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The Marine National Park Headquarters ( to MNPH ) and the Kaohsiung Wild Bird Society (to KWBS ) joined up in 2010 and 2011 to undergo monitoring investigation and to release a study of the ecosystem of Dongsha Island’s migratory birds. The accumulation of two years’ worth of investigation have led to the recording of 257 bird species, taking up 43% of the 601 bird species recorded in Taiwan. With a surface area of only 1.74 square kilometers—less than 1/20,000 of the total land area of Taiwan—it can be said to quite a “unique” miracle for such a tiny island like Dongsha to have such a high density of bird species!

Dongsha Island is located on the northern end of the South China Sea and is the only area with coral reefs that are exposed all-year-round on the surface of the sea. Despite its small surface area, Dongsha Island—located along the migratory path of East Asian-Australian birds—is home to various types of habitats, including forests, beaches and lagoons, thereby making it like an oasis in the middle of a desert. This has further become an important resting stop for birds who have journeyed extreme distances, whether arriving from the south or departing to the north, who are seeking a place to rest, feed and drink to replenish their energy. For this reason, Dongsha Island’s flock of birds are mostly made up of migratory birds, and during the months of April, May, September and October, the bird ecosystem of Dongsha Island becomes abundant with migratory birds.The arrival of a majority of these birds is concentrated during their transit periods, and one can often sight an abundance of species but in relatively few numbers. This is a classic migration pattern. Currently, there is breeding behavior going on between the White-bellied Crakes, and there have been recordings of nestlings as well. However, the ecological behaviors of birds here largely differ to those of the main island of Taiwan. Birds that are often spotted there (such as the Red Turtle Dove, Black Drongo, Bulbul and White Eye) only make transit journeys and overwinter in Dongsha Island. On the other hand, some bird species, such as the Drongo Cuckoo, Common Koel, Short-mouth Swiftlet, Common Nighthawk, Sturnus sturninus and Hair-crested Drongo, are not frequently seen or are extremely rare in Taiwan, but has a relatively stable transit flock in Dongsha Island. In addition, the Black-faced Spoonbill that flies between Northeast and Southeast Asia and overwinters at the Chen Wen Estuary in Tainan once flew to Dongsha Island and was seen frolicking happily in the waters under the winter sun.

The investigating team also underwent a release study, first capturing waterfowls and putting leg tags (that represent Dongsha Island) on them before releasing them back to the wild. Based on the visual recordings of the leg tags, the team was able to further understand the migratory conditions of these bird species. In addition, the team discovered that the Ruddy Turnstones that were released on Dongsha Island in the past would return back to the island, and Red-breasted Dunlins that were released on the island were sighted in Australia. The island has also recorded birds that were released from Northwestern, Southeastern, and Southern Australia, the North Island of New Zealand, Alaska and Chongming Island of China. These discoveries confirmed the importance of Dongsha Island as a migratory path of East Asian migratory birds.

Birds are an important ecological resource and a unique feature of the Dongsha Atoll National Park. The MNPH teamed up with the KWBS in 2010 to sign the “Conservation of Birds Cooperation Agreement” in the collaborative execution of the “Investigation and Release of Dongsha Island’s Migratory Birds” program, which calls for the investigation and release of these migratory birds in spring and fall every year. Through long-term investigative recordings, the MNPH and KWBS hope to build up a relationship between the birds of Dongsha Island and a habitual environment in order to create a friendly ecological environment for birds.

The only White-bellied Crakes recorded breeding on Dongsha Island Calidris alba with leg tags (upper black and lower white strips) in Chongming Island, China
The only White-bellied Crakes recorded breeding on Dongsha Island (photographed by Hong Deng Fu, MNPH) Calidris alba with leg tags (upper black and lower white strips) in Chongming Island, China (image provided by the Kaohsiung Wild Bird Society).
A Ruddy Turnstone with a leg tag representing Southeastern Australia (upper orange strip) was discovered on Dongsha Island The Ruddy Turnstone is the largest bird population on Dongsha Island. Do you notice the leg flag representing Dongsha Island (upper white strip and a lower blue strip at a slight angle) around the foot of the bird in the middle?
A Ruddy Turnstone with a leg tag representing Southeastern Australia (upper orange strip) was discovered on Dongsha Island. (image provided by the Kaohsiung Wild Bird Society). The Ruddy Turnstone is the largest bird population on Dongsha Island. Do you notice the leg flag representing Dongsha Island (upper white strip and a lower blue strip at a slight angle) around the foot of the bird in the middle? (image provided by the Kaohsiung Wild Bird Society).
A stable migratory flock of  Sturnus sturninus can be found on Dongsha Island despite its rare presence in Taiwan A dainty guest frolicking in the Dongsha Island lagoon—aBlack-faced Spoonbill
A stable migratory flock of Sturnus sturninus can be found on Dongsha Island despite its rare presence in Taiwan(image provided by the Kaohsiung Wild Bird Society). A dainty guest frolicking in the Dongsha Island lagoon—a Black-faced Spoonbill (photographed by Hong Deng Fu, MNPH)

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