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Expanding Breeding Ranges of European and Asian Birds (1 Viewer)

DMW

Well-known member
I'd take that with a large pinch of salt as there's been speculation about Penduline Tits colonising Britain for over 30 years but, apart from a lone male nest building in Kent in 1990 (the source of much speculation), it hasn't happened yet. The example of a commoner bird on the near continent, Serin, doesn't give much cause for optimism either since its colonisation of southern Britain has been confidently predicted and eagerly anticipated for even longer but without any real success. With a range of other birds long term breeders just across the Channel, the mere presence of the species there doesn't mean they'll colonise Britain anytime soon. Bluethroat is an interesting case. They've been breeding in wet habitats around Calais and elsewhere along the French Channel coast for decades yet spring records continue to be very unusual just across the Channel in Kent. I also very much doubt that Pallid Harrier will establish itself in the UK any time soon although the odd breeding record can't be ruled out. As for woodpeckers, both Black & Middle-spotted Woodpecker have expanded their range in northern France in recent decades so that they now breed within sight of the Channel. However, with the decline of Lesser-spotted here the prospect of them crossing the Channel seems unlikely.
Serin colonised Jersey in the late 70s/ early 80s and grew to about 50 pairs, but for some reason dwindled to extinction by the early 90s.
 

JWN Andrewes

Poor Judge of Pasta.
A long, long time ago I came close to adding Penduline Tit to the roster of British Breeding Birds. Or at least, that’s what it felt like, briefly. I’d got the train down from Cheshire to Kent. This was back in 1986, when if you wanted to add Glossy Ibis to your list you could do a lot worse than wait on the Lampen Wall at Stodmarsh for the long staying bird there to fly in to roost. I’d disembarked at Sturry, and faced a bit of a walk and a night sleeping rough, so stopped off at a village shop for provisions, presumably Stodmarsh, but I don’t recall. What I do remember though, is my conversation with the lady behind the counter in the shop. She clocked me as a birder with little difficulty (bins, scope, Barbour) and started asking what I was hoping to see and chatting away about the birds in her garden. As it was a while until dusk I was happy to natter away, and eventually she started to describe a strange nest a bird once built in here garden, it was like a ball hanging from a branch. Now that got my attention, and I started to enquire after details. It had been a few years before, and she had kept the nest once the bird had gone, but it had eventually fallen apart. She did have a photograph though. Would I like to see it? Would I?!! She left me alone in the shop while she went to ferret it out, and I started to dream. I’d write an article for BB "Penduline Tit; a new British breeding bird", get my name out there, imagine the kudos, I’d dine out on the story for years. She returned with the photo, one of those old square ones with a white border, depicting a magnificent, pendulous nest hanging from a willow branch, and there, sitting next to it, small and grainy but clearly identifiable, the proud builder, with his black face mask, a fricking Bishop. Bright red and jet black. Oh well, back to reality. I identified the bird for her and made my way down to the Lampen Wall. The Ibis duly flew in, I found a shed to kip in and the following day enjoyed an excellent morning’s birding, first rate views of Woodcock, Bittern and Bearded Tits, before making my way back to the railway station, mulling over what might have been.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
A long, long time ago I came close to adding Penduline Tit to the roster of British Breeding Birds. Or at least, that’s what it felt like, briefly. I’d got the train down from Cheshire to Kent. This was back in 1986, when if you wanted to add Glossy Ibis to your list you could do a lot worse than wait on the Lampen Wall at Stodmarsh for the long staying bird there to fly in to roost. I’d disembarked at Sturry, and faced a bit of a walk and a night sleeping rough, so stopped off at a village shop for provisions, presumably Stodmarsh, but I don’t recall. What I do remember though, is my conversation with the lady behind the counter in the shop. She clocked me as a birder with little difficulty (bins, scope, Barbour) and started asking what I was hoping to see and chatting away about the birds in her garden. As it was a while until dusk I was happy to natter away, and eventually she started to describe a strange nest a bird once built in here garden, it was like a ball hanging from a branch. Now that got my attention, and I started to enquire after details. It had been a few years before, and she had kept the nest once the bird had gone, but it had eventually fallen apart. She did have a photograph though. Would I like to see it? Would I?!! She left me alone in the shop while she went to ferret it out, and I started to dream. I’d write an article for BB "Penduline Tit; a new British breeding bird", get my name out there, imagine the kudos, I’d dine out on the story for years. She returned with the photo, one of those old square ones with a white border, depicting a magnificent, pendulous nest hanging from a willow branch, and there, sitting next to it, small and grainy but clearly identifiable, the proud builder, with his black face mask, a fricking Bishop. Bright red and jet black. Oh well, back to reality. I identified the bird for her and made my way down to the Lampen Wall. The Ibis duly flew in, I found a shed to kip in and the following day enjoyed an excellent morning’s birding, first rate views of Woodcock, Bittern and Bearded Tits, before making my way back to the railway station, mulling over what might have been.
Can't believe I've never heard that story before. What an absolute cracker! Thanks for sharing.

