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1st New Year bird count in 30 years draws nearly 1,000

TAIPEI -- A birding association released Wednesday the initial results of its largest-ever bird census, an event that drew nearly 1,000 people to scout out the different types of birds residing in and visiting Taiwan.

Chinese Wild Bird Federation Director Hung Kuan-chieh said the unprecedented level of participation helped find 139 resident species, 128 migratory species, 59 transient visitants — meaning those just passing through — and six stragglers — birds that have strayed out of their regular range.

Hung said that as the survey, which took place between Dec. 28 and Jan. 12, is the first of its kind conducted in over 30 years, he was surprised at the enthusiastic participation by members of the public.

“This is a good start for Taiwan relying on public participation in scientific research,” he said, adding that past surveys have not received such a warm reception.

For comparison, a breeding birds survey — that is, one that only counts resident species — drew only 400 participants last year.

In the comprehensive New Year count, each volunteer was assigned a three-kilometer radius from which he or she recorded each type of bird seen over a period of six hours.

The result of cooperation between universities, civic groups and over 20 local birding associations set up more than 100 observation spots covering 8.6 percent of Taiwan's main island, Hung said.

This survey was based on the Christmas Bird Count held annually in North America, which brings nature lovers together to identify as many bird species as they can from mid-December to early January.

Taiwan held New Year bird counts starting 1974, but prior to this year, the activity had not been since 1983.

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A russet sparrow (山麻雀) perches on a log. The russet sparrow is not overly abundant species, but development on Hehuanshan (合歡山), also known as Joy Mountain, at intermediate altitudes has substantially decreased the size of the mountain's forests. In 2008, the bird was declared an endangered species, and has not been sighted recently. (CNA)

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