Taiwan birding trip report, 11 - 24 November 2012  
John van der Woude - 
Taiwan is a great birding destination. Not only for all the endemic species and subspecies, but also for the beautiful mountain forests, the food and the nice people. We again joined Stijn de Win of birding2asia on a small group tour, like this spring in the Philippines. Thanks to his extensive experience with Taiwan trips, we got all the endemics and loads of endemic subspecies. He cleverly designed and adjusted the itinerary, and we also had the luck that the few rainy days of the trip were spent in the lowlands (where the weather is not so important birdwise) and not in the mountains where visibility would have been bad. We used the costly morning hours by getting up early and having breakfast in the excellent 7 Eleven shops which are open 24/7. Our lunches were also mostly there, to further increase the flexibility during the day (with nice sandwiches/sushi/etc.). Stijn drove the van himself and therefore could stop immediately on the quiet roads when a bird was spotted. Also, Stijn's small group size (max. 5 for Taiwan) practically ensures that no one misses a bird. 
All this made the tour a success. We had all 24 endemics, plus a mighty 46 endemic subspecies, so that's 70 endemic taxa. See the species list at the bottom of this page. Our field guide was Mark Brazil's Birds of East Asia, which shows quite a few of the Taiwan endemic subspecies. In one of the bookshops of the nature reserves I also bought a recent photo field guide for Taiwan (all in Chinese only except the bird name; good photos). The best Taiwan only field guide is out of print and sold out everywhere, but we were told locally that it may be reprinted in a year or two, although its taxonomy should probably be updated.
The 9 day group tour itinerary was: first a few days at Anmashan for the mid elevation mountain forests (both pheasants); then shorter stays in the forested hills of Huisun (blue magpie), the Kentings lowlands, the Tsengwen estuary (spoonbill) and the mountain forest of Yushan (barwing); and the last days were spent at Wushe (mid to high elevation) for a few remaining species.
Before and after the group tour Nollie and I spent a few extra days on Taiwan on our own. We loved the vibrant city of Taipei where we stayed two nights before the tour and also visited the Guandu nature park. At Wushe, we stayed behind for a few days after the group tour, and we ended our trip at the temples of Tainan and again one last night in Taipei. On these private days we travelled by bus, taxi, metro and high speed train, which was easy.
When birding on your own instead of in a group tour, a rental car will almost be a must unless you have plenty of time, or restrict yourself to one or two good sites (like at Wushe, where on our private post-tour days we saw several of the species of the group tour again, as if in retrospect). Renting a car in Taiwan (international driver's license required) is, despite the fine roads, not as easy as it could be, because of the extremely high deductible in case of loss/damage of the car. Also, in rural areas not many people speak English. On the other hand, the Taiwanese are very nice and will always try to help you, as often happened to us on our private post-tour days.
  Map of Taiwan with our birding sites

1 = Taipei

2 = Anmashan / Dashuehshan forest reserve

3 = Huisun forest reserve

4 = Kenting lowlands (Longluan lake)

5 = Tsengwen estuary

6 = Alishan & Yushan NP

7 = Wushe (Renai) valleys and pass

Guangdu temple and marsh in northern part of Taipei, on our private pre-tour days here, which were also meant to get used to the time difference.

View from hide in Guangdu nature park in northern part of Taipei. Ducks (Eastern Spot-billed), herons, waders, swallows and Vinous-throated Parrotbill.

Map at western exit of Guangdu metro station (main north-south metro line in Taipei), showing how to walk (15 minutes) to the Guangdu nature park (open 9 to 5; closed on Mondays) in the upper left corner of the map. The metro system is very easy and has a high frequency; best to buy a day pass. Good also to choose a hotel not far from the main north-south line, like the fine Mai hotel we had (maihotel.com.tw).

Anmashan (Dashuehshan) site, along the dead-end mountain road going up east from Dongshi. Taiwan Hwamei, Taiwan Scimitar-Babbler, Taiwan Whistling-Thrush and Taiwan Barbet were among the first endemics we encountered. Higher up along this road we also had our only Black-necklaced Scimitar-Babblers and White-backed Woodpeckers of the trip.

Swinhoe's Pheasant female (above) and subadult male (below) along the same Anmashan road at about Km 21. 

Scaly Thrush well camouflaged in leaf litter along the road in Anmashan, near the above pheasants. Here we also had Rusty Laughingthrush (a group of 15) and Island Thrush.

Endemic White-whiskered Laughingthrushes on Anmashan road. Inquisitive and confiding!

