Taiwan and the

East Asia-Australasian Flyway

Taiwan is located off the southeastern coast of the Eurasian continent and is comprised of Taiwan island, the Penghu and Matsu Archipelagos, Dongsha Atoll and the Kinmen Islands. Two thirds of Taiwan island is mountainous or hilly and forest cover stands at around 60%. The island’s western plains are also home to a vast array of of wetland ecosystems. Taiwan supports a total of 670 bird species, including 29 endemics. This total includes records from Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu as well.

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As it is located centrally along the East-Asian Australasian Flyway, Taiwan forms a major stopover and staging point for many migratory birds, while supporting large numbers of wintering birds as well. One major hotspot is Taiwan’s southwestern coast, which supports large numbers of waterbirds and other migratory bird species. In particular, this area is one of the most important wintering locations for the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill, with more than 50-60% of the global population wintering there. Other globally threatened species which will winter or stopover along Taiwan’s west coast include Saunders’s Gull and Eurasian Curlew. Stable populations of Chinese Egrets also make an annual transit through Taiwan.  The Fairy Pitta migrates to Taiwan for the breeding season, utilizing low-altitude hilly forests in the west and north. However, the annual number of returning birds has dropped dramatically in recent years and is now a cause for conservation concern. The main species of migratory raptors are the Chinese Sparrowhawk and the Gray-faced Buzzard. Counts of both species during the autumn migration reaches the tens of thousands as they migrate south. Such large congregations of these and other species at the Hengchun peninsula in Kenting NP make it one of the most important stopover sites for migratory hawks along the EAAF. The Penghu and Matsu (Mazu) islands are important breeding areas for many tern species, including the critically endangered Chinese Crested Tern, widely considered the most threatened of the seabirds in the EAAF. In fact, the CCT was “rediscovered” in Matsu in 2000. With a stable number arriving to breed there every year, CCT numbers in Taiwan easily account for 20-25% of the global population. Penghu has recently also seen breeding success of CCT in recent years. Large numbers of migratory birds also pass through or winter in the Kinmen. Among them, about 10% of the East Asian population of Great Cormorants winter there. Also, in recent years, a stable pair of Spoon-billed Sandpipers have been recorded transiting through Kinmen during their spring migration.

 

Key threats to migratory birds in Taiwan

 

Habitat loss and degradation are the main threats to migratory bird species in Taiwan.  Over the last ten years, the development of industrial projects and energy facilities along the western coast of Taiwan proper have negatively impacted a number of estuary ecosystems as a result of air and water pollution. More recently, due to the central government's policy of rapidly transitioning towards renewable energy, many wetland habitat types are threatened. Onshore areas such as salt pans, fish farms and man-made ponds are being steadily encroached upon by an expanding number of solar panel installations. Meanwhile offshore wind turbines are rapidly being placed along the coast. Proper assessments of environmental impact are necessary in the planning and execution of these projects. Otherwise they become potential threats to the future of a number of wetlands. Also, ecosystems located in and around farmlands are also a hot spot for waterfowl. Yet due to a lack of effective regulations surrounding land use, the construction of new farmhouses or travel accommodation have caused such ecosystems to become fragmented. Another issue in the past was the hunting of migratory birds as a food source or for trade.  However, through a combination of engaging with local people and strong enforcement of laws and regulations, the issue has been largely resolved. It could serve as a case study for tackling hunting in other parts of the Flyway.

 

Implementing partner and other stakeholders

 

Work on the conservation of birds in Taiwan will be led by the Taiwan Wild Bird Federation (TWBF). Based in Taipei, the TWBF works to protect wild birds and their habitats through research, conservation, and outreach. It also serves as an umbrella body for 21 partnering birdwatching societies which can be found throughout Taiwan proper and its outlying islands. The TWBF works with support from and in collaboration with government agencies such as the Forestry Bureau and the Endemic Species Research Institute (TESRI), both of which are under Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture, as well as with various county and city governments. The TWBF also cooperates closely with academic institutions such as National Taiwan University, National Taiwan Normal University, National Taiwan Ocean University (NTOU) and National Chiayi University. On the topic of seabird conservation, it has coordinated efforts with the Fisheries Agency (FA) under the Council of Agriculture and the Ocean Conservation Administration under the Ocean Affairs Council.