexandrinus Kentish plover
This bird is widely distributed along shores of western and southern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East, South India and Sri Lanka, and East Asia, including China, Taiwan, Japan, and Sakhalin Island. It also breeds inland around saline lakes in eastern Europe and large parts of Central Asia. Southern populations are resident, whereas northern birds migrate to warmer parts, including northern Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia.

In former days, the North American snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) and the white-faced plover (Charadrius dealbatus), which breeds along shores of southern China and Vietnam, were regarded as subspecies of Kentish plover. However, since 2011, these birds have been declared separate species.

 

 

Kentish plover, feeding on mudflats, Qigu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Charadrius dubius Little ringed plover
This species has an enormous distribution, breeding in most of Europe, and in the Middle East, Central Asia, China, Japan, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and New Guinea. Subspecies curonicus is resident in Taiwan.

The specific name means ‘doubtful’ in Latin, so named in 1776 by French naturalist and explorer Pierre Sonnerat (1748-1814), as he thought that the specimen, which he described the species from, might be a variant of the common ringed plover (C. hiaticula).

 

 

Taiwan 2018a
This little ringed plover was observed in an abandoned parking lot in the city of Taichung. As it was quite anxious of my presence, a pair may have attempted to breed there. However, a later visit to the place failed to show any birds, and presumably they had given up. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This bird was encountered at a construction site in Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Little ringed plovers, an adult (top) and an immature bird, feeding on an algae-covered mudflat in a drainage canal, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Little ringed plovers, an adult and two immature birds, resting on a concrete embankment in a drainage canal, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Pluvialis Golden plovers
Formerly, it was believed that there was only a single species of golden plover, P. apricaria, which was divided into three subspecies. However, these subspecies have since been upgraded to separate species, the Eurasian golden plover (P. apricaria), which breeds in tundra from Iceland eastwards to central Siberia, the Pacific golden plover (below), and the American golden plover (P. dominica), which breeds in the northernmost regions of North America.

The generic name is from the Latin pluvia (‘rain’). An old word said that when golden plovers flocked, it would mean imminent rain.

 

Pluvialis fulva Pacific golden plover
This species is found along the Siberian coast, from the Jamal Peninsula eastwards to the Chukotka Peninsula and extreme western Alaska.

 

 

The Pacific golden plover is a fairly common winter visitor to Taiwan, here observed in the Qigu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Cisticolidae Cisticolas, prinias, and allies
Members of this family of tiny passerines, comprising about 26 genera with c. 160 species, were formerly placed in the warbler family (Sylviidae), but have since been moved to a separate family.

 

Cisticola Cisticolas
A genus with about 50 species, almost all endemic to Africa, with one in Madagascar, a few in Asia, and one, the zitting cisticola (Cisticola juncidis), reaching southern Europe.

The genus was described by German naturalist Johann Jakob Kaup (1803-1873). The generic name is from kisthos, the Greek word for rockroses (Cistus), and the Latin colere (‘to dwell’). Presumably, Kaup observed the zitting cisticola among shrubs of this genus.

 

Cisticola exilis Golden-headed cisticola
This diminutive bird was named for its golden-yellow crown (which, however, may sometimes be whitish). Divided into twelve subspecies, it is distributed from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines to Australia. Subspecies volitans is endemic to western Taiwan, living in grassy areas along wetlands.

 

 

Male golden-headed cisticola, singing from a wire near the Fazi River, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Prinia Prinias
About 30 species of the long-tailed prinias, also known as wren-warblers, are distributed across Africa and Asia. The generic name is the Javan name for bar-winged prinia (P. familiaris).

 

Prinia inornata Plain prinia
The plain prinia is found in the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, China, and Taiwan, with an isolated population on the Indonesian island Java. Subspecies flavirostris is endemic to Taiwan, where it is very common in grassy areas of the lowland.

The specific name is from the Latin in– (‘not’) and ornatus (‘adorned’ or ‘decorated’), alluding to the plain plumage of this bird.

 

 

Plain prinia, sitting on a grass leaf, Fazi River, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This plain prinia is hopping around among stones in a dried-up stream, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This bird is scratching its head, Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This bird takes off from a species of pinkweed (Polygonum), growing along the Suei Wei River, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Prinia sonitans Chinese prinia
This bird was previously treated as a subspecies of the widespread yellow-bellied prinia (P. flaviventris), but it differs from that species in having mostly buff, rarely yellow, underparts, browner upperparts, and shorter bill. Its song is also different. Besides Taiwan, it is distributed in southern China and northern Vietnam. In Taiwan, it is rather common in the lowlands, especially near water, but is not as common as the plain prinia.

 

 

Chinese prinia, sitting on a dry bamboo stem, Zhu’an Wetlands, near Yilan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Chinese prinia, Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This picture from the Han River, Taichung, shows that Chinese prinia may occasionally have yellowish underparts. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Columbidae Pigeons and doves
A large family with about 50 genera and c. 345 species. The word pigeon generally denotes larger species, dove smaller species. These birds are found on all continents except Antarctica.

 

Spilopelia
Formerly, members of this genus were included in the genus Streptopelia (below), but studies on vocalization, together with genetic analyses, led to the conclusion, that 2 birds of that genus, the spotted dove (below) and the laughing dove (S. senegalensis), differed sufficiently from the other members of Streptopelia to constitute a separate genus. The laughing dove is presented on the page Animals: Urban animal life.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek spilos (‘spot’) and peleia (‘dove’), referring to the spots on the neck of the spotted dove.

 

Spilopelia chinensis Spotted dove
This pretty bird is also called pearl-necked dove, distinguished by the pearl-like white spots on black background, forming a semi-collar.

It is widely distributed in Asia, from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to China and Taiwan, and thence southwards through the Philippines and Southeast Asia to Indonesia. 5 subspecies have been described, of which the nominate chinensis is found in Taiwan, where it is one of the commonest birds.

Some authorities split this species into eastern spotted dove (S. chinensis) and western spotted dove (S. suratensis).

 

 

The spotted dove is very common in Taiwanese cities. In this picture, a pair is sitting on the rail of our 10th floor balcony, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Spotted dove in morning light, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This spotted dove is feeding on palm fruits, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Young spotted doves lack the black-and-white checkerboard pattern on the neck. This one was observed in Eluanbi Nature Park, Kenting National Park. In the lower picture, it is spreading its tail feathers. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Streptopelia Turtle doves
A genus of c. 13 species of small to medium-sized doves, most of which are found in Africa, with several species in tropical and subtropical Asia, one of which, the oriental turtle dove (below), is also found in temperate areas of Asia, whereas another, the collared dove (S. decaocto), has expanded its distribution area to the Middle East and the entire Europe. This expansion is described on the page Silhouettes.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek streptos, which literally means ‘twisted’, but in this connection ‘wearing a torque’ (a twisted necklace), alluding to the semi-collar of many members of the genus; and peleia (‘dove’).

Other species, which were formerly placed in this genus, have been moved to the genera Spilopelia (above) and Nesoenas.

 

Streptopelia orientalis Oriental turtle dove
This species is widely distributed, from the southern Ural Mountains, Kazakhstan, and Afghanistan eastwards to the Pacific Ocean, and from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards through Southeast Asia and China to Taiwan and Japan. It breeds in forests, along forest edges, and in parks and larger gardens.

In Taiwan, the doubtful race orii is common in the lower mountains, but rather scarce in the lowlands.

 

 

Oriental turtle doves, feeding among dead leaves, Aowanda National Forest. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This oriental turtle dove is searching for food in a parking lot, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This male oriental turtle dove is cooing, perched atop a pole in a park at the outskirts of Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Streptopelia tranquebarica Red turtle dove
This tiny dove is found from Pakistan eastwards to eastern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards to Southeast Asia and the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The eastern race humilis is common in the lowlands of Taiwan, especially in the south.

The male is quite distinct, having grey head, black collar on the hind neck, red wings, and reddish breast, which has given rise to the name of the species. The female is brownish, also with a black collar. The specific name means ‘from Tranquebar’, a former Danish colony on the east coast of South India, in present-day Tamil Nadu. Presumably, the type specimen of this species was collected here. – You may read about Tranquebar on the page Culture: Entrances.

 

 

This flock of red turtle doves is resting on a dead branch of a pine tree, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Male red turtle dove, likewise in Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Male (left) and female, Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Corvidae Crows and allies
This almost cosmopolitan family, which constitute the largest passerines, contains 24 genera with more than 120 species of ravens, crows, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs, nutcrackers, and others.

 

Corvus Ravens, crows, rooks
About 45 members of this genus occur in virtually all temperate areas of the globe, with the exception of South America. The name raven applies to the largest species, crow and rook to slightly smaller species. The generic name is Latin for ‘raven’. Members of this genus are among the most intelligent birds.

Previously, jackdaws were also placed in this genus. Following genetic research, they have been moved to a separate genus, Coloeus.

 

Corvus macrorhynchos Large-billed crow
In former days, this bird was called jungle crow, a name that also included two other crows, which are today treated as separate species, the Indian jungle crow (C. culminatus) and the eastern jungle crow (C. levaillantii).

Despite these splits, the large-billed crow still has a very wide distribution, found from Afghanistan across the Himalaya and Tibet to northern China, south-eastern Siberia, and Taiwan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia and the Philippines.

In the major part of this area, it is often encountered near human habitation, but not so in Taiwan, where it mainly lives in forests of moderate elevation.

 

 

Large-billed crows, sitting in a Taiwan sweetgum (Liquidambar formosana), Aowanda National Forest. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Dendrocitta Treepies
A small genus of long-tailed corvids, comprising 7 species, which are resident in tropical areas of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The generic name is derived from the Greek dendron (‘tree’), and kitta, which originally meant jay (Garrulus glandarius), but in this connection merely means ‘magpie’.

 

Dendrocitta formosae Grey treepie
This species, also called Himalayan treepie, is distributed in lower parts of the Himalaya, eastwards through montane areas of northern Indochina and southern China to Taiwan. In Taiwan, however, the nominate subspecies, formosae, lives almost down to sea level. In most areas, this bird is rather shy, but in Taiwan it has become accustomed to people, showing no fear at all.

 

 

Grey treepie, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. A gust of wind is ruffling its plumage. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This grey treepie in Tunghai University Park is investigating a leaf for insects. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

These treepies are feeding on seeds of Chinese tallow-tree (Triadica sebifera), Taichung. The gorgeous winter foliage of this tree is shown on the page Autumn. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This bird is sitting on a street lamp in Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2017
The grey treepie is so well-known in Taichung, that it has been depicted on manhole covers. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Nucifraga Nutcrackers
A small genus of 2 or 3 species. The spotted nutcracker (below) is widespread in Europe and Asia, with one subspecies, the Kashmir nutcracker, recognized by some authorities as a distinct species, N. multipunctata, found in the western part of the Himalaya. The third species, Clark’s nutcracker (N. columbiana), lives in western North America.

The most important food item for these birds are seeds of various pines (Pinus), which they break open with their powerful bill. This fact is reflected by the generic name, which is derived from the Latin nuci (‘nut’) and frango (‘to break’).

When pine nuts are abundant, they make caches of surplus seeds, storing as many as 30,000 in a single season. They are able to remember the location of as many as about 70% of their stash, even when buried in snow. They often store the nuts far away from where they were collected, and are thus important in re-establishing forests in logged or burned areas. (Source: D.F. Tomback 2016, in Why birds matter: avian ecological function and ecosystem services, edited by Sekercioglu, Wenny & Whelan, University of Chicago Press)

In regions without pine trees, seeds of spruce (Picea) and hazel (Corylus) form an important part of the diet.

 

Nucifraga caryocatactes Spotted nutcracker
This bird has a very wide distribution, from southern Norway eastwards in a broad belt across the Siberian taiga to Kamchatka, Korea, and Japan, and also in several montane areas of central Europe, in the Himalaya, in western and northern China, and in Taiwan.

