Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Birding & Bird Habitats in South Korea

Robert Newlin is an avid bird-watcher in Korea ... with 50 years of birding experiences. Combining birding and photographer, he lays claim to publishing his bird-captures in a number of journals and books in Asia, Europe and North America. Seoul Selection even has published his recent book, Korea through Her Birds. He is also a lifetime member of Birds Korea. Currently, he teaches medieval and classical literature at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

Presenting his lecture of birding and bird habitats at the RAS, Robert showed a large number of birds found in South Korea, some as permanent residents while others are migratory birds. The latter group is of special importance as South Korea is along very important migratory routes due to trade winds and natural marshlands (which are very rapidly disappearing in land reclamation and "beautification" projects, the most recent being the "Four Rivers Project"). Korea's migratory corridor and winter resting stops get a lot of attention in his slideshow and narration of birds in Korea.

Unfortunately, his slideshow got messed up when importing it to the computer for the lecture, and so his organization (and thus my own) is helter-skelter. I have just listed the many, many birds Robert talked about, making only small comments on key birds, particularly the rarest. There were just too many birds to take specific notes on. All of the following birds are either either year-round residents of South Korea or visit in their annual migratory routes. The list presented here certainly is not a comprehensive one for Korea; it's just a good overview of some of the more interesting birds found on the peninsula.
  • sandpiper
  • curlew sandpiper
  • desert whiter (very rare in Korea)
  • green wood pigeon (very rare in Korea)
  • little owl (very rare in Korea)
  • Mongolian plover (reasonably common at present but these waders, like all waders in Korea, are among Korea's most threatened species b/c over 90% of the wetlands have been reclaimed in land reclamation projects)
  • mugimaki flycatcher
  • olive-back pipit
  • paradise flycatcher (quite rare on mainland Korea, but fairly common around Cheju waters)
  • red-throated pipit
  • scaly-sided merganser (like a mythical scaled dragon bird - one of the world's rarest birds)
scaly-sided merganser - one of the world's rarest birds
  • Siberian accentor
  • smew
  • snowy owl
  • streaked shearwater (live most of their lives on the open ocean)
  • varied tit (5-colored bird - very good at finding food and so other birds tend to follow the tit in the quest for food, enabling some of the rare forager birds like the world-endangered spoonbill sandpiper to find food [the tit is very important to the food chain!]; very intelligent bird)
  • verditer flycatcher (very rare in Korea)
  • red-crown crane
  • gage oriental pratincole
  • alpine leaf warbler (very rare in Korea)
  • ancient murelets
  • black-faced spoonbill (extremely endangered worldwide. South Korea has one of the last of the world's breeding sites. They are recognized by the Korean government as a "national monument" but the habitat where they green is not protected ... a little bit of a disconnect.)
black-faced spoonbill - extremely endangered specie worldwide; one of South Korea's "national monuments"
  • bull-headed shrike
  • blue-and-white flycatcher
  • brown-eared bulbul (40 years ago they weren't here in Korea; they came over from Japan)
  • collard scops owl
  • common kingfisher aka "missile bird" in Korean
  • eagle owl
  • European robin (extremely rare in Korea)
  • hen harrier (type of hawk)
  • lapwing
  • little whimbrel/curlew
  • long-tailed tit
  • merganser scrum
  • narcissus flycatcher
  • Pusan alpine assentor
  • red-neck stint
  • ruddy kingfisher
  • scaly-sided merganser
  • short-eared owl
  • spoonbill sandpiper (very, very rare - only about 200 left in the word)
spoonbill sandpiper - one of the world's rarest birds with only 200 left worldwide (source)
  • stejnegers stanchat
  • tairana yellow wagtail

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