Fri, Mar 13, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Winter bird census spots rare species, threats to habitats

BIRD IN THE HAND:A rare young Siberian white crane was spotted in New Taipei City late last year, while native mynas are at risk from imported species

Staff writer, with CNA

Ornithologists and members of wild bird societies around Taiwan recently recorded several rare bird species and discovered an ecological issue that threatens the survival of some indigenous birds, a researcher said this week.

Members of the Endemic Species Research Institute (ESRI) and the Taipei-based Chinese Wild Bird Federation recorded a total of 319 bird species, including 25 native species, during a nationwide counting campaign, said Lin Rui-hsin (林瑞興), head of the ESRI’s Division of Habitats and Ecosystems.

The winter count from Dec. 20 last year to Jan. 11 was the ESRI’s second annual campaign in collaboration with the wild bird organization.

It was a comprehensive campaign to record the birds in Taiwan in winter, and an additional 27 species were observed this year, Lin said at a Tuesday news conference on the bird census.

About 620 bird species have been recorded in Taiwan, half of which were observed during the winter bird census, he said.

THREAT

However, ornithologists and birdwatchers said that human activities are increasingly threatening the survival of some birds, such as the russet sparrow and myna, Lin said.

More than 10 years ago, russet sparrows were seen in flocks in hillside and mountainous areas in the nation, but the population has decreased drastically over the past few years due to human activities, he said.

A flock of between 40 and 50 russet sparrows in Wutai Township (霧台) in Pingtung County has disappeared since Typhoon Morakot devastated southern Taiwan in August 2009, Lin said.

“Now, the sparrows have become a rare species in Taiwan,” he added.

THREATENED MYNAS

Meanwhile, mynas are also declining in Taiwan proper due to an invasion of foreign species, including white-vented mynas and common mynas that were imported as pets, Lin said.

However, the findings were not all gloomy: A rare young Siberian white crane was spotted in New Taipei City late last year, ESRI assistant researcher Lin Ta-li (林大利) said at the news conference.

The endangered bird might have gotten lost on its first migratory trip to Dongting Lake in China, and ended up in Taiwan, Lin Ta-li said.

There are just 3,639 white cranes worldwide, he said, citing 2012 data.

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