Cheers

John
 

ClarkWGriswold

Carpe Carpum
Staff member
Supporter
Wales
I'd take that with a large pinch of salt as there's been speculation about Penduline Tits colonising Britain for over 30 years but, apart from a lone male nest building in Kent in 1990 (the source of much speculation), it hasn't happened yet. The example of a commoner bird on the near continent, Serin, doesn't give much cause for optimism either since its colonisation of southern Britain has been confidently predicted and eagerly anticipated for even longer but without any real success. With a range of other birds long term breeders just across the Channel, the mere presence of the species there doesn't mean they'll colonise Britain anytime soon. Bluethroat is an interesting case. They've been breeding in wet habitats around Calais and elsewhere along the French Channel coast for decades yet spring records continue to be very unusual just across the Channel in Kent. I also very much doubt that Pallid Harrier will establish itself in the UK any time soon although the odd breeding record can't be ruled out. As for woodpeckers, both Black & Middle-spotted Woodpecker have expanded their range in northern France in recent decades so that they now breed within sight of the Channel. However, with the decline of Lesser-spotted here the prospect of them crossing the Channel seems unlikely.
Cheers John. A bit of wishful thinking on Iolo’s part maybe.

Rich
 

John Cantelo

Well-known member
A long, long time ago I came close to adding Penduline Tit to the roster of British Breeding Birds. Or at least, that’s what it felt like, briefly. I’d got the train down from Cheshire to Kent. This was back in 1986, when if you wanted to add Glossy Ibis to your list you could do a lot worse than wait on the Lampen Wall at Stodmarsh for the long staying bird there to fly in to roost. I’d disembarked at Sturry, and faced a bit of a walk and a night sleeping rough, so stopped off at a village shop for provisions, presumably Stodmarsh, but I don’t recall. What I do remember though, is my conversation with the lady behind the counter in the shop. She clocked me as a birder with little difficulty (bins, scope, Barbour) and started asking what I was hoping to see and chatting away about the birds in her garden. As it was a while until dusk I was happy to natter away, and eventually she started to describe a strange nest a bird once built in here garden, it was like a ball hanging from a branch. Now that got my attention, and I started to enquire after details. It had been a few years before, and she had kept the nest once the bird had gone, but it had eventually fallen apart. She did have a photograph though. Would I like to see it? Would I?!! She left me alone in the shop while she went to ferret it out, and I started to dream. I’d write an article for BB "Penduline Tit; a new British breeding bird", get my name out there, imagine the kudos, I’d dine out on the story for years. She returned with the photo, one of those old square ones with a white border, depicting a magnificent, pendulous nest hanging from a willow branch, and there, sitting next to it, small and grainy but clearly identifiable, the proud builder, with his black face mask, a fricking Bishop. Bright red and jet black. Oh well, back to reality. I identified the bird for her and made my way down to the Lampen Wall. The Ibis duly flew in, I found a shed to kip in and the following day enjoyed an excellent morning’s birding, first rate views of Woodcock, Bittern and Bearded Tits, before making my way back to the railway station, mulling over what might have been.

Can't believe I've never heard that story before. What an absolute cracker! Thanks for sharing.

Cheers

John
I agree, an absolute cracker of a story. There's not a village shop in Stodmarsh so I suspect that the shop you refer to was in Sturry (or Upstreet if you caught the Margate bus & walked in from the Grove Ferry End).
 

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
There has been an exciting increase in the diversity of breeding forest birds in Hong Kong in the last 90 years - 47 to be exact! This is astonishing to me for both the number of species that have returned, and that Hong Kong had adequate records to document this change ever since the 1920s! Here's the list and the intro I compiled for an exhibition arranged by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society at HKIA in 2019. Of the 47 species listed here, 19 have returned in the last 30 years The text for each species lists the date of first discovery, and aimed to provide a thumbnail of context to the general public visiting the exhibition. The pix used in the exhibition are not mine so I can't upload these here, but if time allows I will try to dig out or link to my own pix for those species that I have photographed in future posts.

Hong Kong’s returning forest birds

The forested hillsides that provide such a magnificent backdrop our spectacular city are one of Hong Kong’s best environmental success stories. At a time when we are more accustomed to hearing about environmental degradation and endangered species going extinct, the return to Hong Kong of large areas of forests filled with wildlife, and especially birds, shows what the resilience of nature and the positive intervention of governments and passionate volunteers can achieve.

