A team from National Pingtung University of Science and Technology recently won the nation’s first international bird-spotting marathon, held in Greater Tainan and Yunlin and Chiayi counties.
The school’s bird-watching team defeated 21 other teams from a total of six countries by spotting 173 bird species in the 30-hour event, which began at 8:30am on Nov. 24 and ran through 2:30pm the following day.
Altogether the teams documented 264 bird species in a 5,400km2 area, including 14 species endemic to Taiwan — such as collared bush robins, Formosan yuhinas and Steere’s babblers — as well as about 30 protected species such as black-faced spoonbills and black-winged kites.
According to regulations, only species that are seen or heard by at least three members of a team within the 30-hour challenge can be recorded. The team that spots the most species is the winner.
Placed second was a team of bird-watchers from South Africa, who also bagged an award for most active participation on the event’s Facebook page.
One group of participants, the Happy Team — whose members have an average age of 63 — and another group, the National Cheng Kung University Wild Birds Club — with an average age of 21 — were given awards as the oldest and youngest teams respectively.
Most contestants were so impressed by the event and the magnificent scenery in southwestern Taiwan that they asked organizers to make the competition an annual event.
“Yunlin, Chiayi and Greater Tainan have been shown by about 100 Taiwanese and foreign competitors in the event to be ideal bird-watching locations that measure up to international standards,” said a spokesperson from the South West Coast National Scenic Area Administration, one of the organizers of the contest.