Known for centuries by the Portuguese as Ilha Formosa, meaning “Beautiful Island”, Taiwan still maintains much of its allure today even as it functions as one of Asia’s economic powerhouses. Taiwan straddles the Tropic of Cancer and sits 130 km off the mainland with a mountainous interior that boasts 100 peaks above 3,000 meters, all factors that combine to make the island a hotspot for endemism – a whopping 29 species of birds according to recent taxonomic updates with several more subspecies under consideration. Moreover, Taiwan is a key wintering and migratory stopover site for both the East Asian and West Pacific Flyways.
Our round-island tour focuses on the endemics and other East Asian specialties, mostly forest birds within the central mountains. Highlights include Taiwan Bamboo-partridge, Taiwan Partridge, the spectacular Mikado and Swinhoe’s Pheasants, Taiwan Blue-Magpie, Taiwan Yellow Tit, Taiwan Fulvetta, Taiwan Yuhina, Taiwan and Black-necklaced Scimitar-babblers, Rufous-crowned Laughingthrush, White-whiskered Laughingthrush, Rusty Laughingthrush, White-eared Sibia, Steere’s Liocichla, Taiwan Barwing, Collared Bush-robin, Taiwan Whistling-thrush, Flamecrest, and much more. En route, we will visit important coastal sites for wetland specialties that include Black-faced Spoonbill, Chinese Egret, and various shorebirds. Coordinating well with spring migration, our tour should come across a good number of East Asian migrants.
The backdrop for our birding adventure does not get much more picturesque – towering peaks, verdant montane forests, rushing waterfalls, steep-walled gorges, sea cliffs, quaint fishing villages, etc. We will experience Taiwan’s growing commitment to conservation as we move from one pristine national park to another – a quarter of the island is protected. Furthermore, Taiwan’s modern infrastructure, diverse cuisine, and vibrant culture, make Taiwan one of the safest and most enjoyable birding destinations in Asia.
Day 1: Arrival
Our Taiwan birding tour begins with arrival at Taoyuan International Airport. We meet for dinner to get acquainted with our fellow participants and discuss the upcoming adventure. Overnight near the airport.
Day 2: Wulai and transfer to Hualien
We start with lower elevation forest species we can find around the popular mountain village of Wulai at 700 m (2300 ft). Wulai sits in a valley surrounded by thickly forested hills and species we hope to find here include Taiwan Whistling-thrush, Taiwan Blue-Magpie, Taiwan Barbet, Chestnut-bellied Tit, Morrison's and Dusky Fulvettas, Taiwan Scimitar-babbler, Swinhoe’s White-eye, and the brilliant red subspecies of Maroon Oriole. In the afternoon, we continue through Taiwan’s more sparsely populated east coast on a scenic highway with stunning seascapes. Overnight in Hualien.
Day 3: Hualien, Taroko and transfer to Cingjing
We begin birding in and around the coastal city of Hualien, exploring the nearby river mouth and beaches for shorebirds and more. Our main target this morning will be Styan’s Bulbul, Taiwan’s most threatened endemic. We then venture west and inland via the twisting, marble-walled Taroko Gorge. Taroko means “magnificent and splendid” in the language of the aboriginal Truku tribe, a fitting name for the centerpiece of Taroko National Park – considered one of the seven wonders of Asia. As we ascend through the gorge parallel to the Liwu River, we watch for Brown Dipper, Plumbeous Redstart, Little Forktail, and Fork-tailed Swift among hundreds of House Swifts. We continue climbing up the Central Cross Island Highway and eventually reach the Hehuanshan Pass, which at 3275 m (10,750 ft) is the highest road pass in East Asia. Targets up high include Collared Bush-robin, Flamecrest, the recently described Taiwan Bush Warbler, both Brown and Grey-headed Bullfinches, Taiwan Rosefinch, and the endemic form of Alpine Accentor. Patches of bamboo may hold Taiwan Fulvetta, and a few Golden Parrotbill if we are lucky. Overnight Cingjing.
Day 4: Hehuan and Aowanda
We start in the alpine zone where evergreen broadleaved forests have been replaced with deciduous hardwoods and conifers – trees like alder, maple and hemlock, and even higher, the forests give way to montane scrub and grassland full of rhododendrons. We follow the Hehuan Mountain route at 3000 m (9900 ft) looking for many of the same targets as the previous afternoon. Additional targets include White-whiskered Laughingthrush and the Taiwanese forms of Coal Tit and Winter Wren. Later, we drop down into Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area at 2000 m (6600 ft), famous for its maple trees in fall. Targets here include White-eared Sibia, Taiwan Yuhina, Yellow Tit, Fire-breasted Flowerpeckers, Taiwan Blue-Magpie, Taiwan Barbet, Morrison's Fulvetta, and Taiwan Bamboo Partridge. Overnight in Aowanda.
Day 5: Aowanda and Kwanghua
We spend the morning back in Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area looking for any targets we missed the previous day. We then drive to Kwanghua at 1000 m (3300 ft) where we will spend the afternoon at our home-stay in viewing blinds set up for Swinhoe’s Pheasant and the difficult-to-see Taiwan Partridge. In the evening, we have a chance for Mountain Scops-owl, Collared Scops-owl and the beautiful Red and White Giant Flying Squirrel. Overnight in Kwanghua.