Adult male Swinhoe's Pheasant along Anmashan road, later in the afternoon, like the Mikado below. We actually drove the Anmashan road a few times up and down for some distance that day. Meanwhile we also had good views of Yellow Tit, Steere's Liocichla, White-eared Sibia, Eye-browed Thrush.

Mikado Pheasant (adult male), the main prize on the Anmashan road.

Vivid Niltava, Anmashan. One of the 46 Taiwan-endemic subspecies we saw on this trip.

Along the Anmashan road. Even on the third day along this road we picked up important trip ticks, like the very shy Taiwan Bush-Warbler, but not yet the hoped-for Taiwan Partridge.

Near the entrance of Huisun forest reserve. A group of three Taiwan Blue Magpie majestically flew across the valley. They were also just behind the entrance of the reserve.

Malayan Night-Heron in Huisun forest reserve, behind the entrance. Taiwan is reportedly the easiest place to see it. Other good birds in Huisun FR were Varied Tit and Maroon Oriole.

Crested Goshawk in Jiji botanical garden, a short stop to stretch the legs on our way from Huisun to the coast.

Well equipped hide at Longluan lake in the Kenting lowlands. Osprey and ducks.

Park along path to the above hide, good for Chinese Bamboo-Partridge, Taiwan Hwamei, Taiwan Scimitar-Babbler and Styan's Bulbul.

Surprise along same path to the hide: Emerald Dove not hidden on the forest floor but out in the open!


Styan's Bulbul was the main reason for going to Kenting (this endemic species only occurs in the S/SE of Taiwan), but we also had nice birds like Temminck's Stint, Long-toed Stint and Red-throated Pipits in the wet fields near Longluan lake.

Black-faced Spoonbills ('only' 100) at their special reserve in the Tsengwen estuary near Tainan. Also 300 Caspian Terns, Kentish Plovers, Lesser Sand Plovers and a few Saunders Gulls on this mud flats. In the smaller wetlands around this mud flat area we had Grey-throated Martin (a colony), Slaty-breasted Rail, Scaly-breasted Munia, Red-Throated Pipit and (in a drier field) Long-tailed Shrike.

Stijn and his scope at the BFS hide. He showed one child the spoonbills and to our amusement (with plenty of time on our hands here) immediately a queue formed of other visitors who also wanted a view.

Alishan/Yushan area. Collared Bush-Robin, Taiwan Barwing, Taiwan Wren-Babbler, thrushes, both fulvettas, bullfinches, Flamecrest, Mountain Hawk-Eagle.

Alishan/Yushan was our best site for Collared Bush-Robin.

The Wushe area (east of Puli), the final destination of the group tour. Beautiful forest, like at our other mountain sites. Many of the species of Anmashan again, and some new ones. See the species list below for a comparison between the three mountain sites. Of course there is overlap, but leaving out one of the mountain sites would be a pity.

At the Hehuan pass of the high end of the Wushe area. Good for the two high altitude specialties (endemic subspecies as well) of the photos below.

Alpine Accentor on the 3rd parking lot in the pass (East of the actual pass).

Vinaceous Rosefinch behind a shed at the first parking lot of the pass. At this spot we also had a shy Japanese Thrush (female type), a rare visitor from Japan.

Looking westward in the Wushe area.

At several places on this trip we saw Blue Rock-Thrush. This is the red-bellied philippensis subspecies.

Eye-browed Thrush was everywhere this winter.

Commonly encountered: Collared Finchbill.

Birdwing butterfly.

At the lower end of the Wushe area, an experimental farm (Chung Yang) was good for some extra species like Siberian Rubythroat. Tea in the foreground.

White-bellied Green-Pigeons at the above farm, with a little rain. 

View from the homestay at Wushe where Nollie and I stayed behind after the group tour. The only Brambling of the trip was in the trees in the foreground (male & female). 
This homestay 'Tienhsiang TS Tea' (tel. +886 932 553425) is located at c. Km 4 of road 14B (see Google Maps), so 4 km from where 14B splits from 14. Road 14B is the road to the Hehuan pass (see photo above). The homestay is well located for walks in the immediate surroundings, and there are buses and taxis to go further up, e.g. to Km 18 where the side road left (at the police station) leads to the Blue Gate track after some 500 m. 
The homestay is situated at only 200 m up from the start of a quiet side road going left (as seen from below), a very good birding road (see below). A nice and lively restaurant (chicken, fish) is a 100 m walk up from the homestay. At the homestay they also make a Japanese-style meal for you if you wish. At the start of the side road is another and probably rather new hotel.
There is a direct bus connection between the high speed rail (HSR) station of Taichung and the homestay. Our direct bus down to the HSR station left at 11.10 h (arrival at HSR at 13.20 h).
Note that the town of Wushe is named Renai on some maps.

