Mon, Jul 18, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Rare terns spotted around Penghu

By Liu Yu-ching and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Birdwatching season is in full swing in Penghu County and endangered Chinese crested terns can be seen nesting now, the Penghu Association for the Study of Wild Birds said.

The tern is critically endangered, with only 50 of the birds thought to be left.

The association said every year from March to September, six types of seabirds — brown noddy, bridled tern, greater crested tern, black-naped tern, little tern and roseate tern — can be seen on the shores of Penghu’s islands.

The appearance of the rare Chinese crested tern this year has been causing a stir, it said.

Penghu is an ideal environment for Chinese terns to lay their eggs because only 20 percent of the archipelago’s 90 islands and islets are permanently inhabited, the association said.

The birds nest in Penghu in summer and then migrate to the Philippines in the winter, it said.

The association runs four bird-watching tours annually, taking visitors to Jishanyu (雞善嶼), Tiejhanyu (鐵砧嶼), Tinggouyu (錠鉤嶼), Sianjiao (險礁) as well as other uninhabited islets.

Every year there is more interest than the group’s tours can accommodate, so Penghu residents have seized the opportunity to use their own boats to present tours, it said.

The greater crested tern accounts for the largest group of seabirds seen on its tours this year, with 4,200 spotted around the islets, the association said.

Some Chinese crested terns were seen nesting this year and one birdwatcher was able to film one of them foraging for food in Magong Harbor (馬公港), it said.

“We advise birdwatchers to visit Penghu now, as this is the best time to appreciate them,” one association member said.

The main reason seabirds spend the summer in Penghu is that the migratory silver-stripe round herring also passes through the archipelago at this time and Penghu’s geography makes it easy for the birds to catch the fish, the association said.

The uninhabited islets also make ideal nest sites, as birds are not disturbed by human activity, it added.

The Penghu County Government said birdwatchers should maintain their distance from birds at all times.

It reminded visitors that it is strictly prohibited to land on the uninhabited islands or engage in any actions that would scare the birds, such as setting off firecrackers.

If people want to throw fish into the water to feed the birds, they should do it in moderate amounts to avoid upsetting the natural balance of the environment, the county government said.

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