The Ongoing Slaughter of Raptors in Southern Taiwan

Grey Faced Buzzard Eagle: Photo courtesy of Richard Yu

by Mark B. Wilkie

Mark B.Wilkie is a Taiwan based educator and birder. He serves as a moderator on the large international net based birding community, and is a member of various birding and conservation societies.

The sight of a raptor soaring has inspired mankind through the ages. Nations and armies have used the image of a raptor to symbolize their power. Somehow the very sight of a raptor on the wing stirs something deep within us. It is the image of power and the very essence of a predator. It moves effortlessly and with absolute grace. It soars on high, above all, swooping down to kill in an awesome climax of noble grace, cunning speed and ruthless power. To many the eagle and its allies are indeed the ultimate predator and the personification of man’s desires incarnate.

Crested Goshawk: Photo courtesy of Richard Yu

These very virtues of the raptor have put it in direct competition with man and that conflict has played out over the ages in a number of ways and has almost always, if not always, spelt destruction for the free spirit of these noble creatures.

Man has captured raptors to make use of their skills. They have been destroyed when they have competed with us for food; poisoned and hunted when they have taken our livestock. Their feathers have been collected to decorate our costumes and in Taiwan they have fallen victim to those that wish to capture and possess their spirit.

Common Kestrel: Photo courtesy of Richard Yu

In Japan the virtues of raptors and the qualities they represent are admired. People desire to possess a mount of one of these noble creatures believing that it brings such esteemed qualities as prosperity and good fortune into the life of the owner. As Taiwan’s isolation grew with the Republic of China’s regime in Taipei still claiming to represent all of China in the 60s and 70s it lead to Taiwan’s environmental isolation too. With little or no control, the hunting of raptors in Taiwan for export as mounts to Japan grew alarmingly. To a lesser extent raptors were hunted for food, Chinese medicine, and for mounts for the local market. Some believed that the eating of a raptor would impart various attributes to them.

Chinese Sparrowhawk: Photo courtesy of Richard Yu

Between 1976 and 1977, sixty-thousand Grey-faced Buzzard Eagles Butastur indicuswhere shipped to Japan. Grey-faced Buzzard Eagles Butastur indicus were not the only raptors being hunted and shipped. Large numbers of Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela and smaller numbers of Besra Accipiter virgatus, Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis, Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus, Oriental Honey-Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus, Osprey Pandion haliatus, Mountain Hawk Eagle Spizaetus nipalensis, and Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus were also being hunted and shipped to Japan.

Oriental Honey-Buzzard: Photo courtesy of Richard Yu

Through the efforts of concerned individuals and groups in Taiwan, Japan, and internationally, the plight of the Taiwan raptors was tackled. Awareness was raised through education. The government was persuaded to issue postage stamps and mint coins depicting the Grey-faced Buzzard Eagle and Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus to help raise awareness of the plight of migrating birds. Taiwan was permitted to join the East Asia Bird Conservation Union and in October 1983 at the East Asian Bird Protection Societies meeting held in Kenting, Southern Taiwan the authorities burnt confiscated shrike traps. In 1989 laws were passed affording the Grey-faced Buzzard protection and the practice of hunting raptors had sharply declined. Raptor watching has become a major activity in Kenting National Park in October and Baguashan in April.

Crested Serpant Eagle: Photo courtesy of Richard Yu

In recent years the hunting of raptors does not seem to have been a major concern to conservationists. Conservation efforts to stem the tide of raptor hunting have been viewed as having been pretty successful. The practice has certainly continued in secret but it would appear that the number of birds hunted has been low. Whether this has truly been the case is not really known. In Ferguson-Lees’s acclaimed “Raptors of the World,” a figure of a thousand Grey-faced Buzzard Eagle is given for the annual number of birds shot over Taiwan during the two migration periods per year. Ferguson-Lees’s figure is very worrying. The Grey-faced Buzzard Eagle only passes through Taiwan on passage during migration and is known to be hunted in the Philippines and other areas that the species passes through.

Osprey: Photo courtesy of Richard Yu

Media reports of possibly thousands of Grey-faced Buzzard Eagle and smaller numbers of other raptors being hunted during the recent September-October migration period in the Southern Taiwan, Kenting National Park area are worrying. Once again, there is a need to raise awareness and highlight the plight of Taiwan’s raptors and insist that the authorities take action against those responsible. Additional measures must be put in place to protect these magnificent birds as they pass through Taiwan in their thousands in one of nature’s greatest spectacles.

Please assist us in helping protect the Grey-faced Buzzard Eagle and other Taiwan raptors by voicing your concern over the recent hunting of the species and other raptors by sending a letter of concern to the Taiwan authorities.

Brown Shrike: Photo courtesy of Richard Yu

Recommended Reading

Kate Rogers gives a wonderful history of the plight of the Grey-faced Buzzard Eagle and Brown Shrike in Taiwan in her book “The Swallows’ Return” The book gives an account of the history of bird watching and conservation in Taiwan and covers conservation of the Fairy Pitta, Black-faced Spoonbill, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, and others, too. Kate Rogers helped a lot with the article and the proceeds of her bilingual book go to Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute conservation projects.

A recent book review by the Taipei Times.

References and Bibliography


Collar, N. (2004). Article: Endemic Subspecies of Taiwan Birds. Birding Asia 2. OBC, Bedford.

Ferguson-Lees et al. (2001). Raptors of the World. Helm, London.

MacKinnon, J. (2000). Field Guide to the Birds of China. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Rogers, K. (2005). The Swallows’ Return. A foreigner’s history of birdwatching, conservation and culture in Taiwan. TESRI, Taipei.

Severinghaus, S. (1976). A New Guide to the Birds of Taiwan. Mei Ya Publications, Taipei.

Wu Sen-hsiang. (1991). Guide to the Wild Birds of Taiwan. Taiwan Wild
Bird Information Centre/ WBSJ. Taichung.

On line


Informal talk to “John” Wu Sen-hsiang, Douliou, June 2006.

E-mail discussions with Kate Rogers & Derrick Wilby, October 2006.