Good birding along the side road that starts at Km 4 of the Wushe road (14B; the road towards the pass). Our Homestay was only 200 m uphill from the start of this quiet side road. The above photo is at 500 m or so from the start of the road, and here we had Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Chinese Bamboo-Partridge (several groups seen along this road), Siberian Rubythroat and thrushes.

A few km further along this side road larger forest patches appear. Most of the species indicated with 'Wu' in the species list below were seen along here. We saw seveal large flocks inside the forest, with e.g. 17 Grey-chinned Minivets plus a whole array of other species around it. At c. Km 6 there was a new landslide and we did not walk beyond that; the smaller, older landslide at Km 4 or 5 was not a problem. 

At the 'Blue Gate' track much higher up in the Wushe area, it was very quiet now, many birds had probably gone to lower altitudes. But the main prize was still here, on our second, private visit: Taiwan Partridge, a bird flying up from the forest floor at the side of the track, at only 7 m from us. Although it was a brief view and the back side only, it was clearly a partridge, and this deep inside the forest it can only have been Taiwan Partridge.
Walking down from the main road 14B (at Km 18) to this track we had excellent views of Taiwan Barwing and Taiwan Wren-Babbler.

Taiwan Scimitar-Babbler in the garden of the Homestay in the Wushe area, frantically trying to open the folded dead leaves (with insects we presume) at his feet.

Temple in Tainan, the oldest city of Taiwan, and easily reached by high speed rail.

Remains of Fort Zeelandia in Anping, Tainan. The bricks of this 17th century Dutch fort were shipped all the way from Jakarta (Batavia). The Dutch were thrown out here by Koxinga, who is now regarded as the first Chinese to conquer a Western power.

Temple festivities in Tainan.

Temple decoration in Tainan (bulbuls?).

A common roadside sight (Tainan).

The high speed train which makes travel in the western part of Taiwan so easy, at 350 km/h, and 2-3 times per hour in both directions.

Masterpiece of Chinese art in the splendid National Palace Museum of Taipei: detail of the 12 m long drawing of the Qing Ming river festival. The other highlights of Taipei include its food stalls at the night markets, a few temples and the general vibrant atmosphere. On the lawns of the impressive Chiang Kai Shek memorial were Malayan Night Herons.

Species list
in IOC sequence
E = endemic species
es = endemic subspecies
An = Anmashan/Dashuehshan
AY = Alishan/Yushan NP
Wu = Wushe area*