While southern China lost much of its forest during the period of rapid industrialization from the 1950s onwards, Hong Kong’s barren grass-covered hills had begun to transform. This process started after the Second World War, when the Hong Kong Government initiated a comprehensive tree-planting programme and, from the 1970s onwards, began to establish the network of country parks and protected areas that enabled nature to flourish undisturbed.

This man-made ecological restoration was also supported by natural succession; grassland became shrubland, and shrubland gradually matured into forest, which itself became progressively richer and more diverse. Birds and animals feeding on fruiting trees also played an important role as their droppings helped to disperse seeds that naturally planted trees in new areas. As the forest returned, so have many of the birds that likely occurred in the forests that originally covered Hong Kong.

The forest birds listed here did not all become established as breeding species in Hong Kong for the same reason. Some slowly expanded their territories into Hong Kong as reforestation in southern China provided safe corridors that enabled their gradual arrival. Others arrived as winter visitors, and stayed on to breed. Others still only settled here because the ecological niches that emerged as the forest matured provided enough food or the right conditions for them to breed. Most remarkably, all of the cuckoos became established only because the species in whose nests they parasitise had themselves already successfully colonised Hong Kong’s forests.

This exhibition catalogues this re-colonisation of Hong Kong’s forests by 40 species of forest-dependent birds as recorded by the bird watchers and photographers of the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (HKBWS). HKBWS has systematically collected, reviewed and published records of Hong Kong’s birds since its establishment in 1956 - making it one of the longest-running citizen science projects in Asia. More recently the rapid development of digital photography has armed a new generation of photographers with the tools to capture and share wonderful images birds, some of which are included in this exhibition.

Great Barbet (1929) Given its large size Great Barbet is perhaps a surprise early colonizer when Hong Kong had precious little forest cover. Its ability to swallow larger fruit likely played an important role in expanding forest by dispersing the seeds of fruiting trees in its droppings.

Black Bulbul (1934) Long reported as a winter visitor to Hong Kong, it is only in the last couple of years that Black Bulbul has been proven to breed on the northern slopes of Tai Mo Shan Country Park.

Orange-bellied Leafbird (1936) Long established as a breeding species, this colourful bird is an excellent mimic, copying the calls of many other forest birds. It has a special attachment to rhodoleia trees, which it defends fiercely against all comers when they flower in late winter.

Chestnut Bulbul (1940) Another bird that likely arrived as a winter visitor, it became established as a breeding bird in the 1970s and 80s. Its “kiss-me-quick” call is one of the iconic year-round sounds of Hong Kong’s forests and fung shui woodlands.

Crested Serpent Eagle (1941) The undisputed king of the forest, this broad-winged eagle is often seen soaring over woodlands throughout Hong Kong. In the days when every village household kept a few chickens, it was widely reviled as a notorious poultry thief.

Large Hawk Cuckoo (1949) The Large Hawk Cuckoo’s endlessly repeated “brain fee-ver” call, which is the traditional harbinger of spring, is being heard earlier and earlier in the year – so it is now, sadly, a harbinger of climate change.

Scarlet Minivet (1950) Glowing like a firecracker, this red-and black (male) and yellow-and black (female) species is often found in fung shui woodlands, and has even begun to colonise well-wooded urban parks.

Grey Treepie (1953) The bubbling call of this long-tailed member of the crow family is much more often heard than seen. Outside the breeding season it sometimes gathers in flocks of 30 or more to feed on fruiting trees.

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker (1956) Flowerpeckers are ultimate recyclers. They deposit their sticky droppings, which contain the seeds of the mistletoe fruit they feed on, onto a branch to plant the next generation of mistletoe – which would grow to produce the bird’s future meal.

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo (1957) A natural extrovert, these beautiful cuckoos will swoop in readily to a whistled imitation of their two-note call - and then scold the imposter with a crazy cackling laugh.

Grey-chinned Minivet (1958) Smaller and not quite as gaudy as Scarlet Minivets, Grey-chinned Minivets often form large post-breeding flocks comprising several families.

Hainan Blue Flycatcher (1959) Until recently Hong Kong’s only breeding flycatcher, Hainan Blue Flycatchers are wonderful songsters – and are thought to be the prime target for Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoos seeking to outsource their parenting duties in the traditional manner of all cuckoos.

Fork-tailed Sunbird (1960) These tiny nectar-eating birds are often mistaken for hummingbirds. They will fiercely defend a favoured patch of blooms from other sunbirds.

Emerald Dove (1960) Notoriously difficult to see well, these birds are often heard giving their deep throaty “ooom” song from the depths of the forest. Very occasionally one might zip past you on a forest trail in a flash of iridescent green.

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush (1970) These large and beautiful laughingthrushes forage in groups of up to a dozen birds, and play a key role in seed dispersal – thereby helping to increase the size and diversity of the forest.

