A World First! A Chinese Crested Tern Banded in Taiwan

A World First! A Chinese Crested Tern Banded in TaiwanThe world’s first banded “bird of myth” comes from Taiwan
Known as the "bird of myth", the Chinese Crested Tern (Latin name Thalasseus bernsteini) was thought to be extinct after not being seen for almost 70 years until it was sighted in the Matsu Islands Tern Refuge in 2000. Since then, the Forestry Bureau of the Council of Agriculture, Lianjiang County Government, the Department of Forestry of National Taiwan University (NTU) and the Wild Bird Society of Taipei have carried out conservation research work including monitoring of tern colonies, placing of dummies in habitat to attract terns to breed, automatic monitoring of habitat and tern banding. In 2015 a breakthrough was achieved! In addition to recording 99 Chinese Crested Tern in Matsu, Taiwan and in Zhejiang Province, China, the Taiwan research team successfully banded and released one of the birds, the first time this feat has been achieved anywhere in the world!

Banding the Chinese Crested Tern very difficult due to their small number
The Forestry Bureau pointed out that the Chinese Crested Tern is a summer resident in Taiwan. It is the rarest of the Family Laridae birds and often lives in mixed groups with the Greater Crested Tern. It is listed as CR “critically endangered” by the IUCN and is a Grade 1 endangered species in Taiwan. In the past, it was thought that there were fewer than 50 left in the world. However, after the establishment of the Matsu Islands Tern Refuge in 2000, ecological film maker Mr. Liang Jie-de filmed the Chinese Crested Tern breeding on the islands, stunning birdwatchers and ornithologists worldwide. Not only was this the re-discovery of the species, it was also the first time its reproduction had been recorded. There are only three known places where the Chinese Crested Tern breeds, Taiwan’s Matsu Islands and the Wuzhi Islands and Jiushan Islands in Zhejiang Province, China. To continue to conserve the Chinese Crested Tern and understand its movements across the Taiwan Strait, a team led by Prof. Yuan Hsiao-wei of the Department of Forestry of NTU and the Wild Bird Society of Taipei have carried out habitat improvement, monitoring and banding. However, the extremely small population of the Chinese Crested Tern meant that banding was very difficult and researchers were also reluctant to casually catch the rare birds. In the past, the more common Greater Crested Tern was banded to track the movements of the group. From 2008, over 300 terns have been successfully banded and have been later seen in the Matsu Islands, Zhejiang and Fuzhou.

The Forestry Bureau stated that in 2015 the Taiwan research team and Mainland Chinese research team recorded a total of 99 Chinese Crested Tern in the three breeding sites in Taiwan and China, the highest number ever. On July 18 and 19th, when carrying out routine annual banding in Matsu, due to the fact that the breeding situation was the best yet seen, it was decided to band a young Chinese Crested Tern born in Matsu to find out if the terns will return to breed in Matsu when they mature. However, due to the fact that Chinese Crested Tern and Greater Crested Tern live in very large mixed groups and the young birds are very similar in appearance, when carrying out banding researchers were unsure whether they had actually successfully banded a Chinese Crested Tern. However, a local Matsu birdwatcher, Mr. Wang Jian-hua, reported that he had seen young Chinese Crested Tern with a blue and white leg band on August 5, proving that a Chinese Crested Tern had been banded for the first time, a first not only in Taiwan, but anywhere in the world.

Banding announced in the EAAFP e-bulletin, sharing the latest information with international bird watchers
The Forestry Bureau pointed out that the research into and successful banding of the Chinese Crested Tern in 2015 were major achievements in international water bird conservation and also the result of cooperation between government academia and civil groups. The NTU Department of Forestry research team will pass research information to the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) e-bulletin to allow various countries to know more about the water birds on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and their habitat so that more protection can be given for the benefit of mankind and biodiversity. In the future, through leg band identification, information about the movements of the tern group can be obtained. The Forestry Bureau will also begin Matsu tern satellite tracking research in 2016 to find out where the birds go after breeding in Taiwan in spring and summer to further unravel the mysteries of the ecology of “the bird of myth,” as the Chinese Crested Tern flies through the air carrying a symbol of Taiwan, also displaying to the world Chinese Crested Tern conservation results, and cementing Taiwan’s leading role in Chinese Crested Tern research.
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