Gu = Guandu nature park Taipei*
Hu = Huisun forest reserve
Ji = Jiji park
Ke = Kenting area
Ts = Tsengwen estuary
Taip = Taipei (other than Guandu)*
.. = elsewhere
Note: * (above) = including the species seen by us before and after the group tour
E Taiwan Partridge An(h) Wu(J) Arborophila crudigularis
es Chinese Bamboo Partridge Wu Ke Bambusicola thoracicus sonorivox
E Swinhoe's Pheasant An Lophura swinhoii
E Mikado Pheasant An Syrmaticus mikado
Eurasian Wigeon Ts Anas penelope
Mallard Ke Anas platyrhynchos
Eastern Spot-billed Duck Gu,Ke Anas zonorhyncha
Northern Pintail Ke Anas acuta
Northern Shoveler Gu,Ke Anas clipeata
Eurasian Teal Gu,Ke,Ts Anas crecca
Tufted Duck Ke Aythya fuligula
Little Grebe Gu,Ke,Ts Tachybaptus ruficollis
intr. Sacred Ibis Gu,Ts Threskironis aethiopicus
Black-faced Spoonbill Ts Platalea minor
Malayan Night Heron An Taip,Hu Gorsachius melanolophus
Black-crowned Night Heron Gu,Ke,.. Nycticorax nycticorax
Striated Heron An Butorides striata
Eastern Cattle Egret An Gy,Ke,.. Bubulcus coromandus
Grey Heron Gu,Ke,Ts Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron Ke Ardea purpurea
Eastern Great Egret Ke,Ts Ardea modesta
Intermediate Egret Gu,Ke Egretta intermedia
Little Egret An Ji,Ke,Ts Egretta garzetta
Great Cormorant Ke Phalacrocorax carbo
Western Osprey Ke Pandion haliaetus
Black-winged Kite Ts Elanus caeruleus
es Crested Serpent Eagle An Wu Spilornis cheela hoya
Eastern Marsh Harrier Ke Circus spilonotus
es Crested Goshawk An AY Ji Accipiter trivirgatus formosae
es Besra An Wu Accipiter virgatus fuscipectus
Black Eagle An Ictinaetus malayensis
Mountain Hawk-Eagle AY Wu Nisaetus nipalensis
Peregrine Falcon Ke Falco peregrinus
Common Kestrel Ke,Ts Falco tinnunculus
es Slaty-breasted Rail Ts Gallirallus striatus taiwanus
White-breasted Waterhen Ke Amaurornis phoenicurus
Common Moorhen Gu,Ke,Ts Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot Ke Fulica atra
Black-winged Stilt Gu,Ke,Ts Himantopus himantopus
Pacific Golden Plover Ke,Ts Pluvialis fulva
Grey Plover Ke,Ts Pluvialis squatarola
Little Ringed Plover Ke,Ts Charadrius dubius
Kentish Plover Ke,Ts Charadrius alexandrinus
Lesser Sand Plover Ke,Ts Charadrius mongolus
Common Snipe Ke Gallinago gallinago
Bar-tailed Godwit Ke,Ts Limosa lapponica
Eurasian Curlew Ts Numenius arquata
Common Redshank Ke,Ts Tringa totanus
Marsh Sandpiper Ts Tringa stagnatilis
Common Greenshank Gu,Ke,Ts Tringa nebularia
Green Sandpiper Gu,Ke,Ts Tringa ochropus
Wood Sandpiper Gu,Ke,Ts Tringa glareola
Common Sandpiper Gu,Ke,Ts Actitis hypoleucos
Temminck's Stint Ke Calidris temminckii
Long-toed Stint Ke Calidris subminuta
Curlew Sandpiper Ke Calidris ferruginea
Dunlin Ts Calidris alpina
Saunders's Gull Ts Chroicocephalus saundersi
Caspian Tern Ke,Ts Hydroprogne caspia
Little Tern Ke,Ts Sternula albifrons
Whiskered Tern Ke,Ts Chlidonias hybrida
Ashy Wood Pigeon An Columba pulchricollis
es Oriental Turtle Dove An Wu Gu,Ke Streptopelia orientalis orii
Red Turtle Dove An AY Gu,Ke,.. Streptopelia tranquebarica
Spotted Dove An AY Gu,.. Stigmatopelia chinensis
Common Emerald Dove Ke Chalcophaps indica
White-bellied Green Pigeon An Wu Treron sieboldii sororius
es Mountain Scops Owl An(h) Otus spilocephalus hambroecki
es Collared Scops Owl An(h) Otus lettia glabripes
Silver-backed Needletail An Wu Hirundapus cochinchinensis
es House Swift An AY Wu Taip,.. Apus nipalensis kuntzi
Common Kingfisher An AY Ji Alcedo atthis
E Taiwan Barbet An AY Wu Ji,Ke Megalaima nuchalis
es Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker An AY Wu Hu Dendrocopos canicapillus kaleensis
es White-backed Woodpecker An Dendrocopos leucotos insularis
Grey-chinned Minivet An Wu Pericrocotus solaris
Brown Shrike Ke,Ts,.. Lanius cristatus
Long-tailed Shrike Ts Lanius schach
White-bellied Erpornis Wu Hu Erpornis zantholeuca
es Maroon Oriole Hu Oriolus traillii ardens
es Black Drongo An Gu,Ke,.. Dicrurus macrocercus harteri
Ashy Drongo An Dicrurus leucophaeus
es Bronzed Drongo An Wu .. Dicrurus aeneus braunianus
es Black-naped Monarch An Ke, .. Hypothymis azurea oberholseri
es Eurasian Jay An AY Garrulus glandarius taivanus
E Taiwan Blue Magpie Hu Urocissa caerulea
es Grey Treepie An Wu Hu,Ke Dendrocitta formosae formosae
Eurasian Magpie An Ke Pica pica
es Spotted Nutcracker An AY Nucifraga caryocatactes owstoni
