Record black-faced spoonbill population reported in Taiwan

A total of 2,601 black-faced spoonbills, or some 66 percent of the global population of 3,941, were sighted in Taiwan this winter, up 541 from the same period last year to the highest number on record, according to a survey released March 28 by the Forestry Bureau under the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture.

Statistics compiled by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society show that the year-on-year increase accounts for 92.5 percent of worldwide population gains during the period, according to the bureau. The figures speak volumes about the government's commitment to promoting ecological protection, an official from the Forestry Bureau's Conservation Division said.

Black-faced spoonbills, which winter in Taiwan between October and April after migrating from northern mainland China and the Korean Peninsula, have been declared a globally endangered species by Switzerland-headquartered International Union for Conservation of Nature. Other wintering destinations include Japan, which attracts 11 percent of the global population, mainland China, which draws 10.1 percent, and Hong Kong, which receives 9.5 percent.

According to the official, wetlands, fish farms and salt pans along the coastal areas of southern Taiwan are the major habitats of the species owing to the rich biodiversity of these locations.

During the two-day survey conducted in January, 1,810 of the birds were spotted in southern Taiwan's Tainan City, or nearly 70 percent of the nationwide total and up 282 from last year. Neighboring Chiayi County came in second with 513 sightings, a year-on-year rise of 208, followed by the southern port city of Kaohsiung at 247 and an increase of 61.

The survey also revealed that an increasing number of birds are wintering in new locations in Chiayi and Kaohsiung. This encouraging development can be attributed to enhanced public awareness of ecological conservation as well as wetland protection projects conducted by the bureau in cooperation with local governments, the official stated.

In particular, the Wetland Conservation Act that took effect in February 2015 bans construction in wetlands of international or national significance. The law ensures that black-faced spoonbills will continue to thrive in their major habitats such as the Sicao and Zengwen estuaries in Tainan, the official added.

Involving more than 100 bird-watchers, the annual survey was conducted by Taipei City-based Chinese Wild Bird Federation in collaboration with 26 local associations at 51 sites on Taiwan proper and outlying Kinmen, Lienchiang and Penghu counties. It forms part of a global campaign to preserve the threatened species and provides valuable reference material for evaluating and formulating conservation strategies, the bureau said.

Source: Taiwan Today