The plumage of this bird is quite variable, and as many as 9 subspecies have been described. Subspecies owstoni is fairly common in coniferous forests in high regions of Taiwan.

The specific name has the same meaning as the generic name, but is derived from Ancient Greek karyon (‘nut’) and kataseio (‘to shatter’).

 

 

Taiwan spotted nutcracker, ssp. owstoni, Tataja, Yushan National Park. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Urocissa Blue magpies
This genus contains 5 species of gorgeously coloured birds, distributed in the Indian Subcontinent, Indochina, southern China, and Taiwan. One species is described below, whereas the yellow-billed blue magpie (Urocissa flavirostris) is presented on the page Animals: Himalayan animals, and the Sri Lanka blue magpie (U. ornata) on the page In praise of the colour blue.

These birds feed mainly on large insects and other invertebrates, and on various fruits, but are also notorious plunderers of eggs and young from smaller birds’ nests.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek oura (‘tail’) and kissa, which, originally, meant jay (Garrulus glandarius) in Greek, but in this connection merely means ‘magpie’, referring to their long tail.

 

Urocissa caerulea Taiwan blue magpie
This gorgeous bird was first collected by British biologist Robert Swinhoe (1836-1877) who, in 1860, became the first European consular representative to Taiwan. He discovered many new species, and four mammals and 15 birds are named after him. He called the Taiwan blue magpie ‘long-tailed mountain nymph’, from its old Chinese name 長尾山娘 (‘long-tailed mountain lady’). It is endemic to Taiwan, mainly living in broad-leaved forests at mid-elevations, between 300 and 1,200 m.

Naturally, this iconic bird is widely represented in Taiwanese folk art. Some examples are shown on the page Culture: Folk art of Taiwan.

 

 

Taiwan blue magpie, Aowanda National Forest. The birds in the lower picture are drinking water from a leaking water pipe. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area is justly proud of its blue magpies, as seen from this display board at a resting place along a hiking trail. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Dicaeidae Flowerpeckers
These tiny birds, encompassing 2 genera with about 44 species, feed mainly on nectar and fruits. They are found from the Indian Subcontinent and south-eastern parts of Asia southwards to Australia.

 

Dicaeum
This genus contains about 38 species, distributed from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards to Australia.

 

Dicaeum minullum Plain flowerpecker
As its name implies, the plumage of this bird is rather drab, being olive-brown on the back and wings, and pale yellowish or greyish on the underside. It is distributed from the Himalaya eastwards to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia. It was previously known as D. concolor.

 

 

Plain flowerpecker, feeding in a Taiwanese cherry flower (Prunus campanulata), Buluowan, Taroko Gorge. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Dicruridae Drongos
This family contains only a single genus, Dicrurus, with altogether 25 species, of which 4 have been observed in Taiwan. The generic name is from the Greek dikros (‘forked’) and oura (‘tail’), referring to the forked tail of these birds. The plumage of most species is black, often with a sheen.

Several species are excellent imitators, one example related on the page Quotes on Nature.

 

Dicrurus aeneus Bronzed drongo
This bird is distributed from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Sumatra and Borneo. It lives in broadleaved forests, mainly in lower mountains. In Taiwan, subspecies braunianus is found at slightly higher altitudes than the black drongo (below).

 

 

Bronzed drongo, Yushan National Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

These singing bronzed drongos were observed in Basian Shan National Forest. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Dicrurus macrocercus Black drongo
This is a common resident in tropical and some subtropical areas of Asia, from southern Iran through the Indian Subcontinent to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards to Indonesia. It has also been introduced to certain Pacific islands, where it constitutes a threat to native bird species. Subspecies harterti is very common in the lowlands of Taiwan, found in open areas, such as farmland and city parks.

The black drongo lives in open areas, where it catches flying insects from a prominent perch, such as an electric wire or a bare branch. As its name implies, the plumage of this species is jet-black, with very little sheen.

Previously, it was regarded as con-specific with the African fork-tailed drongo, which is today treated as a separate species, named D. adsimilis.

 

 

This black drongo is sitting in front of a blooming Taiwanese cherry tree (Prunus campanulata), Central Taiwan Science Park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2017b
This black drongo in Tunghai University Park, Taichung, has caught an insect. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018c
This bird takes off from a tree in a city park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Black drongos, calling at dawn, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

You don’t often see black drongos on the ground. This immature bird, with a brownish head and breast, was drinking in a drainage canal in Taichung, before it took off and landed on one of the steps of a wooden ladder. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Estrildidae Munias and allies
Munia, mannikin, silverbill, avadavat, waxbill, seedcracker, firefinch, twinspot – members of this family have numerous names. It is large, comprising c. 130 species of small, seed-eating birds, distributed across Africa and Asia. Their bill is short and thick, adapted to crushing grass seeds and other seeds.

A large number of these birds are in the pet trade, and many of them have escaped to form feral populations. 3 species are indigenous to Taiwan, whereas 5 pet species have established themselves locally.

 

Lonchura punctulata Scaly-breasted munia
This bird, also called spotted munia or nutmeg mannikin, is the commonest of the 3 Taiwanese indigenous munias, occurring anywhere in the lowlands, as long as there are grassy areas. The pictures below were all taken in the city of Taichung.

 

 

Scaly-breasted munias are very social birds, often feeding in large flocks. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This picture clearly shows the scaly breast of this species. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Two adult (left) and one immature scaly-breasted munia. Young birds are plain greyish-brown on the back and greyish-white on the underside, without scaly markings. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Scaly-breasted munias, eating seeds of torpedograss (Panicum repens). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This bird is also eating seeds of torpedograss, sitting on its stem, which has been bent down into a drainage canal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Sitting on a rope between two concrete pillars, these scaly-breasted munias are feeding on seeds of peacock-plume grass (Chloris barbata), Central Taiwan Science Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lonchura striata White-rumped munia
This species, also known as white-rumped mannikin, is fairly common in Taiwan, but not nearly as common as the scaly-breasted munia. It is distributed from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards to Sumatra.

 

 

White-rumped munia, eating seeds of Pacific islands silvergrass (Miscanthus floridulus), east of Sanxing, Yilan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Fringillidae Typical finches
A large family with about 228 species, divided into 50 genera. They are distributed worldwide, except for Australia and the polar regions. Most species have stout conical bills, adapted for eating seeds and nuts.

The family name is from the Latin fringilla (‘finch’), derived from frigutio (‘I chirp’).

 

Eophona Oriental grosbeaks
Grosbeak is a term applied to finches of various genera, which have one thing in common: their beak is very thick and powerful, adapted to crack hard seeds.

The genus Eophona contains only 2 species, Chinese grosbeak (below) and Japanese grosbeak (E. personata), which is distributed in the same areas as the Chinese grosbeak, but also breeds in Japan and on the Russian island Sakhalin. It is a heavier bird with a black mask, lacking the black tip of the bill. It is a very rare visitor to Taiwan.

This genus was described in 1851 by British ornithologist and bird artist John Gould (1804-1881). The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek eos (‘dawn’) and phone (‘to shout’ or ‘to cry’).

 

Eophona migratoria Chinese grosbeak
The male of this species has a black hood, which the female lacks, and the bill of both sexes is lemon-yellow with a black tip. It breeds from Ussuriland in south-eastern Siberia southwards through north-eastern China to Korea, spending the winter further south in China. It is a rare winter visitor to Taiwan.

 

 

Male Chinese grosbeak, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Fringilla
A small genus of 4 or 5 species, distributed from western Europe and North Africa eastwards across temperate areas of Asia to the Pacific Ocean. 2 or 3 species are restricted to the Canary Islands.

 

Fringilla montifringilla Brambling
A very common breeding bird in the taiga belt, from Norway eastwards across Siberia to Kamchatka and Sakhalin. It spends the winter further south, in Europe, the Middle East, the Himalaya, China, Japan, Taiwan, and the island of Luzon, Philippines. It is quite rare in Taiwan.

 

 

This brambling was one out of a small flock, feeding on seeds of Chinese tallow-tree (Triadica sebifera) in Central Taiwan Science Park, Taichung. The gorgeous winter foliage of this tree is shown on the page Autumn. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Pyrrhula Bullfinches
A small genus of thick-billed finches, comprising 7 species, 5 of which are purely Asian. The Eurasian bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) is widespread from Europe and the Middle East eastwards across temperate areas of Asia to Japan, whereas the Azores bullfinch (P. murina) is restricted to a single island in the Azores.

 

Pyrrhula nipalensis Brown bullfinch
The brown bullfinch was described from Nepal in 1836 by English naturalist and ethnologist Brian Houghton Hodgson (1801-1894), who worked in India and Nepal. He described numerous species of birds and mammals from the Himalaya, and many plants and animals are named after him.

This species is found in the Himalaya, from Himachal Pradesh eastwards to Myanmar, and in south-western China, Vietnam, and Taiwan. It is fairly common in Taiwan in forests at mid-elevations.

 

 

Brown bullfinch, ‘Blue Gate Trail’, Wushe. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Brown bullfinch, feeding on samaras of a species of maple, Acer insulare, ‘Blue Gate Trail’. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Hirundinidae Swallows and martins
A large family with 19 genera and about 90 species, distributed around the world on all continents, including occasionally in Antarctica. The greatest diversity is found in Africa.

In Europe, the term swallow is mainly used for species with forked tails, martin mainly for species with squarish tails. In America, however, the term martin is reserved for members of the genus Progne.

 

Cecropis
A small genus of 9 species, distributed in warmer areas of Africa and Asia, with a single species, the red-rumped swallow (C. daurica), also occurring in southern Europe. Some authorities include these birds in the genus Hirundo (below).

 

Cecropis striolata Striated swallow
This bird, previously known as Hirundo striolata, is distributed from north-eastern India, south-western China, and Taiwan southwards through Southeast Asia and the Philippines to the major part of Indonesia. Formerly, it was regarded as a subspecies of the red-rumped swallow.

The nominate subspecies, which is a rather common resident in the lowlands of Taiwan, is extremely similar to race japonica of the red-rumped swallow, which breeds in eastern China, Korea, and Japan, and is a common migrant in Taiwan. Striated tends to be a little larger and with less rufous on crown and cheeks, but the two species are very difficult to separate in the field. To me, it is a bit of a mystery why they are not regarded as a single species.

 

 

Striated swallows, Taichung. In the bottom picture, the birds are forming ‘nodes’ on electrical wires. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Hirundo
This genus contains about 16 species, all except one restricted to the Old World. The barn swallow (below) also occurs in the Americas. The generic name is the Latin word for swallow.

 

Hirundo javanica House swallow
Previously, one of the common swallows in South India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan was regarded as belonging to the widespread Pacific swallow (Hirundo tahitica). However, 7 subspecies of these areas have recently been split to form a separate species, the house swallow, of which subspecies namiyei is distributed in the lowlands of Taiwan, and also on the Ryukyu Islands, southern Japan. (Source: hbw.com/species/house-swallow-hirundo-javanica)

This species can be told from the barn swallow (below) by its shorter outer tail feathers, the greyish, checkered vent, and lack of black breast band.

 

 

Taiwan house swallows, Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan house swallow, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

These house swallows are sitting on a wire under a bridge across the Agongdian River, western Taiwan, where they are nesting. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This young house swallow is sitting on a wire above the Han River, Taichung, waiting to be fed by its parents. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Hirundo rustica Barn swallow
This species, comprising 6 subspecies, is the most widespread swallow in the world, breeding across the major part of the Northern Hemisphere, from the British Isles eastwards to Japan, and from northern Norway, central Siberia, and Kamchatka southwards to North Africa, Egypt, southern Iran, and southern China, and in most of North America, from northern Canada southwards to southern Mexico.

