The Wonders of Xitou: Birds (溪頭)

Parkbus Taiwan recognizes the traditional landowners of the land of Xitou Nature Educatin Area to be the indigenous Bunun and Tsou tribes of Taiwan.

Part 1: Birds of Xitou (溪頭)

Xitou Nature Education Area is a managed forest and while certainly not a remote outdoor experience, it does offer both beginner and experienced bird-watchers an opportunity to witness (this includes listening!) many unique and common birds all in one destination.

There are few places that offer up 70 different species of birds, as has been consistently recorded in Xitou for many years. While we’re not about to list all 70 species in this post (new post idea!), we thought this little guide would be helpful in providing some overview of the variety of birdlife found in this protected area.

Location, Location, Location

Location matters for plant and wildlife. That’s pretty much universally understood. A region’s ecosystem (biomes) is largely determined by climate. Latitude, elevation, air pressure and winds are important factors that determine the climate of a place. These unique ecosystems are fragile and support a specific animal base.

Taiwan is a unique destination (understatement of the year!). It’s a relatively small island, think roughly half of Ireland, at a total of only 35,570 square kilometers in area. Bigger than Vancouver Island, nearly twice the size of The Big Island of Hawaii; it also has a broad range of environments. Positioned only 150km off of the southeast coast of mainland China, Taiwan is smack-dab in the middle of cool-temperate Japan to the north, sub-tropical south China to the west, and the tropical Philippines to the south. When you blend this geographical location with the tall mountain ranges of Taiwan (Did you know Taiwan boasts more than two hundred peaks over 3,000 meters) supports a diverse flora of over 4,000 plant species and a spectrum of six forest types

Xitou Nature Recreation Area is a relatively cooler region of the island with an average monthly temperature ranges from 11-28°C and average monthly of 16.6°C. Being a managed forest, the diversity of plant and forest types provides a healthy and dynamic habitat for bird life. While some have seen low to mid-elevation birds such as River Blacks, White-ears Thrush, Redhead Warblers, Shao-Yen Thrush, below is a list of the 10 most common birds found in the Xitou area.

10 Most Common Birds in Xitou

This list was compiled from statistics found on the website for the Xitou Nature Education Area. They presented in descending order.

10. White-Tailed Robin / Myiomela leucura

This majestic, ground-dwelling bird is a stunner. This is male in his striking blue! Source:

This stately songbird can be found in dense mid- to upper-elevation broadleaf and mixed forests, particularly in areas with bamboo (Hello Xitou!). Check out the stunning male above, while the female is brown overall with white throat and belly. Both sexes have large white patches on sides of tail that flash brightly in the gloom of the forest when fanned and give this bird its name. Its song is beautiful and a short series of ringing silvery whistles, usually rising. Most common call is a high thin “tzin.”

9. Swinhoe’s White-Eye / Zosterops simplex

This bird pops. Particularly if seen in the transitioning fall foliage of the Gingko Forests of Xitou.

A small yellow-olive warbler-like bird has a prominent white eyering. It actively forages for fruit, insects, and nectar from the understory to the top of the forest canopy. Song and calls are high-pitched twitters. Can be easily confused with other species of white-eye throughout its wide range, especially Indian White-eye; note contrast of lemon-yellow throat and more olive-suffused upperparts.

8. Brown Bullfinch / Pyrrhula nipalensis

You’ll have to spot this handsome fella first. Source:

The Brown Bullfinch is actually a rather uncommon resident of hilly or mountainous forests. Or maybe it just seems that way, as it is often quiet and difficult to locate. Adults tend to be gray above and whitish below. It’s the gray-washed breast, blackish tail, and black forecrown that give it some distinction from the juveniles, which area are much plainer.

7. Black Bulbul / Hypsipetes leucocephalus

That Crimson bill. Stunning. Source:

This medium-sized songbird has a predominantly dark plumage and stunning crimson bill and legs. It looks bigger than it is. This is in part because of its long tail and bill. The head color can vary pretty significantly across distribution, from white to dark gray to black. Find this one moving noisily between fruiting trees. Extremely noisy, with a huge repertoire, emitting various squeaks, meows, chatters, whistles, and more.

6. Rufous-capped Babbler / Cyanoderma ruficeps

Don’t mistake this one for the Rufous-faced Warbler. Source:

This is one of the larger birds found on this list, but still listed only as a medium-sized songbird. One could get lost in that dark olive and yellowish plumage. It’s the rufous crown though that gives this songbird that distinctive look. You can often find it moving about low in dense bushy vegetation or bamboo in pairs. It’s song, a series of clear, descending, bell-like whistles, easily imitated; chatters nasally when alarmed.

5. Rufous-faced Warbler / Abroscopus albogularis

Head into the Bamboo forests of Xitou to try and spot this one! Source:

So much to saw about this colorful songbird. Green above, white below, with orange face, pale yellow breast band, black lateral crown stripes, and sparse black streaking on the throat. Sometimes it gets pretty difficult to see in dense bamboo forests. Our money is that you’ll first detect it by its calls before you see it. Prove us wrong! Its song is a series of high, thin whistles.

5. Taiwan Yuhina / Yuhina brunneiceps

Nice to meet ya! This endemic songbird has a very distinctive head pattern and crest! Source:

Put it on the list of ‘must-see’! This small, tit-like endemic songbird features darker, brown-ish colorings above, white below, with a very distinctive head pattern. Inhabiting hilly and mountain forests, it roams about in large chattering flocks at all levels of the forest. It’s song is a simple clear series of strident whistles, sounding a bit like a wolf-whistle or a friendly sounding “to-meet-you.”

4. Steere’s Liocichla / Liocichla steerii

Catch this pretty songbird in the sun for its full color. Source:

From the dark and gloomy forests, this small songbird may appear dark, but catch it in a bit of sunlight to reveal a gloriously colorful plumage! Subtle olives, blues, yellows, oranges, and chestnuts all blend for this beauty! It’s quite social and can be found moving about in pairs or flocks. It’s song begins with a whistled introduction, then breaks into harsher, sharp jangled notes; calls low and raspy.

3. White-Eared Sibia / Heterophasia auricularis

Another endemic songbird, this gorgeous bird can be found in large numbers feasting in fruiting trees. Source:

Take the time spot this gem. An elegant, long-tailed endemic songbird with a unique tufted white cheek. The pattern of grayish blue overall, darker blue wings and a pale orange belly, make this a perfect bird for snapping a photo of. Song comprised of a series of quick whistled bursts followed by a longer, more drawn-out note.

2.Black-throated Tit / Aegithalos concinnus

This acrobat is pretty playful and yet, difficult to find in denser canopies. Source:

How cool does this bird look? That bold patterned on that tiny bird makes it all the more better when spotting this beauty. It’s not easy, despite the fact that they are active and acrobatic when foraging for invertebrates and other snacks in the foots hills and sub mountainous areas. Head to the sound, as their presence is often given away by high-pitched contact calls (“tsip”) and thin, rolling trills.

1. Morrison’s Fulvetta Alcippe morrisonia

This smaller song bird is endemic to Taiwan and is found throughout the island. Source:

This active, small songbird is endemic to Taiwan. Brown above, white below, this little creature is actually quite distinguishable by the large white eye0ring. It’s very social and is often found moving in large flocks, even mixing with other species (how cool is that!?). It’s song is short but sweet: a melodious warble followed by a hoarse whistle.

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Published by Parkbus Taiwan

Parkbus Taiwan is a solutions-oriented tourism initiative aimed at connecting city to nature through reliable, reservable and responsible transportation options.

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