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Hong Kong - BirdForum Opus

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Photo © by Larry Sweetland
Mai Po, March 2010


Located just inside the tropics, enjoying a wide diversity of habitats and in a prime coastal location smack in the middle of the East China Flyway Hong Kong packs a surprisingly heavy birding punch, with more than 480 species recorded in just 1000 square kilometres.

Justifiably famous for the tens of thousands of waders of more than 40 species that use the Deep Bay area (Mai Po) as a migratory stopover - birders from all over the world come here to see such rarities as Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann's Greenshank, Asian Dowitcher, Black-faced Spoonbill and Saunders's Gull, Hong Kong offers a great deal more, including a terrifc array of eastern palearctic migrants, South China forest birds, overwintering eagles, thousands of waterfowl and gulls and a recently discovered seabird passage.

It is less well-known as the only known wintering site in the world for Styan's Grasshopper Warbler and the only known site for the sinica race of Chinese Grassbird.


Notable Species

Mai Po Marshes Reserve

The 400ha Mai Po Marshes Reserve is the best-known area of Deep Bay and regularly hold 20-30,000 passage waders. In addition to those already listed waders here include Swinhoe's Snipe and Pintail Snipe, Far Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, Red-necked Stint and Long-toed Stint, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper and Terek Sandpiper among others. Other rarities include Dalmatian Pelican, Black-faced Spoonbill and Saunders Gull and species such as Baikal Teal and Baer's Pochard, Little Curlew and Relict Gull are possible.

The Mai Po Reserve consists of shrimp and fishponds, mudflats and mangroves and is situated in the east of Deep Bay. There is a visitore centre and hides overlooking scrapes and mudflats but a visit requires prior permission from the related Hong Kong SAR Government Authorities and WWF Hong Kong. Entry without permission is strictly forbidden.

Lok Ma Chau lies to the north of Mai Po and the paddyfields and ponds here also attract waders in large numbers.

Long Valley

Long Valley is an area of wet agricultural land close to Sheung Shui, in the north of the New Territories. The site is very good for birds of freshwater wetland and farmland, including Greater Painted-snipe, Pintail Snipe, Swinhoe's Snipe, Wood Sandpiper, Zitting Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Bunting and White-shouldered Starling.

Tai Po Kau Reserve

The best remaining area for forest birds in Hong Kong is the Tai Po Kau Reserve near Tai Po on Tolo Harbour.

To explore this reserve head for the milestone 42 lay-by south-east of Tai Po and walk up the forestry road. There are a number of trails to follow and birds here can include Crested Serpent Eagle and Crested Goshawk, Asian Barred Owlet and Great Barbet, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush and Red-billed Leiothrix. The forest here is particularly good for migrant passerines and winter visitors include Grey-backed Thrush, Japanese Thrush and Eye-browed Thrush, Forest Wagtail, Ferruginous Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, and Green-backed Flycatcher and warblers including Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler and Asian Stubtail. An early visit is usually necessary to see any birds here.

Victoria Peak

Victoria Peak provides the best birding on Hong Kong Island itself, within easy access of the city centre. Blue Whistling Thrush, Black-throated Laughingthrush, Chinese Hwamei and Blue Magpie can be seen here with the addition of various migrant passerines in season.

Po Toi

In recent years, the island of Po Toi, off the southern side of Hong Kong island (and accessible by ferry from Aberdeen or Stanley), has been discovered as a migration hotspot during spring and autumn. Numerous Hong Kong rarities have been found, including Masked Booby, Lesser Cuckoo, Drongo Cuckoo, Ruddy Kingfisher, Blue-winged Pitta, Fairy Pitta, Chinese Thrush and Red-breasted Flycatcher. Pacific Reef Egret, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Black-naped Tern breed on some of the smaller islands of Hong Kong and the numerous inter-island ferries provide opportunities to see seabirds such as Streaked Shearwater and Aleutian Tern.


Birds you can see here include:

Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Streaked Shearwater, Short-tailed Shearwater, Dalmatian Pelican, Great Cormorant, Lesser Frigatebird, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Chinese Egret, Pacific Reef Egret, Eastern Cattle Egret, Chinese Pond Heron, Striated Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Malayan Night Heron, Yellow Bittern, Schrenck's Little Bittern, Cinnamon Bittern, Black Bittern, Great Bittern, Black Stork, Oriental White Stork, Oriental White Ibis (probably now extinct), Black-faced Spoonbill, Eurasian Spoonbill, Lesser Whistling Duck, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Falcated Duck, Gadwall, Baikal Teal, Common Teal, Mallard, Eastern Spot-billed Duck (Chinese and Burmese (sub-)species), Northern Pintail, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup, Baer's Pochard (now rare), Ferruginous Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Osprey, Black Baza, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Black-winged Kite, Black Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Eurasian Black Vulture (now rare), Crested Serpent Eagle, Grey-faced Buzzard, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Pied Harrier, Crested Goshawk, Northern Sparrowhawk, Besra, Japanese Sparrowhawk, Chinese Goshawk, Common Buzzard, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Common Kestrel, Northern Hobby, Amur Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Chinese Francolin, Japanese Quail, Yellow-legged Buttonquail, Barred Buttonquail, Water Rail, Slaty-breasted Rail, Banded Crake, Ruddy-breasted Crake, Baillon's Crake, Brown Crake, Watercock, White-breasted Waterhen, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Greater Painted-Snipe, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Oriental Pratincole, Northern Lapwing, Grey-headed Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Tibetan Sand Plover, Siberian Sand Plover, Oriental Plover, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Little Curlew, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Far-Eastern Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Nordmann's Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, Ruddy Turnstone, Red-necked Phalarope, Eurasian Woodcock, Pintail Snipe, Swinhoe's Snipe, Common Snipe, Long-billed Dowitcher, Asian Dowitcher, Red Knot, Great Knot, Sanderling, Red-necked Stint, Little Stint, Temminck's Stint, Long-toed Stint, Pectoral Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Ruff, Long-tailed Jaeger, Parasitic Jaeger, Pomarine Jaeger, Black-tailed Gull, Kamchatka Gull, Heuglin's Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Slaty-backed Gull, Pallas's Gull, Relict Gull, Brown-headed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Saunder's Gull, Whiskered Tern, White-winged Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Common Tern, Roseate Tern, Aleutian Tern, Black-naped Tern, Bridled Tern, Little Tern, Great Crested Tern, Ancient Murrelet, Feral Rock Dove, Spotted Dove, Oriental Turtle Dove, Red Turtle Dove, Emerald Dove, Yellow-crested Cockatoo (feral), Ring-necked Parakeet (feral), Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Hodgson's Hawk-Cuckoo, Oriental Cuckoo, Indian Cuckoo, Plaintive Cuckoo, Common Koel, Greater Coucal, Lesser Coucal, Oriental Scops Owl, Collared Scops Owl, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Brown Fish Owl, Asian Barred Owlet, Northern Boobook, Savannah Nightjar, Grey Nightjar, Himalayan Swiftlet, Pacific Swift, House Swift, White-throated Needletail, Silver-backed Needletail, Pied Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Black-capped Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Dollarbird, Eurasian Hoopoe, Great Barbet, Eurasian Wryneck, Fairy Pitta, Eurasian Skylark, Oriental Skylark, Pale Sand Martin, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Asian House Martin, Forest Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail (taivana, simillima and macronyx), White Wagtail (leucopsis, ocularis and lugens), Grey Wagtail, Richard's Pipit (race sinensis breeds), Olive-backed Pipit, Red-throated Pipit, Pechora Pipit, Buff-bellied Pipit, Upland Pipit, Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike, Scarlet Minivet, Grey-chinned Minivet, Swinhoe's Minivet, Ashy Minivet, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Chinese Bulbul, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Chestnut Bulbul, Black Bulbul, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Bull-headed Shrike, Long-tailed Shrike, Brown Shrike, Red-tailed Robin, Japanese Robin, Siberian Rubythroat, Bluethroat, Siberian Blue Robin, Red-flanked Bluetail, Oriental Magpie-Robin, Plumbeous Redstart, Daurian Redstart, Slaty-backed Forktail, Amur Stonechat, Grey Bushchat, Lesser Shortwing, Blue Rock-Thrush, Blue Whistling-Thrush, Siberian Ground Thrush, Orange-headed Ground Thrush, Scaly Thrush, Grey-backed Thrush, Japanese Thrush, Eurasian Blackbird, Pale Thrush, Eye-browed Thrush, Dusky Thrush, Pygmy Cupwing, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler (feral), Rufous-capped Babbler (feral), Chinese Babax (feral), Masked Laughingthrush, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush (feral), White-browed Laughingthrush (feral), Chinese Hwamei, Black-throated Laughingthrush (feral), Silver-eared Mesia (feral), Red-billed Leiothrix, Blue-winged Minla, White-bellied Erpornis, Striated Yuhina, Vinous-throated Parrotbill (feral), Asian Stubtail, Japanese Bush Warbler, Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, Russet Bush Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler, Pallas's Grasshopper-Warbler, Styan's Grasshopper-Warbler, Chinese Grassbird, Oriental Reed Warbler, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Manchurian Reed Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Bright-capped Cisticola, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Plain Prinia, Common Tailorbird, Mountain Tailorbird, Dusky Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Pallas's Leaf Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Blyth's Leaf Warbler, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Ferruginous Flycatcher, Verditer Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Green-backed Flycatcher, Mugimaki Flycatcher, Red-throated Flycatcher, Blue-and-White Flycatcher, Fujian Niltava, Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch, Amur Paradise-Flycatcher, Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher, Chinese Penduline Tit, Yellow-bellied Tit, Yellow-cheeked Tit (feral), Cinereous Tit, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch (feral), Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Fork-tailed Sunbird, Swinhoe's White-eye, Chestnut-flanked White-eye, Tristram's Bunting, Grey-hooded Bunting, Yellow-breasted Bunting, Black-faced Bunting, Yellow Bunting, Chestnut Bunting, Little Bunting, Crested Bunting, Oriental Greenfinch, Eurasian Siskin, Common Rosefinch, Yellow-billed Grosbeak, Scaly-breasted Munia, White-rumped Munia, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Common Starling, White-cheeked Starling, Daurian Starling, Silky Starling, Chinese Starling, Black-collared Starling, Common Myna (feral), Crested Myna, Black-naped Oriole, Black Drongo, Hair-crested Drongo, Ashy Drongo, Common Jay, Blue Magpie, Azure-winged Magpie (feral), Grey Treepie, Oriental Magpie, Collared Crow, Jungle Crow

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Content and images originally posted by Steve