Four subspecies are migratory, spending the winter as far south as South Africa, northern Australia, and Argentina. The birds may be seen year-round in southern Mexico, southern Iberian Peninsula, Egypt, the Himalaya, southern China, and Taiwan. Subspecies gutturalis is a common resident in Taiwan.

The barn swallow mostly builds its nest on or inside buildings, very often in stables or barns – hence its name.

 

 

Barn swallow, subspecies gutturalis, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nesting barn swallow, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This nest, containing two almost full-grown young, is resting on a wire on a house wall in Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Barn swallows, feeding over a lawn, being watered, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Riparia Sand martins
A genus of 6 small, brown and white martins, widely distributed in the Old World. The sand martin (R. riparia) also breeds in North America, where it is known as bank swallow.

The generic name is derived from the Latin ripa (‘riverbank’), alluding to the preferred breeding habitat of these birds.

 

Riparia chinensis Grey-throated martin
This small martin, also named Asian plain martin, is distributed from Tajikistan eastwards in a belt across the northern part of the Indian Subcontinent to northern Indochina and south-western China, with disjunct populations in Taiwan and northern Philippines. Previously, it was regarded as a subspecies of the plain martin (R. paludicola), which is today called brown-throated martin, restricted to Africa.

The grey-throated martin is found in open habitats, usually near water. It is common in the lowlands of Taiwan.

 

 

Grey-throated martin, preening on a wire, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Laniidae Shrikes
Shrikes are a group of striking passerines, which perch on trees, bushes, poles, or wires, scanning the surroundings for small prey, such as beetles, dragonflies, bees, lizards, and mice. They constitute a small family with 33 species in 4 genera, mainly distributed in Eurasia and Africa, with one species reaching New Guinea, and 2 in North America.

Previously, the family was much larger, encompassing bushshrikes, puffbacks, tchagras, boubous, and helmetshrikes. However, genetic research has shown that these groups are not closely related to shrikes. As a consequence, bushshrikes, puffbacks, tchagras, and boubous have been moved to the family Malaconotidae, helmetshrikes to the family Vangidae.

 

Lanius Typical shrikes
The major part of the 29 species of this genus occurs in Eurasia and Africa. The great grey shrike (L. excubitor) has a circumpolar distribution, and the loggerhead shrike (L. ludovicianus) is confined to North America. 5 species have been observed in Taiwan.

The generic name is derived from the Latin lanio (‘butcher’), referring to the habit of some species of impaling their prey on thorns to be consumed later. The English name stems from Old English scric, alluding to their call. African species are known as fiscals, derived from Afrikaans fiskaal (a public official, especially a hangman), likewise alluding to the food-storing habit.

 

Lanius cristatus Brown shrike
Altogether 4 subspecies of this bird have been described, breeding in much of eastern Asia, including the major part of Siberia, Mongolia, China, Korea, and Japan. It spends the winter in Tropical Asia. The pictures below show subspecies lucionensis, which is a common migrant and winter visitor in Taiwan.

Further west, the brown shrike is replaced by two sister species, the red-backed shrike (L. collurio) and the isabelline shrike (L. isabellinus).

 

 

Brown shrike males, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018
Immature brown shrikes, Taichung. The bird in the upper picture is sitting in front of a blooming Taiwanese cherry tree (Prunus campanulata). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

These brown shrikes in Tunghai University Park seem to disagree about something. The tree is golden-rain tree (Koelreuteria elegans), which is presented on the page Autumn. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Lanius schach Long-tailed shrike
This species, comprising 8 subspecies, is distributed from Uzbekistan eastwards to China and Taiwan, southwards to Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Indonesia, with an isolated population in Papua New Guinea. The nominate subspecies is a fairly common resident in the lowlands of Taiwan.

 

 

Taiwan 2018
Long-tailed shrike, perched on a tall grass stem along the Fazi River, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This bird is feeding on a dead black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus), whose legs got entangled in a net, covering a fish pond, Qigu Wetlands, near Tainan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This long-tailed shrike, which has no brown on the wings, is probably an immature bird. It was observed in Taichung Metropolitan Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Laridae Gulls and terns
This large cosmopolitan family constitutes 22 genera with about 100 species, of which c. 30 have been encountered in Taiwan.

 

Chlidonias Marsh terns
This small genus, comprising between 4 and 6 species, is found on all continents, except Antarctica.

The generic name is from the Greek khelidonios (‘swallow-like’), from khelidon (‘swallow’), referring to the elegant flying style of Chlidonias terns. The specific name, meaning ‘hybrid’ in Latin, was applied by Prussian naturalist Peter Simon Pallas (1741-1811), who presumed that the bird he shot was a hybrid between white-winged tern (Chlidonias leucoptera) and common tern (Sterna hirundo). (Source: Jobling, J.A. 2010. The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. Christopher Helm, London)

 

Chlidonias hybrida Whiskered tern
This bird has a very wide, but spotty distribution as a breeding bird, found in southern and eastern Europe, west-central Asia, East Asia, northern India, Indonesia, Australia, and the southern part of Africa. In winter, it occurs in most of Africa, Tropical Asia, and Australia, being a common winter visitor to Taiwan.

 

 

Whiskered tern, feeding over a fish pond, Dongshih, south-western Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Chroicocephalus
This genus with 11 species of small to medium-sized gulls is found almost worldwide. Until recently, they were included in the genus Larus. The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek khroizo (‘to colour’) and kephale (‘head’), alluding to the dark head of many of the species in the breeding season.

 

Chroicocephalus ridibundus Black-headed gull
This small gull breeds from southern Greenland and Iceland across most of Europe and temperate areas of Asia, eastwards to Kamchatka, Russian Ussuriland and north-eastern China. It is also a rare breeding bird in north-eastern North America. It winters in Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast and East Asia, Japan, and along the east coast of North America. It is a fairly common winter visitor to Taiwan.

The specific name is from the Latin ridere (‘to laugh’), referring to one of its calls, ke-ke-ke, mostly heard in the breeding colonies.

 

 

Black-headed gulls in winter plumage, resting on a bamboo raft in Budai fishing harbour. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Hydroprogne caspia Caspian tern
This large tern is the sole member of the genus Hydroprogne. Despite the specific name, which means ‘from the Caspian Sea’, it has an almost cosmopolitan distribution, breeding at scattered locations in Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and North America. It is nowhere abundant, and the total population is estimated at 50,000 pairs.

In Taiwan, the Caspian tern is a rather common migrant and winter visitor. It is often encountered in wetlands along the west coast, where several hundred birds are sometimes gathered.

 

 

Large flock of Caspian terns, resting together with black-headed gulls and a single great white egret (Ardea alba), Budai Wetlands. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2006-07
Caspian terns, flying over the Qigu Wetlands, just before dusk. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Larus
Formerly, most gulls were placed in this genus, but genetic research has lead to the resurrection of the genera Ichthyaetus, Chroicocephalus, Leucophaeus, and Hydrocoloeus. The systematics of the larger species is very complicated, and a number of former subspecies have recently been elevated to separate species. Today, the genus may contain about 30 species.

 

Larus mongolicus Mongolian gull
This gull was previously considered a subspecies of the Caspian gull (L. cachinnans), but is now regarded either as a separate species, or a subspecies of the vega gull (L. vegae). The wings are generally a paler grey than the vega gull, and in winter plumage it has less dark markings on the neck. It breeds from the Altai Mountains and Lake Baikal eastwards to Mongolia, wintering in southern parts of Asia, including Taiwan.

 

 

Mongolian gull, adult in winter plumage, Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Sterna Typical terns
This genus, comprising 11-13 species, occurs almost worldwide, mainly in coastal regions. Previously, 4 other terns were included in the genus, but have now been transferred to the genus Onychoprion.

The generic name is derived from Old English stearn, which appears in the poem The Seafarer, from the 10th Century. A similar word was used for these birds by the Frisians, whereas the Scandinavians used, and still use, the word terne (Danish and Norwegian) or tärna (Swedish).

 

Sterna hirundo Common tern
As a breeding bird, this tern is distributed in most temperate and subtropical areas of the Northern Hemisphere, and also in arctic areas of northern Norway and extreme north-western Russia. Since 1980, a small breeding colony has existed on a tiny coral island off the east coast of Sri Lanka.

It spends the winter along coasts from about 20o northern latitude southwards to southern South America, Africa, and Australia. Subspecies longipennis is rather common on passage in Taiwan, scarce in winter.

 

 

Common tern, Dongshih, south-western Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Leiothrichidae Laughing-thrushes and allies
Laughing-thrushes, comprising altogether 45 species of colourful, noisy passerines in the genera Garrulax, Trochalopteron, Pterorhinus, and Grammatoptila, are now placed in a separate family, together with sibias (below), liocichlas (below), minlas (Minla), barwings (Actinodura), leiothrixes (Leiothrix), and others.

In the past, these genera all belonged to the family Timaliidae, which constituted a true ‘waste-bin of systematics’, in which hundreds of bird species were placed. Today, most of these species have been moved to other families.

Members of this family are restricted to Asia, where they live in a wide range of habitats, from humid tropical rainforests to rather cold areas in China and the Himalaya. Some Himalayan species are shown on the page Animals: Himalayan animals.

 

Heterophasia Sibias
A genus of 7 colourful species, restricted to forests in the Indian Subcontinent, the Far East, and Southeast Asia. Some authorities only include the long-tailed sibia (H. picaoides) in this genus, placing the others in the genus Malacias.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek heteros (‘different’, in this connection ‘varied’) and phasis (‘utterance’), referring to the varied song of these birds.

 

Heterophasia auricularis White-eared sibia
This pretty bird, which is endemic to Taiwan, is very common in forests and woodlands at elevations between 1,200 and 3,000 m. In winter, some populations descend to lower altitudes, sometimes as low as 200 m.

The specific name is an adjective form of the Latin auris (‘ear’), alluding to the white tufts on the side of the head.

 

 

White-eared sibias, feeding in flowers of Taiwanese cherry (Prunus campanulata), Aowanda National Forest. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Liocichla Liocichlas
This small genus, comprising 5 colourful birds, are found from northern India eastwards to northern Indochina, southern China, and Taiwan.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek leios (‘smooth’) and kikhle (‘thrush’). It is not clear what it refers to.

 

Liocichla steerii Steere’s liocichla
This bird, which is endemic to montane areas of central Taiwan, has the most ancient lineage in the genus. At a distance, its plumage appears uniformly green, but at close quarters it shows various shades of blue and brown, besides a bright yellow spot in front of the eye.

 

 

Steere’s liocichla, Dasyueshan National Forest. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This one was encountered at Chunyang Experimental Farm, near Wushe. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Trochalopteron Laughing-thrushes
This genus, comprising 19 species, is for the major part distributed in the Himalaya, Indochina, China, and Taiwan, with a single species, the streaked laughing-thush (T. lineatum) also found in Central Asia, and another, the Malayan laughing-thush (T. peninsulae), living in southern Thailand and the Malacca Peninsula.

Besides the species described below, 5 other species of laughing-thrush are found in Taiwan, two of which, however, are escapes, the Chinese hwamei (Garrulax canorus) and the black-throated laughing-thrush (Pterorhinus chinensis).

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek trokhos (‘wheel’) and pteron (‘wing’), alluding to the short rounded wings of these birds.

 

Trochalopteron morrisonianum White-whiskered laughing-thrush
This bird, also known as Taiwan laughing-thrush, is common in upper montane forests and shrubberies of Taiwan, but is found nowhere else. It easily becomes accustomed to people and is often surprisingly confiding.

 

 

These white-whiskered laughing-thrushes were photographed in a parking lot on Hohuan Shan Mountain. In the lower picture, a gust of wind ruffles the plumage of the bird. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

White-whiskered laughing-thrush, feeding in a pine tree, Tataja, Yushan National Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Megalaimidae Asian barbets
A family with altogether 35 species, distributed in forests and shrubland, from Pakistan eastwards to southern China and Taiwan, southwards to Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Previously, they were all named Megalaima, with the exception of two species of Caloramphus. Today, Megalaima has been replaced by Psilopogon, but the family name Megalaimidae has been retained.