Black Baza (1978) This small, highly charismatic insect-eating raptor breeds only sporadically in Hong Kong, but always attracts good numbers of admirers when they do.

Slaty-legged Crake (1980) The distinctive “tarp tarp” call of Slaty-legged Crake is a common sound close to upland streams in springtime, but this shy bird is most often seen in urban parks in winter, when they become much tamer.

Besra (1980) The smaller of our two resident sparrowhawks, Besras have a wonderful mating display – diving down and swooping sharply up again as if riding an invisible aerial rollercoaster.

White-bellied Erpornis (1983) Ornithologists are constantly puzzling over which family the White-bellied Erpornis belongs to. At present they are classified in a family of their own. They will happily investigate anyone who whistles them in, responding with a call like a tiny tinny trumpet.

Crested Goshawk (1983) Found wherever there is forest throughout Hong Kong, Crested Goshawks prey on small birds and squirrels, both of which they ambush by zipping through the canopy at high speed, hoping to surprise an unsuspecting victim.

Brown-flanked Bush Warbler (1984) First appearing as a winter visitor, these subtly plumaged warblers only become a widespread breeder, after the turn of the century. The song is a far-carrying melodious whistle that is suddenly cut short with whip-like alacrity.

Orange-headed Thrush (1984) This shy and beautiful thrush is widely distributed in deep forest and mature fung shui woodlands in small numbers throughout Hong Kong. While records - mostly o f wintering birds, date back to 1957 breeding was not suspected until 1984.

Huet’s Fulvetta (1985) This small grey and brown babbler with a white eyeing took several years to become properly established from escaped birds, but is now regularly found in small groups at favoured sites with older and more mature forest, such as Tai Po Kau and Ng Tung Chai.

Silver-eared Mesia (1987) Another escape/religious release which which is only native much further west in China, Silver-eared Mesias quickly became established in cheerful, noisy and visible flocks in Tai Po Kau, and are now widespread and abundant.

Rufous-capped Babbler (1988) Another probable escapee that is widespread in Southern China,This small and highly inquisitive babbler will approach closer than any other forest bird if its curiosity is piqued.

Yellow-cheeked Tit (1988) A flash of black and lemon yellow beneath a funky black crest – often high in the canopy – heralds the arrival of this striking bird, which was likely introduced as an escaped cagebird.

Steak-breasted scimitar Babbler (1988) Another presumed escapee, this species is widespread in Guangdong and its beautiful whistle is more commonly heard than the bird itself, which loves picking through tangles of creepers and dead branches, is seen.

Black-throated Laughingthrush (1992) Despite an uncertain history, this excellent mimic -which includes out of season Indian Cuckoo and Crested Serpent Eagle in its repertoire - became indisputably established as breeding bird in the 1990s.

Plain Flowerpecker (1988) The first record of a breeding pair of this aptly named member of an often outrageously colourful genus at Ho Sheung Heung in 1988 was followed by a sporadic appearance of non-breeding birds until, suddenly from 2017, they were everywhere!

Blue-winged Minla (1992) - Having established itself from escapes and religious releases, breeding was proven just two years after the first discovery of this grey-blue canopy-loving babbler in Tai Po Kau.

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch (1992) Another species that almost certainly did not arrive under its own steam, the charismatic Velvet Nuthatch has quickly made itself at home as a specialist hunter on vertical tree trunks.

Bay Woodpecker (1992) This impressively large woodpecker has a far-carrying laughing call that is being heard from more and more locations. Requiring mature trees to breed, Bay Woodpeckers are a good indicator for the growing maturity of Hong Kong’s regenerating forests.

Striated Yuhina (1994) Long-established as an irruptive winter visitor, breeding was only proven in 1994. The Avifauna of Hong Kong notes the suspicion that these breeding birds were actually escapes, illustrating the complexity of determining the provenance of many birds in Hong Kong. One of the very few species of babbler that is known to migrate.

Slaty-backed Forktail (1995) A highly sporadic breeder with just a handful of records since the first in 1995, this fabulous black, white and grey stream specialist with its "squeaky gate" call is always popular when it does appear.

Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo (1996) A rare spring visitor that became established as a breeding species in just a few years. Most often recorded by its thin but penetrating “cheez-weet” call, this is one of the hardest species in Hong Kong to clap eyes on.

Asian Lesser Cuckoo (1996) Although it was first recorded shortly after Hodgsons Hawk Cuckoo, Asian Lesser Cuckoo remained a rare passage migrant until breeding – probably by parasitising Brown-flanked Bush Warblers – was suspected only within the last four or five years.

Speckled Piculet (1998) Another species that took a while to become established after its first discovery, this tiny woodpecker is now firmly entrenched as a resident species.

