Birder's Guide

MAR 2015

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 39 of 67

the action of tectonic plates on the east- ern edge of the Asian shelf, the so-called Pacifc "Ring of Fire", and was thrust from the ocean foor. This dramatic uplift has given it some of the most remarkable to- pography on Earth. Before I frst visited, my impression was of an island jam-packed with people, politically defying the mainland Chinese government, and industriously producing high-tech products in cities fooded with scooters, skyscrapers, and factories—with only roof gardens for greenery. This im- pression is not entirely wrong in the urban centers of Taipei or Taichung, but is very misleading when applied to the island as a whole. The reason that the cities are so crowded is that only 23% of the island's land surface area is fat enough for the siz- able population of 23 million people to inhabit. An amazing 55% of the island is pristine subtropical and montane rainfor- est and alpine vegetation, much of which is formally protected in seven national parks and other protected areas. A very high percentage of Taiwanese land is under formal conservation management, making it one of the most protected environments on Earth. Of course, like everywhere else, Taiwan still suffers environmental prob- lems, but the amazing montane biodiver- sity of Taiwan is well protected overall. Having emerged from the ocean foor— like a phoenix some fve million years ago—and being highly mountainous, Taiwan has a lot of endemicity across plant and animal groups, and birds are no ex- ception. The island has biogeographical connections with the high mountains of central China and the eastern Himalayas, such that many species of bird found there have disjunct ranges, seemingly reappear- ing in Taiwan (e.g., Alpine Accentor, Gray- headed Bullfnch). Because most of eastern China is fat, and the Philippine Plate has long been separated from the Eurasian Plate, Taiwan's (especially highland) birds have had a long while to diverge in isola- tion from their mainland cousins. The is- land is home to an amazing 77 endemic bird taxa. With the increasing application of the phylogenetic species concept, at least one "new" endemic species is rec- ognized every other year. The Clements 38 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2015 臺灣 Taiwan Male Swinhoe's Pheasant. Photo © Keith Barnes Collared Bush-Robin. Photo © Keith Barnes Taipei skyline, with Taipei 101 rising high above the rest of the city. Photo © 75tiks

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