These colourful, small to medium-sized birds were formerly placed in the family Capitonidae, which also included New World barbets and African barbets, but the Asian species have been found to be distinctive and now constitute a separate family, with African barbets (Lybiidae) and toucans (Ramphastidae) as sister groups.

The name barbet is derived from French barbe (‘beard’ or ‘long hair of certain animals’), alluding to the bristles around the bill of these birds.

 

Psilopogon nuchalis Taiwan barbet
In former days, this bird was regarded as a subspecies of the black-browed barbet (P. oorti), but recent studies conclude that it is a separate species, which is endemic to Taiwan. It is very common in forests and parks in the lower parts of the island, up to an altitude of c. 2,800 m.

 

 

Taiwan barbets, Buluowan, Taroko Gorge. In the lower picture, a bird is eating a flower of Taiwanese cherry (Prunus campanulata). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This Taiwan barbet is sitting in a Terminalia mantaly tree with new foliage and flower buds, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Monarchidae Monarch-flycatchers
This family contains 16 genera with about 100 species of long-tailed, insectivorous passerines, including blue monarchs (below) and paradise flycatchers (Terpsiphone). Most species are sedentary, distributed in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Australasia, and some Pacific islands.

 

Hypothymis Blue monarchs
A small genus with 4 species, restricted to eastern Asia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The generic name is the Ancient Greek name of an unidentified bird, mentioned by comic-writer Aristophanes (c. 446-386 B.C.).

 

Hypothymis azurea Black-naped monarch
This species has a very wide distribution, found in the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, southern China, and Taiwan. No less than 23 subspecies have been described, of which oberholseri is quite common in forests in the Taiwan lowlands and lower mountains.

The male is bright blue with a distinctive black patch on the crown and a narrow black stripe across the throat, whereas the female is dull-blue with brownish wings, lacking the black markings of the male.

 

 

This male black-naped monarch is feeding in a dense growth of trees in a city park in Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Female black-naped monarch, Metropolitan Park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Motacillidae Wagtails, pipits, and longclaws
This family contains 6 or 7 genera with altogether c. 65 species.

 

Anthus Pipits
Most pipits have a rather drab plumage, mainly brown with darker stripes, an adaptation to their feeding among grass or on bare soil. They constitute a rather large genus, comprising between 34 and 46 species, distributed in most parts of the globe, except Antarctica.

 

Anthus hodgsoni Olive-backed pipit
This is a bird of open wooded country, breeding from the Ural Mountains eastwards across the Siberian taiga to Kamchatka, thence southwards through north-eastern China to northern Japan and Korea, and also in the Himalaya and southern Tibet. In winter, it migrates to the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, southern China, southern Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and northern Borneo. It is quite common in Taiwan, in winter and on passage.

This species is similar to the Eurasian tree pipit (A. trivialis), but its back is more olive-tinged, and it has a broader supercilium.

The specific name commemorates English naturalist and ethnologist Brian Houghton Hodgson (1801-1894), who worked in India and Nepal. He described numerous species of birds and mammals from the Himalaya, and many plants and animals are named after him.

 

 

Olive-backed pipit, Aowanda National Forest. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Motacilla Wagtails
These birds, comprising about 13 species, were named for their long, wagging tail. They are widely distributed in Europe, Africa, and Asia, with 2 species also encountered in Alaska.

The generic name is the classical Latin name for the white wagtail (below). It is actually a diminutive of motare (‘to move about’), but some time during the Middle Ages, based on a misunderstanding, the belief arose, that cilla meant ‘tail’. (Source: J.A. Jobling 2010. The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. Christopher Helm, London)

 

Motacilla alba White wagtail
There are altogether 11 subspecies of the white wagtail, breeding from East Greenland in the west to Alaska in the east, and from northern Europe and Siberia southwards to Morocco, Iran, the Himalaya, and Taiwan. Various subspecies are presented on the page Animals: Urban animal life.

Subspecies leucopsis, called Amur wagtail, is a rather uncommon breeding bird in Taiwan, but a common winter visitor. It may be identified by the white face and the jetblack back of the male. The female is similar, although the back is a tiny bit more brownish.

 

 

Male Amur wagtail, feeding on a lawn, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This male Amur wagtail is sitting on an outlet pipe in a wall along a drainage canal in Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Amur wagtails in courtship display, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Young Amur wagtails are a very pale grey edition of adult birds. This immature bird is feeding in a drainage canal in Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Subspecies ocularis, which breeds in eastern Siberia and western Alaska, is a rather scarce winter visitor to Taiwan. It is very similar to Amur wagtail, but has grey back, black throat, and a faint black stripe through the eye.

 

 

This male ocularis is sitting on a wall along a drainage canal in Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Female ocularis, Suei Wei-floden, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Motacilla cinerea Grey wagtail
This species is distributed over a huge area, breeding in most of Europe, Morocco, the Middle East, the Himalaya, Siberia, Central Asia, China, Japan, and Taiwan. Northern populations spend the winter further south, in Ethiopia, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia.

In Taiwan, where subspecies melanope breeds in the lower hills, it is common in winter along streams and canals in the lowlands.

 

 

Grey wagtail, adults in winter plumage, feeding in drainage canals, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Grey wagtail, immature birds, feeding in drainage canals, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Motacilla citreola Citrine wagtail
This species is very widely distributed, breeding from Finland and eastern Europe eastwards to central Siberia, and from the Arctic coast southwards throgh Central Asia to the northern outskirts of the Himalaya. Scattered breeding is also taking place in Turkey and central Europe. Wintering areas include Iran, the Indian Subcontinent, northern Indochina, and southern China.

This bird is a rather scarce winter visitor to Taiwan.

 

 

Male (top) and female citrine wagtail, feeding in the Suei Wei River, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Muscicapidae Old World flycatchers
Genetic research has revealed that many smaller birds, which were formerly regarded as belonging to the thrush family (Turdidae), are in fact flycatchers, including all the species mentioned below, with the exception of the small vivid niltava, which was always placed in Muscicapidae.

Today, the family includes about 51 genera with c. 324 species, widely distributed in Africa and Eurasia. The generic name is derived from the Latin musca (‘a fly’) and capere (‘to catch’).

 

Copsychus Magpie-robins, shama
Members of this genus, comprising 12 medium-sized, insectivorous and fructivorous passerines, are mainly distributed in warmer areas of Asia, with one species in Madagascar and one in the Seychelles.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek kopsykhos, meaning ‘black bird’.

 

Copsychus malabaricus White-rumped shama
This colourful long-tailed bird is native to the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the Chinese island of Hainan, but has been introduced elsewhere due to its beautiful, melodious song, including in Taiwan, where it is rather common in lowland forests and parks.

By many authorities, this bird is called Kittacincla malabarica. The popular name shama is the Bengali and Hindi name of it.

 

 

White-rumped shama males, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. The bird in the bottom picture is feeding on a lawn. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Copsychus saularis Oriental magpie-robin
This striking black-and-white bird is distributed in the major part of the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, eastwards to south-eastern China. In Taiwan, it occurs as a native on the Kinmen Islands, and has also been introduced to the Taiwanese mainland, where it is fairly common in urban areas.

Incidentally, it is the national bird of Bangladesh.

 

 

Male oriental magpie robin, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Head and breast of the female oriental magpie robin are greyish, and the belly has a reddish tinge. – Tunghai University Park. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Immature oriental magpie robin, Tunghai University Park. Young birds are more brownish and have faint streaks on the breast. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Enicurus Forktails
These striking black-and-white birds all have whitish legs and a forked tail, which has given the group its name. Most of the 7 species live along mountain streams in Southeast Asia and Indonesia, and several are also found in the Himalaya, see page Animals: Himalayan animals.

 

Enicurus scouleri Little forktail
This is the only species of forktail found in Taiwan, where it is restricted to fast-flowing streams, between 1,200 and 3,700 m altitude. It is widely distributed, from the Tian Shan Mountains in Sinkiang southwards to the Himalaya, and thence eastwards to southern China and Taiwan.

The specific name was given in honour of Scottish physician and naturalist John Scouler (1804-1871), who made several travels, one 1824-26 on board a Hudson Bay Company ship, bound for the Columbia River, which anchored at Madeira, Rio de Janeiro, and the Galapagos Islands on the way. His companion was the celebrated botanist David Douglas (1799-1834), who taught Scouler a great deal of botany. A second journey was on board a merchant vessel, bound for Calcutta, making stops at Cape Horn and Madras in southern India.

The interesting, albeit short life of David Douglas is related on the page Plants: Ancient and huge trees.

 

 

Little forktail may be encountered here and there in the mountains of Taiwan. This bird is feeding among wet rocks beneath the Taoshan Waterfall, Wuling National Forest. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Kittacincla, see Copsychus.

 

 

 

 

Monticola Rock-thrushes
A genus of 13 species, distributed in large parts of Africa and on Madagascar, and from southern Europe eastwards across northern parts of the Middle East and Central Asia to the Pacific coast and Japan, and thence southwards to Sumatra. Most species live in montane or rocky areas, reflected in the generic name, which is derived from the Latin mons (‘mountain’) and colere (‘to dwell’).

Despite the thrush-like appearance of these birds, genetic research has shown that they are in fact ground-living flycatchers.

 

Monticola solitarius Blue rock-thrush
This bird is widely distributed, found from the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa eastwards across the Middle East and parts of southern Central Asia and the Himalaya to China, Korea, Sakhalin, and Japan, with an isolated breeding population on the Malaccan Peninsula and Sumatra.

The eastern subspecies philippensis differs quite a lot from the other races in that the belly of the male is chestnut-coloured. It may merit specific status. It is a rare breeding bird in Taiwan, but a fairly common winter visitor. Subspecies pandoo, in which the male is dark blue or slaty-blue, is a rare visitor to the island.

 

 

Male blue rock-thrush, subspecies philippensis, sitting on a concrete wall along a drainage canal, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Myiomela
At present, this genus contains only 2 species, the white-tailed blue robin (below) and the Sunda robin (M. diana), which is restricted to montane forests on Sumatra and Java.

 

Myiomela leucura White-tailed blue robin
This bird is distributed from the Himalaya eastwards across Southeast Asia, with an isolated population, subspecies montium, in mountains at medium altitude in Taiwan, where it is fairly common. It lives in dense forest and bamboo growths, feeding on the ground.

Male and female have very different plumages, the male being dark blue with pale-blue forehead and wing coverts, and a black tail with a large white spot at the base of each side. The female is brown with a whitish throat, and its tail has a pattern similar to that of the male.

 

 

This male white-tailed blue robin was photographed in a dense thicket in Dasyueshan National Forest. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Myophonus Whistling-thrushes
Despite the fact that these birds very much resemble thrushes, genetic research has shown that they are closer related to Old World flycatchers. There are altogether 9 species, distributed from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Taiwan, and thence southwards to Indonesia. Males of all species are blue or bluish-black, whereas the females of some species are brownish.

 

Myophonus insularis Taiwan whistling-thrush
As its name implies, this species is endemic to Taiwan, where it is fairly common in mountains at medium altitudes.

 

 

Taiwan whistling-thrush, photographed in Aowanda National Forest (top), and in the town of Wushe. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Niltava Niltavas
This genus, comprising about 7 species of colourful flycatchers, is distributed from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia.

The genus was named by English naturalist and ethnologist Brian Houghton Hodgson (1801-1894), who worked in India and Nepal. He described numerous species of birds and mammals from the Himalaya, and many plants and animals are named after him. The word niltava is a corruption of niltau, the Nepalese name of the rufous-bellied niltava (N. sundara).

