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Hong Kong’s Birds

Chatteris’ own nature enthusiast in residence, Eibhlin McMenamin, is back with a handy guide to identifying some of Hong Kong’s chirpiest residents.

Hong Kong has over 500 recorded bird species, and for an amateur ornithologist like myself, this has been an absolute treat. I’m also an artist, and for the past couple of years, I have been sharing my bird drawings with Chatteris employees via the staff newsletter. Here is a collection of some of my favourite drawings and some information about the excellent birds depicted. 

Drawing illustration of an Asian Koel

Asian Koel

These guys – about the same size and colour as your typical crow – are actually in the cuckoo family. This means as well as practising brood parasitism (they lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and trick them into raising their chicks), they are also very, very, loud. Expect to hear males calling for a mate (with a rising “ko-EL, ko-EL” sounding call) throughout spring and early summer. An inescapable (and quite annoying), part of the HK soundscape, they are found across South Asia, down into Northern Australia. 

Drawing illustration of a fairy pitta

Fairy Pitta

These colourful little birds are infrequent visitors to Hong Kong, stopping off on their yearly migration between Indonesia and Northeastern China. They are also known as the ‘little forest angel’ and ‘eight coloured bird’ across their range. They have an impressive diet, ranging from snakes and shrews to the more classic beetle and earthworm combo. Keep an eye out in the forests for one of them, especially between November and April. 

Drawing illustration of a Blue Whistling Thrush

Blue Whistling Thrush

These thrushes can be found across Hong Kong. Look out for them at ground level – they like to hunt snails, crabs, and worms on the forest floor. They are quite a large bird, weighing up to 230 grams (for comparison, a Eurasian sparrow, the most commonly seen bird in HK, weighs around 25g) and have even been known to prey on smaller birds. Keep your eyes low for a glance of these chonky blue boys on your next hike. 

Drawing illustration of a ruddy shelduck

Ruddy Shelduck

One of the surprisingly few species of Hong Kong duck, these birds have a range stretching from Spain all the way to India. They usually spend the winter here, so watch out for their arrival when the weather cools. Their bright feathers mark them out and also protect from being eaten by humans, as their feathers are the same colour as buddhist monks’ robes, making them revered in some parts of their range.

Drawing illustration of a great cormorant

Great Cormorant 

One of the biggest fish-eating birds found in Hong Kong, cormorants descend in great numbers to the wetlands in the North of Hong Kong during winter. The Chatteris Nature Walks Club were lucky enough to spot a couple at the wetland park back in November. They have a huge range, spanning six continents, and as a result, interact with many different cultures. In Norway legend says that dying at sea means your spirit comes back as a cormorant, while in Japan and China, anglers use them to help with their catch.

If you are interested in exploring Hong Kong’s nature, like Eibhlin, apply now to become a Chatteris Tutor.

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