Rare bird species, ecological problem observed in Taiwan

Taipei, March 10 (CNA) Ornithologists and members of wild bird societies around Taiwan recently recorded the presence of several rare wild bird species and also discovered an ecological issue that is threatening the survival of some indigenous birds, a researcher said Tuesday. 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 endemic species, during a nationwide bird counting campaign, said Lin Rui-hsin (???), head of the ESRI's Division of Habitats and Ecosystems. The winter counting from Dec. 20 last year to Jan. 11, 2015 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 press conference on the bird census Tuesday. There are around 620 recorded bird species in Taiwan, half of which were observed during the winter bird census, he said. However, the ornithologists and bird watchers also noticed that human activities have been threatening the survival of some resident and endemic birds such as the russet sparrow and myna, Lin said. Russet sparrows used to be seen in flocks in hillside and mountain areas in Taiwan more than 10 years ago, but the population has decreased drastically over the past few years due to human activities, he said. A flock of 40-50 russet sparrows that inhabited Wutai Township in Pingtung County has disappeared completely since Typhoon Morakot devastated southern Taiwan in August 2009, Lin said. "Now, the sparrows have become a rare species in Taiwan," he added. Meanwhile, the endemic mynas are also declining in Taiwan proper due to an invasion of foreign species such as white-vented mynas and common mynas that were brought into the country as pets, Lin said. The observations were not all gloomy, however, as a rare young Siberian white crane was spotted in New Taipei late last year, ESRI assistant researcher Lin Ta-li (???) said at the press conference. The endangered bird may have gotten lost on its first migratory trip, trying to get to Dongting Lake in China but ending up in Taiwan, he said. There are only 3,639 white cranes worldwide, he said, citing 2012 data. (By Yang Shu-min and Elizabeth Hsu)