 

Niltava vivida Small vivid niltava
This bird was formerly regarded as being conspecific with the large vivid niltava (N. oatesi). However, that species is larger, the female is slightly paler with crown and upperparts more uniform, and its song is different. It is found in south-western China and probably in Assam and northern Myanmar. (Source: Handbook of the Birds of the World, Lynx Edicions)

Today, the small vivid niltava is generally regarded as being endemic to Taiwan. It is very common in montane forests at mid-elevations.

 

 

Male small vivid niltava, feeding on berries of the Chinese wonder tree (Idesia polycarpa), Dasyueshan National Forest. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Phoenicurus Redstarts
This genus contains 14 species, distributed from western Europe and North Africa eastwards across Temperate Eurasia, and thence southwards to India and Indochina.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek phoinix (‘crimson’) and oura (‘tail’), like the English name referring to the red tail of these birds. Start is an old word for tail.

 

Phoenicurus auroreus Daurian redstart
This species breeds in south-eastern Siberia, from Lake Baikal eastwards to Amurland, Ussuriland, and Sakhalin, and in Mongolia, Tibet, most of China, and northern Korea, wintering in southern China, Japan, Taiwan, north-eastern India, and Southeast Asia. It is a common winter visitor to Taiwan, often encountered in gardens and city parks.

Like most other redstarts, the Daurian redstart is strongly sexually dimorphic, males having red breast, belly, and tail, black face, throat, and back, greyish crown and nape, and a prominent white wing-patch, whereas females are pale brown with an orange-red tail, and, like the male, a prominent white wing-patch.

 

 

Male Daurian redstart, perched in a Taiwanese cherry tree (Prunus campanulata), Aowanda National Forest. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Male, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This female is stretching a wing, Tunghai University Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Female, east of Sanxing, near Yilan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Phoenicurus fuliginosus Plumbeous redstart
Previously, this species was placed in the genus Rhyacornis, but genetic research has revealed that it is in fact a ‘true’ redstart of the genus Phoenicurus, despite differing somewhat from the other members of that genus, being smaller, and with a shorter tail. The male is slate-black with a red tail, whereas the female has dark-grey back, whitish, mottled breast, and two large white spots at the base of the tail.

This bird lives exclusively along fast-flowing streams, often seen perched on a rock, from where it takes off to snap some bypassing insect.

The specific name is from the Latin fuligo (‘soot’) and –ous (‘prone to’), alluding to the slaty-black colour of the male.

 

 

Male plumbeous redstart, perched on an algae-covered stone, near Cing Yun Waterfall, south of Alishan. In the lower picture, the bird is spreading its tail feathers – a typical habit of this species. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Tarsiger Bush-robins, bluestarts
A small genus with 6 species, distributed from the Himalaya eastwards to Indochina, China and Taiwan, with the exception of the widespread bluestart (T. cyanurus), which is found in the taiga belt of Eurasia, from Finland eastwards to Japan.

 

Tarsiger johnstoniae Collared bush-robin
This bird, also known as Johnstone’s bush-robin, is endemic to Taiwan, living in forests and shrubland at high altitudes, between 2,000 and 3,500 m in summer, descending to lower elevations in winter. The male is a striking bird, having blackish head, back, and tail, with a long, white eyebrow and a bright red collar, which stretches down on the scapulars. The female is brown with reddish breast and a faint white eyebrow.

The specific name was given in honour of Mrs. Marion Johnstone, a well-known British aviculturist, who was the first person to breed the Mindanao lorikeet (Trichoglossus johnstoniae) in captivity.

 

 

Male collared bush-robin, below the Hohuan Shan Pass, central Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This male collared bush-robin is singing from willow bushes below the Hohuan Shan Pass. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Paradoxornithidae Parrotbills and allies
Parrotbills proper are a group of peculiar passerines with thick bills, an adaptation to feeding on hard-shelled seeds. At an early stage, mainly due to their acrobatic habits and their superficial likeness to long-tailed tits (Aegithalos), these birds were placed in the tit family (Paridae), to which the long-tailed tits then belonged. Later studies found that parrotbills were not at all related to tits, and, together with the bearded reedling (Panurus biarmicus), they were moved to a separate family, Paradoxornithidae (‘paradoxical birds’), which was placed near the timalids (Timaliidae). The bearded reedling has since been moved to a family of its own, Panuridae.

Recent genetic research has had the effect that a number of birds, which were previously placed in Timaliidae, have been moved to Paradoxornithidae, including some fulvettas, formerly of the genus Alcippe, now Fulvetta (below). Other fulvettas, which were retained in Alcippe, have been moved to the family Alcippeidae (above).

Today, Paradoxornithidae contains about 16 genera with c. 37 species of small to medium-sized birds.

 

Fulvetta Fulvettas
A small genus with 8 species, distributed from the Himalaya eastwards to Indochina, China, and Taiwan.

 

Fulvetta formosana Taiwan fulvetta
As its name implies, this bird is endemic to Taiwan, where it is restricted to forests and bamboo thickets at high altitudes. Formerly, it was regarded as a subspecies of the streak-throated fulvetta (F. cinereiceps), which lives in a large part of China.

 

 

Taiwan fulvetta, Tataja, Yushan National Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Sinosuthora Parrotbills
A small genus with 6 species, distributed in eastern Asia, from south-eastern Siberia southwards to Indochina.

 

Sinosuthora webbiana Vinous-throated parrotbill
This small bird is distributed from Mongolia and Ussuriland in south-eastern Siberia southwards to Taiwan and Vietnam. The specific name was given in honour of English botanist Philip Barker-Webb (1793-1854).

The Taiwanese subspecies bulomacha is fairly common in the lowlands, but is not often seen due to its skulking habits. It is much paler than the mainland subspecies and lacks the vinous throat (sic!). It probably merits specific status.

 

 

Taiwan vinous-throated parrotbill, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Paridae Tits, titmice, chickadees
This family contains about 64 species, which, following genetic studies, have been divided into 14 genera. However, the mutual relationship of these birds is far from being clarified, and future studies may again revise the nomenclature.

The name titmouse can be traced back to the 14th Century, composed of the words tit, which denotes something small, and the Old English name for these birds, mase, from Proto-Germanic maison, which is also the source of the German name Meise, the Danish and Norwegian mejse, and the Swedish mes.

 

Machlolophus
This genus contains 5 species, distributed from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to northern Indochina, southern China, and Taiwan. They were formerly placed in the genus Parus. The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek makhlos (‘luxuriant’) and lophos (‘crest’), alluding to the large crest of 4 out of the 5 species.

 

Machlolophus holsti Yellow tit
This striking bird is quite common in forests of the lower mountains of Taiwan, but is found nowhere else.

 

 

The yellow tit is omnivorous, which can be seen from these pictures, taken at Buluowan, Taroko Gorge. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Parus
Previously, this genus contained most species of tits, around 50, but the vast majority has been moved to other genera, leaving only 4 species in Parus, which is the classical Latin name for tits.

 

Parus monticolus Green-backed tit
This bird is quite similar to the Eurasian great tit (P. major), but has two white wingbars and often a broader black stripe on the breast, and its song is also different. It is widely distributed in Asia, from northern Pakistan along the Himalaya to northern Myanmar and western China, with an isolated population in the lower mountains of Taiwan, which constitutes a separate subspecies, insperatus.

 

 

Green-backed tit, Aowanda National Forest. In the lower picture, it is feeding in flowers of Taiwanese cherry (Prunus campanulata). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Passeridae Old World sparrows, snowfinches
As the family name implies, these birds, comprising about 43 species in 8 genera, are restricted to the Old World. They are not closely related to the New World sparrows, which belong to the family Passerellidae. When the European settlers arrived in America, these birds reminded them of the sparrows back home, so they named them ‘sparrows’.

Despite their name, snowfinches of the genera Montifringilla, Onychostruthus, and Pyrgilauda are not finches, but members of the sparrow family.

 

Passer Typical sparrows
A genus of about 28 species, widely distributed in Africa and Eurasia. The generic name is the Latin word for sparrows.

 

Passer montanus Tree sparrow
The distribution area of this bird is huge, from western Europe across Central Asia to Japan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia and the Philippines. It is very common in Taiwan, where it has taken over the role of the house sparrow (P. domesticus) as a city bird, as the latter is not found on the island.

Other pictures, depicting tree sparrows, may be seen on the page Animals: Urban animal life.

 

 

In this picture, numerous tree sparrows are feeding in hay, which has been strewn as fodder for cows, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Tree sparrows, feeding on seeds of a Chinese tallow-tree (Triadica sebifera), Taichung. The gorgeous winter foliage of this tree is shown on the page Autumn. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

The tree sparrow is a common city bird in Taiwan. These birds are sitting on a metal pole in Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Phalacrocoracidae Cormorants
Cormorants and shags are a cosmopolitan family of c. 42 species of small to medium-sized, fish-eating birds. Some taxonomists divide these birds into three genera: 22 species of mainly larger birds in the genus Phalacrocorax, 15 species of mainly medium-sized birds in the genus Leucocarbo, and 5 species of small birds in the genus Microcarbo. However, the number of genera is often disputed.

The generic name Phalacrocorax is derived from the Greek phalakros (‘bald’) and korax (‘raven’), where ‘bald’ refers to the white crown of the great cormorant (below) during the breeding season, ‘raven’ presumably to its otherwise black plumage.

 

Phalacrocorax carbo Great cormorant
This bird has an extremely wide, but rather patchy, distribution, found all over Europe and most of Asia, in Australia and New Zealand, and in north-eastern North America and Greenland. The race sinensis is a common winter visitor to Taiwan.

In the 1800s, this species was persecuted all over Europe, partly because it was competing with fishermen, partly because its guano destroyed the trees, in which it was breeding. The complete contrast to this persecution is seen in the Far East, where fishermen, for thousands of years, have been using tamed great cormorants for fishing. Pictures, depicting this practice, are found on the page Fishing.

 

In the upper picture below, great cormorants are roosting in Casuarina equisetifolia trees, Aogu Wetlands. Beneath the trees, the following birds are present: black-faced spoonbill (Platalea minor), grey heron (Ardea cinerea), great white egret (Ardea alba), little egret (Egretta garzetta), northern shoveler (Spatula clypeata), black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus), and greenshank (Tringa nebularia).

 

 

(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Great cormorants and a male northern pintail (Anas acuta), Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Great cormorants, resting on a grass-clad islet in the Aogu Wetlands, together with northern shovelers, Eurasian wigeons (Mareca penelope), a single male greater scaup (Aythya marila), and a female northern pintail. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Phasianidae Pheasants and allies
This family, which includes pheasants, partridges, junglefowl, quail, peafowl, and many others, contains 150-180 species. Today, most authorities include grouse (Tetraoninae), guineafowl (Numidinae), and turkeys (Meleagridinae) as subfamilies of Phasianidae, whereas others treat them as separate families. In the broadest sense, these birds are found worldwide, except in Antarctica.

 

Bambusicola Bamboo partridges
A small genus of 3 species, distributed from north-eastern India and Bangladesh eastwards across Indochina to China and Taiwan.

 

Bambusicola sonorivox Taiwan bamboo partridge
This small gamebird lives in dense shrubs, bamboo, and grassy areas, usually below 1,000 m altitude. It was formerly considered to be a subspecies of the Chinese bamboo partridge (B. thoracicus) of south-eastern China, but is today generally regarded as being restricted to Taiwan.

 

 

Taiwan bamboo partridge, Aowanda National Forest. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Lophura Gallopheasants
These striking birds, comprising 9 species, are distributed from Pakistan eastwards along the Himalaya to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Sumatra and Borneo.

 

Lophura swinhoii Swinhoe’s pheasant, Taiwan blue pheasant
This gorgeous bird is endemic to the mountains of central Taiwan, where it is quite common. It was named in honour of British biologist Robert Swinhoe (1836-1877) who, in 1860, became the first European consular representative to Taiwan. He discovered many new species, and four mammals and 15 birds are named after him.

