Research team spots ‘mythical bird’ in Matsu

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 - Page 2

A critically endangered bird — the Chinese crested tern — was spotted last month by an automatic monitoring system stationed on the Matsu archipelago, the Forestry Bureau said.

The bureau said there are only about 50 Chinese crested terns left in the wild and the species is listed as “critically endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

Bureau director-general Lee Tao-sheng (李桃生) said the Chinese crested tern is the rarest species of tern, which has earned it the nickname “the mythical bird.” They are very difficult to track and observe since they often mix with groups of Greater crested tern — a more populous species of the bird — and are easily disturbed.

The Matsu Tern Conservation Area is the only Chinese crested tern breeding area known to researchers, the bureau said.

In order to gain more information on the birds’ reproductive behavior and the island’s ecology, the bureau authorized a National Taiwan University research team to set up automatic monitoring systems on sparsely populated islands in 2010. The team also placed fake birds on the sites to attract the real birds.

According to video shots captured on May 25 and transmitted by the automatic monitoring system, the team spotted a few Chinese crested terns that have begun mating and nesting on one of the area’s eight islands.

It has been hard to keep track of the terns because they choose different islands to nest in every year, the bureau said.

It added that with the successful application of the monitoring system, it hoped to learn more about the mythical bird’s reproductive behavior in order to better protect it.