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Populations of sparrows, parrotbills falling: study

INVASION:The population growth of starlings is proof that introduced species are displacing endemic ones and a warning sign for the ecological system, an official said

By Jonathan Chin  /  Staff writer, with CNA

A vinous-throated parrotbill feeds her chicks in an undated photograph provided by the Endemic Species Research Institute in Nantou County.

Photo: CNA

The latest national survey of birds found that the populations of sparrows and vinous-throated parrotbills are declining, the Endemic Species Research Institute said on Monday.

Since 1999, the Council of Agriculture institute has conducted an annual survey of the nation’s 100 most common avian species, or half of all birds that breed in Taiwan, institute Deputy Director Lee Hsun-hwang (李訓煌) said.

The survey is conducted from March to July and covers much of the nation, from high-altitude locations such as Yushan (玉山) to Kinmen and Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼), he said.

Over the past decade, the effort has involved more than 300 volunteer bird-watchers and collected about 500,000 data points, Lee said, adding that the information provides valuable insights into the state of the nation’s ecological health.

Analysis of data collected from the project’s inception to 2016 found that sparrows and parrotbills, which are common, low-altitude, brush and grass-dwelling species, have seen notable population declines, he said.

Concern over the declines has been compounded by worries over the growth of introduced species, such as starlings, Lee said.

The population growth of starlings is evidence that introduced species are displacing endemic ones and a warning sign for the ecological system, he said.

The survey is an open-source scientific inquiry and the institute’s role is to collate and review data that volunteers have submitted, Lee said.

Bird-watchers are encouraged to participate via the Taiwan Biodiversity Information Facility ( and eBird Taiwan ( Web sites, he said.

The scientific information the project has generated has been of value to the global avian research community, he added.

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