To lure this colourful bird closer, many Taiwanese photographers strew maize or other food items near roads or trails, often causing it to become remarkably tame.

 

 

Male and female Swinhoe’s pheasant, Dasyueshan National Forest. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This is an immature male, which has no white crest, less white on the back, and no white tail feathers, Dasyueshan National Forest. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Picidae Woodpeckers
Members of this family, comprising about 240 species in 35 genera, are found worldwide, except for Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Madagascar, and polar regions. Most species are known for their characteristic way of foraging, pecking on tree trunks and branches. Many species communicate by drumming with their beak on a tree trunk.

 

Yungipicus Pygmy woodpeckers
A genus of 7 species of tiny woodpeckers, distributed in the Indian Subcontinent, the Far East, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia. Previously, these birds were placed in the genus Dendrocopos.

The generic name is a combination of the Ancient Greek iynx (‘wryneck’) and the Latin picus (‘woodpecker’), probably alluding to their small size.

 

Yungipicus canicapillus Grey-capped pygmy woodpecker
This tiny woodpecker is presently divided into 11 subspecies, found in the Himalayan foothills from Pakistan eastwards to Myanmar, and from Ussuriland in south-eastern Siberia southwards through China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia to Sumatra and Borneo. The sexes are rather similar, but the male has a tiny red spot on each side of the crown.

Subspecies kaleensis is quite common in the Taiwanese lowlands, also in city parks.

 

 

Female grey-capped pygmy woodpecker, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Feeding female, Buluowan, Taroko Gorge. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Female, pecking on thin branches of a fig tree (Ficus), Central Taiwan Science Park, Taichung. It may be eating soft scales (Coccidae). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Podicipedidae Grebes
Grebes are aquatic birds with webbed feet, encompassing 22 species in 6 genera, found almost worldwide.

 

Tachybaptus Dabchicks
Today, this genus contains 5 species, distributed across most of the globe. A sixth species, the Alaotra grebe (T. rufolavatus), was declared extinct in 2010. It was endemic to Lake Alaotra and nearby lakes in Madagascar.

The generic name is from the Greek takhus (‘fast’) and bapto (‘to immerse’), referring to the fact that one moment you see a dabchick, the next instant it’s gone.

 

Tachybaptus ruficollis Little grebe
About 6 subspecies of this bird are distributed in the major part of Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, and the Far East, southwards to Indonesia and New Guinea. It is quite common in Taiwan, the birds belonging to subspecies poggei or philippensis.

The specific name is from the Latin rufus (‘red’) and collum (‘neck’), referring to the red neck of this bird in the breeding plumage.

 

 

One moment you see a dabchick, the next instant it’s gone. – Aogu Wetlands. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Little grebe, partly in summer plumage, Aogu Wetlands. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Part of a flock of 55 little grebes, Budai Wetlands. Some of the birds are in breeding plumage, although the picture was taken in January. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

You don’t often observe little grebes on land. These are grooming on an islet in the Aogu Wetlands. The bird to the right is a sleeping shoveler (Spatula clypeata). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Prunellidae Accentors
A small group of passerines, comprising 13 species in Prunella, the sole genus of the family. Most species are restricted to Asia, with 2 species, the dunnock (P. modularis) and the alpine accentor (P. collaris), also found in Europe. They live in montane areas, except the dunnock, which is mainly a lowland bird.

 

Prunella collaris Alpine accentor
This species has a very wide distribution, from Spain and Morocco across central Europe and the Middle East to Central Asia, the Himalaya, China, Japan, and Taiwan. Birds in Taiwan constitute a separate subspecies, fennelli, which lives in the highest mountains of the island.

 

 

The alpine accentor is a hardy bird. In snowy and foggy weather, this bird was hopping around near a parking lot on the Hohuan Shan Pass, central Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Pycnonotidae Bulbuls and allies
These birds are medium-sized passerines, encompassing 27 genera with c. 150 species. They are distributed in much of Africa, and across the Middle East to Tropical Asia and Indonesia, and thence northwards to Japan.

Sub-Saharan members of the family, called greenbuls, brownbuls, leafloves, and bristlebills, are mainly forest birds, whereas the majority of North African and Asian species live in open areas.

 

Hypsipetes Black bulbuls
A genus of about 19 species, found from Madagascar and various islands in the Indian Ocean eastwards to the Indian Subcontinent, southern China, and Taiwan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to Indonesia.

 

Hypsipetes leucocephalus Asian black bulbul
Formerly, the black bulbuls of Asia were regarded as subspecies of the Malagasy bulbul (H. madagascariensis), but most authorities now recognize two separate Asian species, the Asian black bulbul, which is widely distributed, found from north-eastern Afghanistan along the Himalaya to Indochina, China, and Taiwan, and the square-tailed bulbul (H. ganeesa), which is restricted to montane areas of South India and Sri Lanka.

Asian black bulbul is predominantly black, or slate-black, bill and gape are bright read, and the feet are orange. Sometimes white-headed morphs are seen. The specific name leucocephalus is from the Greek leukos (‘white’), and kephalos (‘head’), so the species must have been described from a white-headed specimen.

Subspecies nigerrimus is endemic to Taiwan, where it is very common in forests and larger urban parks, from the lowlands to mid-elevations.

 

 

Black bulbul, scatching its head, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018a
This black bulbul is feeding in a flower of African tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata), also in Tunghai University Park. This gorgeous tree is presented on the page In praise of the colour red. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This black bulbul has caught an insect in a Taiwanese cherry tree (Prunus campanulata), Aowanda National Forest. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This black bulbul in Tunghai University Park is searching for insects on a tree trunk. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Pycnonotus Typical bulbuls
Members of this genus, comprising about 32 species, are widely distributed in Africa, and from the Middle East across the Indian Subcontinent to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards to Indonesia.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek pyknos (‘thick’ or ‘compact’) and notos (‘-backed’), applied in 1826 by German zoologist and lawyer Friedrich Boie (1789-1870), who described many new species and several new genera of birds. He and his brother Heinrich also described about 50 new species of reptiles. Presumably, Boie found that these birds were quite compact.

 

Pycnonotus sinensis Light-vented bulbul, Chinese bulbul
This species is one of the commonest birds in Taiwan, living in a wide variety of habitats, such as secondary forest, farmland, parks, gardens, and even cities with scant vegetation. The pictures below are all from the city of Taichung, where this bird is extremely common.

 

 

Light-vented bulbul, Tunghai University Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This light-vented bulbul is eating berries of Persian lilac (Melia azedarach), Tunghai University Park. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

These two photographs are from our 10th floor balcony. One bird is sitting on the rail, enjoying the morning sun, the other is singing, perched on a potted bush. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This bird is ventilating in the summer heat. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This one is feeding in a Taiwanese cherry flower (Prunus campanulata). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Pycnonotus taivanus Taiwan bulbul, Styan’s bulbul
In many parts of eastern Taiwan, large numbers of light-vented bulbuls (above) have been mass-released during Buddhist festivals, and they have become naturalized in many areas, where they compete with – and also hybridize with – the local, endemic Taiwan bulbul, causing it to have declined drastically, and already gone extinct in the Yilan County. Today, it is only common in the southern part of the island.

This species is quite similar to light-vented bulbul, differing in its pure white breast, black cap, thin moustachial stripe, and a tiny red spot at the base of the bill.

The name Styan’s bulbul commemorates British tea merchant and naturalist Frederic William Styan (1858-1934), who spent 27 years in China.

 

 

Taiwan bulbuls, Hengchuen, southern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan bulbul, Sheding Nature Park, Kenting National Park. In this picture, the red spot at the base of the bill is seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This bird is eating fruits of maritime persimmon (Diospyros maritima), Taitung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Spizixos Finchbills
This genus contains only 2 species, found from Bhutan and north-eastern India eastwards across northern Indochina to China and Taiwan.

 

Spizixos semitorques Collared finchbill
This bulbul, which lives in secondary forest and gardens at moderate elevations, is found in central and southern China, northern Vietnam, and Taiwan. The Taiwanese subspecies, cinereicapillus, was originally described as a separate species in 1871 by British biologist Robert Swinhoe (1836-1877) who, in 1860, became the first European consular representative to Taiwan. He discovered many new species, and four mammals and 15 birds are named after him.

 

 

Sitting on a stem of Pacific islands silvergrass (Miscanthus floridulus), this collared finchbill is shaking its plumage after bathing, Longmei, near Alishan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Collared finchbill, eating seeds of turn-in-the-wind (Mallotus paniculatus), Longmei. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Rallidae Rails and allies
This family, which includes gallinules, waterhens, coots, crakes, and rails, is divided into 41 genera with altogether c. 156 species, of which 11 have been observed in Taiwan.

 

Fulica Coots
A genus of 10 species, distributed worldwide with the exception of the polar regions.

 

Fulica atra Common coot
As a breeding bird, this species has a very wide distribution. The nominate race is found from the Azores, the Canary Islands, and North Africa across Europe and the Middle East to the Pacific Coast, and southwards to the Indian Subcontinent, including Sri Lanka. Other races breed in New Guinea, Australia, and New Zealand. Northern populations are migratory, and birds breeding along the Pacific spend the winter in Korea, southern Japan, south-eastern China, Taiwan, and the Philippines. Other northern populations winter in northern Africa and Southeast Asia.

The common coot is a fairly common winter visitor to Taiwan.

 

 

Common coot, Aogu Wetlands. In the lower picture, it is just about to dive for water plants, which constitute the major part of its food. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Two members of the family Rallidae: Common coot and moorhen, Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Gallinula Moorhens
This is a genus of 6 species, of which 3 are widespread, one is restricted to Gough Island in the Atlantic Ocean, whereas the remaining 2 are critically endangered, or maybe already extinct.

The name mor hen can be traced as far back as the 13th Century, meaning marsh hen, as the word mor in those days referred to marshes, rather than to moorland, which today indicates areas with heather (Calluna vulgaris) and other plants of dry, poor soils.

The generic name is Latin for ‘little hen’.

 

Gallinula chloropus Common moorhen
This species is widely distributed in the Old World, found in most of Europe and Africa, much of Central Asia, on the Indian Subcontinent, in Southeast and East Asia, southwards to Indonesia. It is common in the Taiwanese lowlands. Central and East Asian populations are migratory, mixing with the resident populations further south in winter.

In the Americas, this species is replaced by the similar common gallinule (G. galeata), which was formerly regarded as a subspecies of the moorhen.

 

 

Taiwan 2018
Moorhens, Han River, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Moorhens in a drainage canal, Taichung. In the bottom picture, a bird is walking along a branch of a tree, which has fallen into the canal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Recurvirostridae Avocets and stilts
Avocets and stilts are wading birds, characterized by their very long and thin legs. They are widely distributed around the world.

 

Himantopus Stilts
Handbook of the Birds of the World (Lynx Edicions) only recognizes 3 species of stilt, the black-winged stilt (below) and H. novaezelandiae, and the banded stilt (Cladorhynchus leucocephalus), a strange nomadic bird, which is restricted to Australia, where it only breeds after ample rain, when large salt lakes are created at various places in the desert. Other authorities recognize up to 6 members of the genus Himantopus.

The first part of the generic name is from the Latin amentum, a leather strap, which was attached to a javelin, used in ancient Greek athletics, hunting, and warfare. This strap helped to increase the range and stability of the javelin in flight. (Source: E. Gardiner 1907. Throwing the Javelin. The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 27: 249-273)

The second part of the name is from the Greek pous (‘foot’). Thus, Himantopus may be translated as ‘strap-leg’, which of course refers to the very long, thin legs of these birds.