Lesser Shortwing (1999) An inveterate skulker of the deepest tangles, the ever-elusive Lesser Shortwing boasts an impressively loud song. On the rare occasions that they do show they can be wonderfully confiding.

Mountain Tailorbird (2000) This species is poorly adapted for flying long distances and, like Lesser Shortwing, its arrival in Hong Kong coincided with the reforestation of southern China’s hills that followed the flooding of the Yangtze in the mid-1990s.

Pygmy Wren-babbler (2001) Known to local birders as the “fishball” this tiny, circular bird gives its distinctive falling three note call “see... see… suu” as it forages in leaf litter on the forest floor. Another likely beneficiary of the reforestation of southern China.

Mountain Bulbul (2001) Arriving in the same wave of immigrants as Lesser Shortwing, Mountain Tailorbird and Pygmy Wren Babbler, Mountain Bulbuls are birds of the canopy that especially enjoy the pink flowers of the rhodoleia tree that is also a magnet for Orange-bellied Leafbirds.

Brown-breasted Flycatcher (2001) Breeding only in very small numbers, Brown-breasted Flycatcher first arrived as a winter visitor but has successfully bred in Tai Po Kau for several years in a row, and is slowly being seen in more forest sites during the breeding season.

Malayan Night Heron (2003) The only bird to have been added to the Hong Kong list without being seen or heard; a pair was photographed by a camera trap on Lantau. The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society's Night Bird Survey of 2020-2021 has shown an exciting expansion in the number of sites used by this forest-loving heron.

Brown Wood Owl (2007) The establishment and growing range of this majestic owl – the apex nocturnal forest predator – is perhaps the best indicator of the ecological richness of Hong Kong’s fung shui woodlands and the forests that have extended out from them over recent decades.

Chinese Barbet (2018) The first new edition to Hong Kong’s forest avifauna for over a decade, Chinese Barbet, with its distinctive “toink.a.toink” call, is another species that has taken advantage of the reforestation of southern China to expand its range into Hong Kong.

Collared Owlet (2019) Well-known from reserves across southern Guangdong the four-note call of this tiny and elusive owl has already been recorded from Tai Po Kau, Ng Tung Chai and Kap Lung in most months of the year after first being recorded just two years ago.

While-rumped Shama (2021) This beautiful long-tailed Robin is native to western China. Even there it has become rare due to trapping for the cage bird trade. It is somewhat ironic therefore that escaped or released cage birds in Hong Kong are now establishing themselves as a breeding species here.

Such an exhaustive list begs two questions: 1. what was already here? and 2. what is likely to colonise next?

The first is answered by a rather short list: Black Kite, Common Tailorbird, Swinhoe's White-eye, Chinese and Crested Bulbuls, White-rumped Munia, Magpie Robin, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Cinereous Tit, Spotted Dove, and Blue Whistling Thrush. Hwamei typically prefer scrubland, but both are also found in the forest edge.

The second qestion is much more exciting. A number of forest species are being recorded progressively closer to Hong Kong. These include marquee forest birds such as Green-billed Malkoha, Red-headed Trogon, and even Silver Oriole! I continue to be surprised that Plumbeous Redstart remains a winter visitor when Hong Kong has a good number of well forested streams that certainly look no worse than those it occupies throughout China. Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush has been recorded for a while, but breeding is yet to be proven. Another increasingly regular winter visitor, the beautiful, but ultra-skulking White-tailed Robin is increasing being seen and heard in spring from areas of suitable habitat, but proving breeding is likely to be challenging. Grey Wagtail has been recorded in every month of the year, and not infrequently along forest streams in the summer months, but there has never been a sniff of a breeding attempt. Of the spring migrants it seems only a matter of time before Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo chooses to follow the example of Lesser and Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoos, and breed here rather than continue its migration beyond Hong Kong.

Cheers
Mike
 

bittern

Well-known member
Another one is Melodious Warbler which was almost unknown around Geneva 40 years ago and which now is one of the most common summer warblers. It has replaced Icterine which is now only found much further north. Zitting Cisticola is also being seen much more frequently in Switzerland and is breeding in a few favorable spots.
 

DMW

Well-known member
There has been an exciting increase in the diversity of breeding forest birds in Hong Kong in the last 90 years - 47 to be exact! This is astonishing to me for both the number of species that have returned, and that Hong Kong had adequate records to document this change ever since the 1920s! Here's the list and the intro I compiled for an exhibition arranged by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society at HKIA in 2019. Of the 47 species listed here, 19 have returned in the last 30 years The text for each species lists the date of first discovery, and aimed to provide a thumbnail of context to the general public visiting the exhibition. The pix used in the exhibition are not mine so I can't upload these here, but if time allows I will try to dig out or link to my own pix for those species that I have photographed in future posts.