Large-billed Crow An AY .. Corvus macrorhynchos
es Varied Tit Hu Poecile varius castaneoventris
es Coal Tit An AY Periparus ater ptilosus
es Green-backed Tit An AY Wu Parus monticolus insperatus
E Yellow Tit An Wu Parus holsti
es Oriental Skylark Ke,Ts Alauda gulgula wattersi
es Collared Finchbill An Wu Spzixos semitorques cinereicapillus
es Light-vented (Chinese) Bulbul common Pycnonotus sinensis formosae
E Styan's Bulbul Ke Pycnonotus taivanus
es Black Bulbul common Hypsipetes leucocephalus nigerrimus
Grey-throated Martin Ke Riparia chinensis
Barn Swallow Gu,Ts Hirundo rustica
Pacific Swallow Wu Ke,.. Hirundo tahitica
Asian House Martin An Wu Gu, .. Delichon dasypus
Striated Swallow An Gu,.. Cecropis striolata
Manchurian Bush Warbler Wu Cettia canturians
es Brown-flanked Bush Warbler An Wu Horornis fortipes robustipes
es Yellow-bellied Bush Warbler An AY Horornis acanthizoides concolor
Rufous-faced Warbler An AY Wu Abroscopus albogularis
Black-throated Bushtit An AY Wu Aegithalos concinnus
Arctic Warbler Ke Phylloscopus borealis
Oriental Reed Warbler Ke Acrocephalus orientalis
E Taiwan Bush Warbler An Locustella alishanensis
Zitting Cisticola Ke Cisticola juncidis
es Striated Prinia Wu Hu Prinia crinigera striata
es Plain Prinia Wu Gu,Ts Prinia inornata flavirostris
E Black-necklaced Scimitar Babbler An Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis
E Taiwan Scimitar Babbler An Wu Ke Pomatorhinus musicus
E Taiwan Wren-Babbler An(h) AY Wu Pnoepyga formosana
es Rufous-capped Babbler An AY Wu Stachyris ruficeps praecognita
E Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush An Wu Garrulax ruficeps
E Rusty Laughingthrush An Garrulax poecilorhynchus
E Taiwan Hwamei An Wu Ke(h) Garrulax taewanus
E White-whiskered Laughingthrush An AY Garrulax morrisonianus
E Steere's Liocichla An AY Wu Liocichla steerii
E Taiwan Barwing AY Wu Actinodura morrisoniana
E Taiwan Fulvetta AY Wu Alcippe formosana
es Dusky Fulvetta An Wu Alcippe brunnea brunnea
E Grey-cheeked Fulvetta An AY Wu Alcippe morrisonia
E White-eared Sibia An Wu Hu Heterophasia auricularis
E Taiwan Yuhina An AY Wu Yuhina brunneiceps
es Vinous-throated Parrotbill Wu Gu Paradoxornis webbianus bulomacha
Japanese White-eye An Wu Gu,Hu Zosterops japonicus
E Flamecrest An AY Regulus goodfellowi
es Winter Wren An(N) Troglodytes troglodytes taivanus
Eurasian Nuthatch An AY Wu Sitta europaea
intr. White-vented (Javan) Myna common Acridotheres javanicus
Common Myna Ke Acridotheres tristis
White-shouldered Starling Ke Sturnia sinensis
E Taiwan Whistling Thrush An Hu Myophonus insularis
Scaly Thrush An AY Zoothera dauma
Japanese Thrush Wu Turdus cardis
es Island Thrush An(J) Turdus poliocephalus niveiceps
Eyebrowed Thrush An AY Wu Turdus obscurus
Pale Thrush Wu Turdus pallidus
Brown-headed Thrush AY Wu Turdus chrysolaus
Siberian Rubythroat Wu Luscinia calliope
es White-browed Shortwing Wu(N) Bracypterix montana goodfellowi
es White-browed Bush Robin Wu Tarsiger indicus formosanus
E Collared Bush Robin An AY Tarsiger johnstoniae
Daurian Redstart Wu Hu,Ke Phoenicurus auroreus
es Plumbeous Water Redstart An AY Wu Rhyacornis fuliginosa affinis
es White-tailed Robin An Myiomela leucura montium
Little Forktail An Enicurus scouleri
Blue Rock Thrush AY Wu Ke Monticola solitarius
Grey-streaked Flycatcher Ji Muscicapa griseisticta
es Vivid Niltava An Wu Niltava vivida vivida
es Plain Flowerpecker An Dicaeum minullum uchidai
es Fire-breasted Flowerpecker An Dicaeum ignipectus formosum
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Wu Ke,Ts Passer montanus
White-rumped Munia An Wu Lonchura striata
Scaly-breasted Munia Ts Lonchura punctulata
es Alpine Accentor Wu Prunella collaris fennelli
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Gu,Ke,.. Motacilla tschutschensis
Grey Wagtail An Gu Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail An Ke,.. Motacilla alba
Olive-backed Pipit Wu Anthus hodgsoni
Red-throated Pipit Ke,Ts Anthus cervinus
Brambling Wu Fringilla montifringilla
es Vinaceous Rosefinch Wu Carpodacus vinaceus formosanus
es Brown Bullfinch Wu Pyrrhula nipalensis uchidai
es Grey-headed (Beavan's) Bullfinch An Wu Pyrrhula erythaca owstoni
Hawfinch An Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Black-faced Bunting An Wu .. Emberiza spodocephala