 

Himantopus himantopus Black-winged stilt
This bird is distributed in most temperate, subtropical, and tropical regions of the world, but is restricted to areas with shallow water. Northern populations are migratory. It is a scarce breeding bird in Taiwan, but a common winter visitor.

 

 

Part of a large flock of black-winged stilts, Tainan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Female (left) and male black-winged stilt, Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Immature bird, Aogu Wetlands. Young birds have black crown and hindneck. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Recurvirostra Avocets
There are 4 species of avocets, all belonging to this genus. They are distributed worldwide, except in polar regions.

The generic name is derived from the Latin recurvus (‘curved backwards’) and rostrum (‘bill’), referring to the up-curved bill of these birds, an adaptation to ‘skim’ the surface of the water in search of tiny animals. The common name probably derives from an old Italian word, avosetta, which, presumably, was the name of the pied avocet (below).

 

Recurvirostra avosetta Pied avocet
This bird mainly breeds in two widely separated areas, in a broad belt from eastern Europe across Central Asia to north-eastern China, and in eastern and southern Africa, but it also has a scattered occurrence in Europe and the Middle East. Most European and Asian birds are migratory, spending the winter in Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, along the Chinese east coast, and also in Taiwan.

 

The upper picture below shows a large mixed flock of pied avocet and black-winged stilt in the Aogu Wetlands. Northern shoveler (Spatula clypeata), great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), grey heron (Ardea cinerea), great white egret (Ardea alba), moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), and northern pintail (Anas acuta) are also present.

 

 

(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Sleeping avocets, Budai Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Feeding avocets, Tainan. To the left northern shovelers (Spatula clypeata). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Scolopacidae Sandpipers and allies
A large family with about 15 genera and c. 95 species of waders, found across the globe.

 

Actitis
This genus contains only 2 species, the common sandpiper (below) and the spotted sandpiper (A. macularia), which breeds in North America.

The generic name is from Ancient Greek aktites (‘living on the coast’), derived from akte (‘coast’).

 

Actitis hypoleucos Common sandpiper
This small wader breeds across large parts of temperate and subtropical Eurasia, spending the winter in Africa, southern Asia, and Australia. It is a common winter visitor to Taiwan.

The specific name is derived from the Greek hypo (‘beneath’) and leukos (‘white’), referring to the whitish belly of this species.

In the Nukumanu Islands of Papua New Guinea, the common sandpiper is called matakakoni, meaning ‘the bird that walks a little, then copulates’, referring to the habit of this bird of pumping its hind body up and down while foraging. (Source: D.W. Hadden, 2004. Birds of the northern atolls of the North Solomons Province of Papua New Guinea. Notornis. 51 (2): 91-102)

 

 

The common sandpiper is often feeding in drainage canals, like these birds in the city of Taichung. The pink blots in the upper picture are eggs of the golden apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata), described on the page Nature: Invasive species. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Common sandpiper in morning light, standing on a piece of discarded house wall in a drainage canal, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This bird is walking along a wall, erected along a drainage canal, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This bird is bathing in a drainage canal, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Tringa
This genus, comprising 13 species, is distributed almost worldwide.

The generic name was applied to the green sandpiper (below) by Italian naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1599), who was the founder of the botanical garden of Bologna – one of the first of its kind. The name is derived from the Greek trungas, a thrush-sized, tail-bobbing wading bird, mentioned by Greek scientist and philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.). (Source: J.A. Jobling 2010. The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. Christopher Helm, London)

 

Tringa glareola Wood sandpiper
This bird has a very wide distribution, found from northern Norway, England, and Germany eastwards across the entire Siberia to the Chukotka and Kamchatka Peninsulas. It winters in sub-Saharan Africa, in large parts of subtropical and tropical Asia, and in Australia.

In Taiwan, it is a common migrant, and some also spend the winter here.

It differs from the green sandpiper (below) by having longer, greenish legs, and the back is heavily mottled. In flight, it sometimes emits a loud yif-if-if.

 

 

Wood sandpiper, resting on a concrete dam, Suei Wei River, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

A wood sandpiper and a little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius ssp. curonicus), resting on stones in the Suei Wei River, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Tringa nebularia Greenshank
A common breeding bird in the northern subarctic zone, found from northern Scotland and Scandinavia across the Siberian taiga to Chukotka and Kamchatka Peninsulas. It is migratory, wintering in Africa, southern Asia, and Australia.

Large numbers pass Taiwan on migration, and some spend the winter here.

 

 

Greenshank, feeding together with a redshank (Tringa totanus), Qigu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Tringa ochropus Green sandpiper
This bird resembles the wood sandpiper (above), but the legs are shorter and more grey than green, whereas the back is darker and less mottled. In flight, it often emits a clear, whistling duit-vit-vit.

It is widely distributed, breeding from Norway, Denmark, and Germany eastwards across the Siberian taiga belt to the Sea of Okhotsk, wintering in western and southern Europe, large parts of Africa, the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, southern China, Taiwan, and southern Japan, southwards through Southeast Asia and the Philippines to northern Borneo. Unlike most other sandpipers, it breeds in trees.

This species is passing through Taiwan on migration, and some spend the winter here. However, it is not often seen, as it prefers freshwater habitats, including small ponds and vegetated streams.

 

 

The green sandpiper is often encountered along vegetated streams, in this case the Suei Wei River, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This green sandpiper is also resting in the Suei Wei River. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Tringa totanus Common redshank
This species is a widespread breeding bird in almost all of Europe, including Iceland, and in a broad belt across southern temperate areas of Asia, eastwards to Ussuriland in south-eastern Siberia, north-eastern China, and the Japanese island Hokkaido.

Around the North Sea and the Mediterranean, birds are resident. Other populations are migratory, wintering in northern Africa, the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia. In Taiwan, it is common on passage, rare in winter.

The specific name is from totano, the Italian name for this bird.

 

 

Feeding redshank, Qigu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nine redshanks, resting on a grassy islet together with northern shovelers (Spatula clypeata), Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Sittidae Nuthatches
Nuthatches are a family of c. 29 species of small passerines, with only a single genus, Sitta. These birds are characterized by their feeding behavior, creeping up and down tree trunks in search of larvae, which they extract from the wood, using their powerful bill.

 

Sitta europaea Eurasian nuthatch
This species is distributed in an enormous area, found in the major part of Europe, in Turkey and the Caucasus, in the entire Siberian taiga, and in most of East Asia, including Japan and Taiwan.

In Taiwan, subspecies formosana is fairly common in forests at medium altitudes.

 

 

Eurasian nuthatch, feeding on a lichen-covered tree, Aowanda National Forest. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Sturnidae Starlings and mynas
Starlings and mynas constitute a family of about 118 species of medium-sized passerines, divided into c. 30 genera. Their natural area of distribution includes Europe, Africa, Asia, northern Australia, and some Pacific islands. Many species have been introduced elsewhere, including North America, Hawaii, and New Zealand. They often compete with native birds, and many are regarded as invasive species, in North America especially the common starling (Sturnus vulgaris), which is dealt with on the page Nature: Invasive species.

In Taiwan, 16 species of this family have been observed, many of which, however, are escaped cage birds.

 

Acridotheres Mynas
A genus with 10 species, found from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran eastwards to China and Taiwan, southwards to Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

The generic name is derived from Ancient Greek akridos (‘locust’) and theras (‘hunter’). When locusts or grasshoppers are abundant, starlings and mynas gorge themselves on these insects. An example is described on the page People: Pehr Forsskål – brilliant Swedish scientist.

 

Acridotheres cristatellus Crested myna
This species is named for the tuft of feathers at the base of its bill, which is larger than that of most other mynas, resembling a small crest. The nominate subspecies is distributed from eastern Myanmar eastwards to southern China and Vietnam, whereas subspecies brevipennis lives on the Chinese island Hainan, and subspecies formosanus in Taiwan. The species has also been introduced to various places, including Singapore, Japan, Canada, Argentina, and Portugal, often forming small local populations.

The crested myna used to be fairly common in the lowlands of Taiwan, but has declined due to competition with Javan and common mynas (both below). It may be told from those species by its blackish plumage, red eye, pale yellow bill, and a large tuft at the base of the bill.

 

 

This crested myna is sitting on a wall along a drainage canal at the outskirts of Taichung. A paddy field is seen in the background. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

These birds are sitting on a cornice beneath a highway in Taichung, perhaps their breeding site. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Crested mynas, taking off after drinking from a pond in Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Acridotheres javanicus Javan myna, white-vented myna
As a native, this bird is restricted to the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali. However, it has been introduced to numerous other countries as a cage bird and has escaped in many places to form feral populations, including Taiwan, Japan, Southeast Asia, and Puerto Rico.

Today, the Javan myna is very common in Singapore and Taiwan, where it outcompetes local bird species, in Taiwan especially the native crested myna (above).

 

 

Usually, Javan mynas are quite wary of people, but these two, observed in Taichung, showed no fear at all. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Javan mynas, feeding in a drainage canal, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2018b
These birds are feeding in flowers of silk-cotton tree (Bombax ceiba), Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

A small part of a large flock of Javan mynas, feeding in a newly harvested rice field at the outskirts of Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

These birds land in a drainage canal in Taichung to quench their thirst. The upper bird shows the black-and-white wing pattern of this species. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

The picture below shows three Javan mynas on a house roof in Taichung. Two of them, presumably males, are involved in a territorial fight. One of the birds has ended up in the gutter, but has a firm grip around his opponent’s leg, so that he is unable to move away. The battle only ended, when the bird in the gutter let go of the leg and saw his chance to fly away.

 

 

(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Acridotheres tristis Common myna, Indian myna
This is another common escape in lowland Taiwan. It is native to Asia, distributed from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and eastern Iran eastwards across the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia to south-western China, and thence southwards to Singapore. Escaped cage birds have established populations in numerous other countries, including South Africa, Madagascar, several Arabian states, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand.

The common myna was originally a woodland bird, but has adapted very well to agricultural as well as urban environments. In many places, it has become a pest, which expels native birds, especially in Australia, where it has been called “a most important problem”. The IUCN Species Survival Commission has declared it one of the world’s most invasive species and a threat to “biodiversity, agriculture, and human interests”.

 

 

Common mynas, resting on an electric pole and a lamp, Taichung. A single Javan myna (the slate-coloured bird) is also sitting on the lamp. The containers in the background are for storage of water. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Common mynas and spotted doves (Spilopelia chinensis), feeding on rice, which has been spread out on a drainage pipe, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This common myna is sitting on an electric wire, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Aplonis
A genus of about 23 species, found mainly in Indonesia and Oceania, with a few species in north-eastern India, Indochina, the Malay Peninsula, and north-eastern Queensland.

 

Aplonis panayensis Asian glossy starling
The most widespread species of the genus, found in Bangladesh, north-eastern India, Indochina, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. It has been introduced to Taiwan, where birds have escaped here and there in the lowland.

The plumages of adult and immature birds are strikingly different, adults being glossy greenish-blue, whereas young birds are heavily streaked on the underside. Both adults and immatures have bright reddish-brown eyes.

 

 

Asian glossy starlings, feeding on rice, which has been spread out on a drainage pipe, Taichung. In the lower picture, two Javan mynas (Acridotheres javanicus), a single common myna (A. tristis), and a spotted dove (Spilopelia chinensis) are also present. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Immature Asian glossy starlings are strikingly patterned. – Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Two young birds, sitting on a wall along a drainage canal in Taichung, together with a tree sparrow (Passer montanus). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Immature birds, feeding on fig fruits, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Sturnia
This small genus with 4 or 5 species is distributed in India, southern China, and Southeast Asia. These birds were formerly placed in the genus Sturnus.

 

Sturnia malabarica Chestnut-tailed starling, grey-headed myna
This species is divided into 2 subspecies, the nominate found in northern India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and north-western Myanmar, subspecies nemoricola in Southeast Asia, southern China, and Taiwan. The latter is fairly common in the Taiwanese lowland, but some authorities regard the population as feral.