Hong Kong’s returning forest birds

The forested hillsides that provide such a magnificent backdrop our spectacular city are one of Hong Kong’s best environmental success stories. At a time when we are more accustomed to hearing about environmental degradation and endangered species going extinct, the return to Hong Kong of large areas of forests filled with wildlife, and especially birds, shows what the resilience of nature and the positive intervention of governments and passionate volunteers can achieve.

While southern China lost much of its forest during the period of rapid industrialization from the 1950s onwards, Hong Kong’s barren grass-covered hills had begun to transform. This process started after the Second World War, when the Hong Kong Government initiated a comprehensive tree-planting programme and, from the 1970s onwards, began to establish the network of country parks and protected areas that enabled nature to flourish undisturbed.

This man-made ecological restoration was also supported by natural succession; grassland became shrubland, and shrubland gradually matured into forest, which itself became progressively richer and more diverse. Birds and animals feeding on fruiting trees also played an important role as their droppings helped to disperse seeds that naturally planted trees in new areas. As the forest returned, so have many of the birds that likely occurred in the forests that originally covered Hong Kong.

The forest birds listed here did not all become established as breeding species in Hong Kong for the same reason. Some slowly expanded their territories into Hong Kong as reforestation in southern China provided safe corridors that enabled their gradual arrival. Others arrived as winter visitors, and stayed on to breed. Others still only settled here because the ecological niches that emerged as the forest matured provided enough food or the right conditions for them to breed. Most remarkably, all of the cuckoos became established only because the species in whose nests they parasitise had themselves already successfully colonised Hong Kong’s forests.

This exhibition catalogues this re-colonisation of Hong Kong’s forests by 40 species of forest-dependent birds as recorded by the bird watchers and photographers of the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (HKBWS). HKBWS has systematically collected, reviewed and published records of Hong Kong’s birds since its establishment in 1956 - making it one of the longest-running citizen science projects in Asia. More recently the rapid development of digital photography has armed a new generation of photographers with the tools to capture and share wonderful images birds, some of which are included in this exhibition.

Great Barbet (1929) Given its large size Great Barbet is perhaps a surprise early colonizer when Hong Kong had precious little forest cover. Its ability to swallow larger fruit likely played an important role in expanding forest by dispersing the seeds of fruiting trees in its droppings.

Black Bulbul (1934) Long reported as a winter visitor to Hong Kong, it is only in the last couple of years that Black Bulbul has been proven to breed on the northern slopes of Tai Mo Shan Country Park.

Orange-bellied Leafbird (1936) Long established as a breeding species, this colourful bird is an excellent mimic, copying the calls of many other forest birds. It has a special attachment to rhodoleia trees, which it defends fiercely against all comers when they flower in late winter.

Chestnut Bulbul (1940) Another bird that likely arrived as a winter visitor, it became established as a breeding bird in the 1970s and 80s. Its “kiss-me-quick” call is one of the iconic year-round sounds of Hong Kong’s forests and fung shui woodlands.

Crested Serpent Eagle (1941) The undisputed king of the forest, this broad-winged eagle is often seen soaring over woodlands throughout Hong Kong. In the days when every village household kept a few chickens, it was widely reviled as a notorious poultry thief.

Large Hawk Cuckoo (1949) The Large Hawk Cuckoo’s endlessly repeated “brain fee-ver” call, which is the traditional harbinger of spring, is being heard earlier and earlier in the year – so it is now, sadly, a harbinger of climate change.

Scarlet Minivet (1950) Glowing like a firecracker, this red-and black (male) and yellow-and black (female) species is often found in fung shui woodlands, and has even begun to colonise well-wooded urban parks.

Grey Treepie (1953) The bubbling call of this long-tailed member of the crow family is much more often heard than seen. Outside the breeding season it sometimes gathers in flocks of 30 or more to feed on fruiting trees.

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker (1956) Flowerpeckers are ultimate recyclers. They deposit their sticky droppings, which contain the seeds of the mistletoe fruit they feed on, onto a branch to plant the next generation of mistletoe – which would grow to produce the bird’s future meal.

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo (1957) A natural extrovert, these beautiful cuckoos will swoop in readily to a whistled imitation of their two-note call - and then scold the imposter with a crazy cackling laugh.

Grey-chinned Minivet (1958) Smaller and not quite as gaudy as Scarlet Minivets, Grey-chinned Minivets often form large post-breeding flocks comprising several families.

Hainan Blue Flycatcher (1959) Until recently Hong Kong’s only breeding flycatcher, Hainan Blue Flycatchers are wonderful songsters – and are thought to be the prime target for Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoos seeking to outsource their parenting duties in the traditional manner of all cuckoos.