Day 6: Kwanghua, Alishan and Tataka
We start in the forests around Kwanghua, again targeting species we may have missed the previous day. In the afternoon, we make our way into the mountains at Alishan and higher still to Yushan National Park. In Tataka, patches of dwarf bamboo may yield Golden Parrotbill and the skulking White-browed Bush-robin, another subspecies that may get split eventually. Other targets include Collared Bush-robin, Taiwan Yuhina, Taiwan Yellow Tit, the elusive Taiwan Cupwing, Coal Tit, Green-backed Tit, Black-throated Tit, Flamecrest, Steere’s Liocichla, Taiwan Bush Warbler, Rusty Laughingthrush, Taiwan Barwing, and Taiwan’s national bird, the Mikado Pheasant. Overnight in Alishan.
Day 7: Alishan, Tataka and Aogu Wetlands
In the morning, we spend additional time in the mountains focusing on any targets still alluding us. In the afternoon, we descend to the west coast and visit the Aogu Wetland Reserve. This network of impoundments with bird blinds can be brimming with terns, wading birds such as the highly endangered Black-faced Spoonbill, and an impressive variety of shorebirds including rarities such as Asian Dowitcher. Overnight in Chiayi.
Day 8-9: Dasyueshan
In the morning, we head north into the mountains at Dasyueshan or Da Syue Shan, meaning “Big Snow Mountain”. The Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area at 2000 m (6600 ft) in the Anmashan Mountain Range is Taiwan’s premier birding site and holds most of the island’s endemics – several species, particularly the pheasants, are much easier to find here. We will spend the remainder of the tour in this reserve mopping up whatever we have missed so far. Targets include both Swinhoe’s and Mikado Pheasants, Taiwan Partridge, White-bellied Green-Pigeon, Steere’s Liocichla, White-eared Sibia, Taiwan Barwing, White-tailed Robin, Collared Bush-robin, Green-backed Tit, Brown Bullfinch, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Chestnut-bellied Tit, and Black-throated Tit. Overnight in Anmashan.
Day 10: Dasyueshan and return to Taoyuan
We spend the morning birding in Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area looking for species we may have missed – a Vivid Niltava, perhaps, or a Fire-breasted Flowerpecker and then head north returning to Taoyuan, near Taipei. Overnight near the airport (or evening departure flight).
Day 11: Departure home
Our Taiwan birding tour concludes today. Participants can depart anytime.
Departures & Prices
- Accommodation with private bathrooms
- Ground transportation (air-conditioned bus)
- All meals
- EET guide plus a local guide with 6 - 12 pariticipants
Tour Does Not Include
- Travel to and from start/end location
- Travel Insurance
- Items of a personal nature
What to Expect
What to Expect
On a typical day on our Taiwan birding tour, we begin birding before breakfast, to catch bird activity and song at their peak. We concentrate on “edge” birding until light is good enough to enter forest trails. On a couple of travel days, we rise early to give ourselves plenty of time to reach our destinations. After lunch we may have time for a siesta or enjoy watching birds around the lodge’s grounds. In the late afternoon we venture out again. We may go spotlighting in the forest at night. Trails should be firm underfoot, but anywhere may be muddy depending on how recently it has rained, therefore good walking footwear is always recommended. Weather varies greatly with elevation; weather conditions range from warm or hot in the lowlands, sometimes quite humid, to cool at higher altitudes. The highest altitude we reach is 3275 m (10,750 feet). Most days should be sunny, but we are likely to encounter overcast, rainy conditions during our tour. Layers and a windbreaker are the solution in the mountains. At all altitudes, we should remember to have adequate protection from the sun. Since drizzle and rain are likely, stout, waterproof footwear, a light rain jacket and waterproof hat are recommended. Walking is easy to moderate.
On most days we travel short distances but occasionally longer drives are necessary. Birding will be mainly along quiet roads, and we enter forest areas on relatively wide and easy-to-follow trails. Accommodations are mainly modern, and all will be comfortable. Single accommodations may have shared bathrooms. Insects are unlikely to be a problem at this time of year. We enjoy excellent meals provided by the various lodges’ dining facility. Some lunches will be a lunch box in a nice setting; occasionally we dine in local eateries. In the evening, after dinner, we discuss the day’s events and sightings and list birds and other wildlife seen. A report will be compiled from our observations and supplied to all participants.
Even though we cannot guarantee a sighting of the animals below, we feel quite confident that an encounter with the ones listed below is quite likely.
- Mikado Pheasant
- Swinhoe’s Pheasant
- Taiwan Partridge
- Styan’s Bulbul
- White-whiskered Laughingthrush
- Taiwan Barwing
- Taiwan Blue-magpie
- Taiwan Whistling Thrush
- Steere’s Liocichla
- Fairy Pitta
Past Tour Checklists & Reports
Past Tour Checklists
View the list of birds and other wildlife we encountered on our past tours.