Previously, birds in South India were included in this species, reflected by the specific name, which means ‘from the Malabar Coast’. However, most authorities now regard these populations as a separate species, the Malabar starling (Sturnia blythii). This was contradicted by one genetic study, which found that South Indian birds do not differ significantly more from malabarica than birds of subspecies nemoricola. (Source: Zuccon et al. 2008. Phylogenetic relationships among Palearctic-Oriental starlings and mynas (genera Sturnus and Acridotheres: Sturnidae). Zoologica Scripta, 37:469-481)

 

 

Chestnut-tailed starlings, gathered on an electric wire, Taichung. Note the pale chestnut tail feathers. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

These birds are feeding in flowers of a silk-cotton tree (Bombax ceiba), Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This chestnut-tailed starling is investigating a possible nesting hole on an electric pole, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Threskiornithidae Ibises and spoonbills
A worldwide family with 14 genera of long-legged water birds, found on every continent, except Antarctica. Traditionally, this family has been classified into two subfamilies, the ibises and the spoonbills. However, a recent genetic study concludes that spoonbills are closely related to the Old World ibises, whereas the New World ibises are an early offshoot. (Source: J.L. Ramirez, C.Y. Miyaki & S.N. del Lama 2013. Molecular phylogeny of Threskiornithidae (Aves: Pelecaniformes) based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. Genetics and Molecular Research 12 (3): 2740-2750)

 

Platalea Spoonbills
This genus contains 6 species, distributed on all continents, except Antarctica.

 

Platalea minor Black-faced spoonbill
This scarce bird breeds on islets off the west coast of Korea, on offshore islets in Liaoning Province of China, and since 2006 also a few pairs in the Tumen Estuary in south-eastern Siberia. From an estimated number as high as 10,000, the population plummeted to a low of 288 birds in 1988. Since then, conservation efforts have caused the population to increase to c. 4,000 in 2017. (Source: Birdlife International)

The southern half of Taiwan is the most important wintering area for this species, holding a total of about 2,500 individuals.

Naturally, this iconic bird is also represented in Taiwanese folk art. Some examples are shown on the page Culture: Folk art of Taiwan.

 

The upper picture below shows black-faced spoonbills in the Aogu Wetlands, resting beneath Casuarina equisetifolia trees, in which great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) are sitting. The following birds are also present: grey heron (Ardea cinerea), great white egret (Ardea alba), northern shoveler (Spatula clypeata), and black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus). The slightly larger bird in the centre of the spoonbill flock is a common spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), a rare visitor to Taiwan.

 

 

(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Black-faced spoonbills, Qigu Wetlands, near Tainan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Black-faced spoonbill, Aogu Wetlands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

In this picture from the Qigu Wetlands, the spatula-shaped bill is clearly seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Threskiornis
A genus with 5 species, occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, and from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Japan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia and Indonesia to Australia.

 

Threskiornis aethiopicus Sacred ibis
The native area of this bird is sub-Saharan Africa, where it is very common. Previously, it was also occurred in the marshes of southern Iraq, but it is doubtful, whether it still occurs there.

In Ancient Egypt, it was common, but has since become extinct. It was venerated as a symbol of the god of knowledge, Thoth, which is often depicted with the head of an ibis.

Today, the sacred ibis is a common and popular species in zoological gardens worldwide. It often escapes, and populations in the wild have been established in France, Italy, Spain, the Canary Islands, Florida, Taiwan, and elsewhere. These populations are a great threat to many other birds that breed in colonies. Ibises are predators, which can ravage colonies of terns and other birds by eating their eggs and young, and they also compete for nesting sites with other birds, including cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) and little egret (Egretta garzetta).

 

 

The sacred ibis has been introduced to Taiwan and is spreading steadily. These pictures are from the Aogu Wetlands. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Sacred ibises, and a single immature black-crowned night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), take off after feeding in the Fazi River, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Timaliidae Old World babblers
In former days, this primarily Asian family was very large, consisting of 34 genera with almost 300 species. Genetic research has since concluded that many of the birds placed here were only distantly related, and most have now been moved to other families. As of today, 9 genera with altogether c. 53 species have been retained in Timaliidae.

 

Pomatorhinus Scimitar-babblers
This genus contains about 15 species of smaller to medium-sized birds, easily recognized by their long, curved bill.

 

Pomatorhinus musicus Taiwan scimitar babbler
As its name implies, this species is endemic to Taiwan, where it is fairly common in the lowlands, up to an altitude of c. 2,500 m. It mainly feeds in dense thickets and is often hard to spot.

Previously, this bird was regarded as a subspecies of the streak-breasted scimitar babbler (P. ruficollis), which is distributed from eastern Nepal and Bangladesh eastwards to southern China and Vietnam.

 

 

Taiwan scimitar babbler, Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

A Taiwan scimitar-babbler, sitting on a wire, is a rare sight! – Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Turdidae Thrushes
Thrushes constitute a large, almost global family of small to medium-sized birds, which spend much time feeding on the ground for worms and other invertebrates, and many species also eat fruit. Previously, this family was much larger, including many genera which are today included in the Old World flycatcher family (Muscicapidae).

The word thrush is derived from Old English throstle, from Proto-Germanic þrustlō, an ancient name for the song thrush (Turdus philomelos). In Old Saxon, þrustlō became throsla, in German Drossel. The latter name was adopted by the Danes, whereas the Swedes use the name trast for these birds, and the Norwegians trost.

A number of thrush species are dealt with on the page Animals: Thrushes.

 

Turdus Typical thushes
This genus, comprising 84 species, has an almost cosmopolitan distribution. Most of the northern species are migratory. The generic name is the Latin word for thrush.

 

Turdus chrysolaus Brown-headed thrush
This bird is endemic to East Asia, breeding from Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands southwards to central Honshu, Japan, spending the winter in southern Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. It is mainly of a warm brown colour, with reddish breast and white central belly. The male has blackish-brown head and throat, whereas the female has whitish throat with black vertical stripes.

The brown-headed thrush is a common migrant and winter visitor to Taiwan.

 

 

Male brown-headed thrush, feeding on fruits of a Chinese tallow-tree (Triadica sebifera) in a city park in Taichung. The gorgeous winter foliage of this tree is shown on the page Autumn. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This female is eating fruits of maritime persimmon (Diospyros maritima), Taitung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Turdus niveiceps Taiwan thrush
Previously, this bird was regarded as a subspecies of the widespread island thrush (T. poliocephalus), but is now generally regarded as a separate species, which is restricted to Taiwan. It mainly lives in montane forests at moderate altitudes, but is occasionally seen in the lowlands.

The adult male is a very pretty bird, with black back and breast band, reddish belly, and pure white head, whereas the female has brown back and crown, buffy eye stripe, reddish breast and belly, and whitish throat.

 

 

Male Taiwan thrush, feeding on berries of Chinese wonder tree (Idesia polycarpa), Dasyueshan National Forest. A male small vivid niltava (Niltava vivida) is seen in the background. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Young male Taiwan thrush, feeding among dead leaves, Longluan Lake, Kenting National Park. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Turdus pallidus Pale thrush
As its name implies, this species has a rather drab plumage, brown on the wings and back, white underside speckled with reddish-brown, and greyish head with a narrow yellow eye-ring. This species lives in forest, breeding in Ussuriland in south-eastern Siberia, in north-eastern China, and in Korea, wintering in Korea, southern Japan, south-eastern China, and also Taiwan, where it is fairly common.

 

 

Pale thrush, Buluowan, Taroko Gorge. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Zoothera Asian thrushes
Formerly, c. 46 species were placed in this genus. However, at an early stage, two American species were transferred to other genera, the Aztec thrush to the genus Ridgwayia, and the varied thrush to Ixoreus. In 2008, following a number of genetic studies, c. 22 other species were transferred to the genus Geokichla.

The generic name is derived from the Greek zoon (‘animal’) and theras (‘hunter’), referring to the feeding habit of these thrushes, searching for invertebrates on the forest floor.

 

Zoothera aurea White’s thrush
Previously, the distribution area of the scaly thrush (Zoothera dauma) was thought to be the major part of Siberia, and South and East Asia, southwards to Australia. Lately, however, this bird has been split into about 8 species, and according to Handbook of the Birds of the World (Lynx Edicions), Siberian and East Asian birds are now called White’s thrush. In Taiwan, this species is a fairly common resident in montane forests.

The specific name is from the Latin aureus (‘golden’). Presumably, this name refers to the wings and back of this bird, although they are more brownish than golden. The common name commemorates English naturalist Gilbert White (1720-1793), who is best known for his book Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, first published in 1789.

 

 

White’s thrush, feeding on berries of Chinese wonder tree (Idesia polycarpa), Dasyueshan National Forest. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Vireonidae Vireos and allies
As of today, this family contains 8 genera with about 64 species, for the major part restricted to the New World, with two Old World genera, Pteruthius and Erpornis, tentatively placed here.

 

Erpornis zantholeuca White-bellied erpornis
This small bird was formerly placed in the genus Yuhina (see Zosteropidae below), named white-bellied yuhina. However, genetic studies have revealed that it is by no means closely related to yuhinas, but probably to the American vireos, as one of the few Old World representatives of that family. Consequently, it has been transferred to a separate genus, Erpornis, where it is the only member.

The white-bellied erpornis is widely distributed in Asia, from the Himalaya eastwards to southern China and Taiwan, and thence southwards through Southeast Asia to northern Sumatra and Borneo.

 

 

White-bellied erpornis is fairly common in Taiwan at mid-elevations. This one was encountered in Taroko Gorge. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

 

Zosteropidae White-eyes, yuhinas, and allies
Traditionally, white-eyes were regarded as a distinct family of small passerines, whose members were all much alike. However, recent genetic studies indicate that they are closely related to yuhinas, which were formerly placed in the babbler family (Timaliidae).

As of today, the family Zosteropidae contains 14 genera with about 139 species, but some experts have pointed out that further studies must be made, before the true relationship of white-eyes with other birds can be determined.

 

Yuhina Yuhinas
A group of 11 small passerines, which were formerly included in the timaliid family (Timaliidae), but have now been tentatively placed in the family Zosteropidae.

 

Yuhina brunneiceps Taiwan yuhina
As its name implies, this bird is endemic to Taiwan, living in forests at elevations between 1,000 and 3,200 m, in cold winter weather often descending to lower altitudes. It is one of the commonest birds in forests between 1,500 and 2,500 m.

 

 

Taiwan yuhinas, feeding in flowers of Taiwanese cherry (Prunus campanulata), Aowanda National Forest. Yellow nectar is sticking to the feathers at the base of the bill of the bird in the upper picture. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Zosterops White-eyes
A large genus with more than 100 species, widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar and nearby islands, southern Arabia, from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Japan, and thence southwards to New Guinea and Australia.

The generic name is derived from the Greek zoster (‘girdle’) and ops (‘eye’), referring to the bright white eye-ring of most species.

 

Zosterops japonicus Japanese white-eye
Throat, crown, and vent of this little bird are bright yellow, whereas the back is olive-green and the underside greyish.

As its name implies, it is native to Japan, and is also found in eastern China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. It is one of the commonest birds in the lowlands of Taiwan.

This species has also been introduced to other areas, including Hawaii, where it is outcompeting native species, for example the spectacular honeycreepers.

 

 

Taiwan 2018
Japanese white-eyes, feeding in flowers of Taiwanese cherry trees (Prunus campanulata), Taichung. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

This Japanese white-eye is feeding on seeds of Chinese tallow-tree (Triadica sebifera), Taichung. The gorgeous winter foliage of this tree is shown on the page Autumn. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Japanese white-eye, taking off from a flower of a silk-cotton tree (Bombax ceiba), Tunghai University Park, Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

(Uploaded September 2018)

 

(Latest update February 2021)