Fork-tailed Sunbird (1960) These tiny nectar-eating birds are often mistaken for hummingbirds. They will fiercely defend a favoured patch of blooms from other sunbirds.

Emerald Dove (1960) Notoriously difficult to see well, these birds are often heard giving their deep throaty “ooom” song from the depths of the forest. Very occasionally one might zip past you on a forest trail in a flash of iridescent green.

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush (1970) These large and beautiful laughingthrushes forage in groups of up to a dozen birds, and play a key role in seed dispersal – thereby helping to increase the size and diversity of the forest.

Black Baza (1978) This small, highly charismatic insect-eating raptor breeds only sporadically in Hong Kong, but always attracts good numbers of admirers when they do.

Slaty-legged Crake (1980) The distinctive “tarp tarp” call of Slaty-legged Crake is a common sound close to upland streams in springtime, but this shy bird is most often seen in urban parks in winter, when they become much tamer.

Besra (1980) The smaller of our two resident sparrowhawks, Besras have a wonderful mating display – diving down and swooping sharply up again as if riding an invisible aerial rollercoaster.

White-bellied Erpornis (1983) Ornithologists are constantly puzzling over which family the White-bellied Erpornis belongs to. At present they are classified in a family of their own. They will happily investigate anyone who whistles them in, responding with a call like a tiny tinny trumpet.

Crested Goshawk (1983) Found wherever there is forest throughout Hong Kong, Crested Goshawks prey on small birds and squirrels, both of which they ambush by zipping through the canopy at high speed, hoping to surprise an unsuspecting victim.

Brown-flanked Bush Warbler (1984) First appearing as a winter visitor, these subtly plumaged warblers only become a widespread breeder, after the turn of the century. The song is a far-carrying melodious whistle that is suddenly cut short with whip-like alacrity.

Orange-headed Thrush (1984) This shy and beautiful thrush is widely distributed in deep forest and mature fung shui woodlands in small numbers throughout Hong Kong. While records - mostly o f wintering birds, date back to 1957 breeding was not suspected until 1984.

Huet’s Fulvetta (1985) This small grey and brown babbler with a white eyeing took several years to become properly established from escaped birds, but is now regularly found in small groups at favoured sites with older and more mature forest, such as Tai Po Kau and Ng Tung Chai.

Silver-eared Mesia (1987) Another escape/religious release which which is only native much further west in China, Silver-eared Mesias quickly became established in cheerful, noisy and visible flocks in Tai Po Kau, and are now widespread and abundant.

Rufous-capped Babbler (1988) Another probable escapee that is widespread in Southern China,This small and highly inquisitive babbler will approach closer than any other forest bird if its curiosity is piqued.

Yellow-cheeked Tit (1988) A flash of black and lemon yellow beneath a funky black crest – often high in the canopy – heralds the arrival of this striking bird, which was likely introduced as an escaped cagebird.

Steak-breasted scimitar Babbler (1988) Another presumed escapee, this species is widespread in Guangdong and its beautiful whistle is more commonly heard than the bird itself, which loves picking through tangles of creepers and dead branches, is seen.

Black-throated Laughingthrush (1992) Despite an uncertain history, this excellent mimic -which includes out of season Indian Cuckoo and Crested Serpent Eagle in its repertoire - became indisputably established as breeding bird in the 1990s.

Plain Flowerpecker (1988) The first record of a breeding pair of this aptly named member of an often outrageously colourful genus at Ho Sheung Heung in 1988 was followed by a sporadic appearance of non-breeding birds until, suddenly from 2017, they were everywhere!

Blue-winged Minla (1992) - Having established itself from escapes and religious releases, breeding was proven just two years after the first discovery of this grey-blue canopy-loving babbler in Tai Po Kau.

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch (1992) Another species that almost certainly did not arrive under its own steam, the charismatic Velvet Nuthatch has quickly made itself at home as a specialist hunter on vertical tree trunks.

Bay Woodpecker (1992) This impressively large woodpecker has a far-carrying laughing call that is being heard from more and more locations. Requiring mature trees to breed, Bay Woodpeckers are a good indicator for the growing maturity of Hong Kong’s regenerating forests.

Striated Yuhina (1994) Long-established as an irruptive winter visitor, breeding was only proven in 1994. The Avifauna of Hong Kong notes the suspicion that these breeding birds were actually escapes, illustrating the complexity of determining the provenance of many birds in Hong Kong. One of the very few species of babbler that is known to migrate.

Slaty-backed Forktail (1995) A highly sporadic breeder with just a handful of records since the first in 1995, this fabulous black, white and grey stream specialist with its "squeaky gate" call is always popular when it does appear.

Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo (1996) A rare spring visitor that became established as a breeding species in just a few years. Most often recorded by its thin but penetrating “cheez-weet” call, this is one of the hardest species in Hong Kong to clap eyes on.

