Saturday, 24 May 2014

The commonest birds in HK

I ended up seeing around a hundred species. Not really that sensational for the tropics, but Hong Kong is so built up and crowded that places where birds get are relatively small in number, and unless you visit wilder areas like the northern New Territories or parts of Lantau island, the diversity is also quite low. Despite this, HK has a list of around 500 species, the majority of them migrants passing through, or vagrants. With migration more or less over, I still saw a few of the former, mostly waders, and perhaps Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo counts as a semi-accidental. The most frequently encountered bird is Tree Sparrow - we worry about them in this country, and indeed I couldn't tell you the last time I saw one in London, but in Hong Kong they are rampant. Really they should be called Air-conditioning Sparrow, or Electricity Junction Box Sparrow, as that is where they all live. After the Tree Sparrows come the Crested Mynas - almost everywhere - taking the place of our Starlings I reckon, though never in as large a group.

Then it's the Bulbuls - there are two ubiquitous species, and Red-whiskered Bulbul is probably the commonest - and also the coolest. What a great bird, the fact that they are everywhere is a joy to behold. Great noises as well, and fairly approachable to boot. Imagine having these as a common garden bird.

After this it's the other one, Light-vented Bulbul, also known as Chinese Bulbul. Definitely not as common, and lacking the monumental Woody Woodpeckeresque head, but still not without appeal. Pretty easy to pish in as well, which this photo from my sister's balcony shows.

Then I reckon it's either Spotted Dove or Black-collared Starling. The dove basically replaces the Pigeon as far as I can tell - very few of these that I saw, although I did eat minced Pigeon with Bamboo so perhaps this explains their scarcity. Black-collared Starling has very little in common with our Starling - it's enormous, probably Jackdaw size if not a little larger. Common foragers on any bit of grass you come across, and expert raiders of bins, they're pretty awesome-looking birds by any standards.

Oriental Magpie Robin, whilst common, is a little bit shyer, and stays more in the margins rather than out in the open, or perhaps sings from rooftops. Possibly my favourite easy-to-see bird, they cock their tails frequently and have a lovely whistling song. Surprisingly difficult to take a decent photo of. As are most things in HK seemingly, or maybe it's just me, and the heat, the humidity and near-constant rain showers just meant I wasn't really in the mood.

And not forgetting this of course, though there were none in Central HK or built-up areas. I think I saw this one at Hy The, a series of canals near the coast that seem absurdly popular with Herons.


  1. Some great shots of HK's common birds Jonathan. The Crested Bulbul is a great capture. Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo used to be considered rare but is now an established breeding species that parasitises Hainan Blue Flycatcher. Having said that its far more often seen than heard. Very interested to hear how you got in Tai O. Cheers, Mike

  2. Your photos really aren't getting any better! Maybe you should donate your cameras to a worthy cause?