Asian Lesser Cuckoo (1996) Although it was first recorded shortly after Hodgsons Hawk Cuckoo, Asian Lesser Cuckoo remained a rare passage migrant until breeding – probably by parasitising Brown-flanked Bush Warblers – was suspected only within the last four or five years.

Speckled Piculet (1998) Another species that took a while to become established after its first discovery, this tiny woodpecker is now firmly entrenched as a resident species.

Lesser Shortwing (1999) An inveterate skulker of the deepest tangles, the ever-elusive Lesser Shortwing boasts an impressively loud song. On the rare occasions that they do show they can be wonderfully confiding.

Mountain Tailorbird (2000) This species is poorly adapted for flying long distances and, like Lesser Shortwing, its arrival in Hong Kong coincided with the reforestation of southern China’s hills that followed the flooding of the Yangtze in the mid-1990s.

Pygmy Wren-babbler (2001) Known to local birders as the “fishball” this tiny, circular bird gives its distinctive falling three note call “see... see… suu” as it forages in leaf litter on the forest floor. Another likely beneficiary of the reforestation of southern China.

Mountain Bulbul (2001) Arriving in the same wave of immigrants as Lesser Shortwing, Mountain Tailorbird and Pygmy Wren Babbler, Mountain Bulbuls are birds of the canopy that especially enjoy the pink flowers of the rhodoleia tree that is also a magnet for Orange-bellied Leafbirds.

Brown-breasted Flycatcher (2001) Breeding only in very small numbers, Brown-breasted Flycatcher first arrived as a winter visitor but has successfully bred in Tai Po Kau for several years in a row, and is slowly being seen in more forest sites during the breeding season.

Malayan Night Heron (2003) The only bird to have been added to the Hong Kong list without being seen or heard; a pair was photographed by a camera trap on Lantau. The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society's Night Bird Survey of 2020-2021 has shown an exciting expansion in the number of sites used by this forest-loving heron.

Brown Wood Owl (2007) The establishment and growing range of this majestic owl – the apex nocturnal forest predator – is perhaps the best indicator of the ecological richness of Hong Kong’s fung shui woodlands and the forests that have extended out from them over recent decades.

Chinese Barbet (2018) The first new edition to Hong Kong’s forest avifauna for over a decade, Chinese Barbet, with its distinctive “toink.a.toink” call, is another species that has taken advantage of the reforestation of southern China to expand its range into Hong Kong.

Collared Owlet (2019) Well-known from reserves across southern Guangdong the four-note call of this tiny and elusive owl has already been recorded from Tai Po Kau, Ng Tung Chai and Kap Lung in most months of the year after first being recorded just two years ago.

While-rumped Shama (2021) This beautiful long-tailed Robin is native to western China. Even there it has become rare due to trapping for the cage bird trade. It is somewhat ironic therefore that escaped or released cage birds in Hong Kong are now establishing themselves as a breeding species here.

Such an exhaustive list begs two questions: 1. what was already here? and 2. what is likely to colonise next?

The first is answered by a rather short list: Black Kite, Common Tailorbird, Swinhoe's White-eye, Chinese and Crested Bulbuls, White-rumped Munia, Magpie Robin, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Cinereous Tit, Spotted Dove, and Blue Whistling Thrush. Hwamei typically prefer scrubland, but both are also found in the forest edge.

The second qestion is much more exciting. A number of forest species are being recorded progressively closer to Hong Kong. These include marquee forest birds such as Green-billed Malkoha, Red-headed Trogon, and even Silver Oriole! I continue to be surprised that Plumbeous Redstart remains a winter visitor when Hong Kong has a good number of well forested streams that certainly look no worse than those it occupies throughout China. Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush has been recorded for a while, but breeding is yet to be proven. Another increasingly regular winter visitor, the beautiful, but ultra-skulking White-tailed Robin is increasing being seen and heard in spring from areas of suitable habitat, but proving breeding is likely to be challenging. Grey Wagtail has been recorded in every month of the year, and not infrequently along forest streams in the summer months, but there has never been a sniff of a breeding attempt. Of the spring migrants it seems only a matter of time before Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo chooses to follow the example of Lesser and Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoos, and breed here rather than continue its migration beyond Hong Kong.

Cheers
Mike
That's quite an amazing list, and just shows what is possible if we give nature a chance. One species you mention as a potential colonist is Silver Oriole. I was vaguely aware that they had been found breeding at one or two sites in SE China: are they expanding their range, and do you know how many sites the are now known from there?
 

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Silver Oriole are a very thinly distributed species with known sites in the mountains of northern Guangdong west to southern Sichuan. I don't know how many sites there are, but they're not easy anywhere.

Cheers
Mike
 

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