The sprawling city-state of Hong Kong is, without a doubt, one of the great capitals of the world, a gleaming metropolis where centuries of Eastern and Westerns culture blend with commerce to produce a true 21st century society. Despite impressive, often rampant development, Hong Kong reserves 40% of its land as greenspace. The result is a nature lover’s paradise rich with mountains, beaches, and birds. Lots and lots of birds!

I visited Hong Kong from February 20-27, 2014. Though my trip wasn’t dedicated exclusively to birding, that was part of my daily routine and sometimes the focus of my day. My itinerary was as follows:

Feb 22: Macau (including Guia Hill and Barra Hill)
Feb 23. Birding walk in Luk Keng with the HK Bird Watching Society/Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
Feb 24. Victoria Peak/City tour/Kowloon Park
Feb 25. Birding Tai Po Kau/Mai Po/Long Valley
Feb 26. Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island

macaupanoramaMacau panorama from atop Guia Lighthouse

As you can see, I had two organized birding outings. The first was a scheduled walk with the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society that met at the junction of Nam Chung Rd & Luk Keng Rd at the far-flung northeastern edge of the New Territories. I was fortunate to spend time scanning open fields, wetlands, and the inlet separating Hong Kong from China with this large group of friendly and avid avian observers. The Bird Watching Society meets just about every weekend, so birders should check their activities calendar for scheduled events. Guests are usually welcome for a nominal fee.

hkbirdwatchingsocietyMembers of the HK Bird Watching Society observing a distant Scaly Thrush

Scaly ThrushSaid thrush

The second organized outing was a day of megabirding in the company of one of Hong Kong’s most experienced and renowned nature guides. David Diskin has authored or co-authored a slew of books, including Birding Hong Kong: A Site Guide, The Avifauna of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Nature Walks: The New Territories, and Hong Kong Nature Walks: Kowloon, Hong Kong and Outlying Islands. David, a phenomenal and indefatigable birder, introduced me to the three most important birding spots in Hong Kong:

Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve: best forest in Hong Kong, ideal for many amazing woodland birds
Mai Po Nature Reserve: world famous locale for shorebirds, waterfowl, waders, and wetland birds; wintering grounds for certain endangered species
Long Valley: agricultural fields ideal for wetland and open-country birds including snipe, painted snipe, and pipits

David also threw in a run to the infamous drainage channel in Kam Tin to try for the vagrant Long-billed Plover and wintering Gray-headed Lapwing. What is a day of birding without scanning malodorous mud, right?

Deep Bay mudflats panoramaDeep Bay mudflats panorama

The combination of these scheduled and informal birding efforts culminated in an amazing 135 species seen, many of which were lifers for me! The following omnibus trip report lists every species I saw at any of these locations with information that may be of use to anyone planning to add birding to their Hong Kong itinerary. Before we get to the birds, allow me to share some tips:

Don’t be afraid of Hong Kong
As a native New Yorkers, I understand the trepidation with which many of my suburban and rural friends view visits to the big city. When it comes to cities, Hong Kong is as big as it comes. Yet, HK is phenomenally clean, safe, and accessible. One of the high points of my visit was experiencing the city’s world-class mass transit system. Seriously, this may be the best transit system in the world. You will be amazed at how easily you can access both the urban core and outlying islands and territories through the integrated system of subways, buses, minibuses, and ferries. Plus, taxis are cheaper than you’d expect. So don’t be afraid!

(And even though transportation is so easy and inexpensive, prepare to walk a lot. A LOT.)

Do your research
Hong Kong offers amazing birding all year long, but you should know what to expect and where to find it. As ever, the internet is your friend! The BirdForum thread for China (including Hong Kong & Macau) is a phenomenal resource, as are blogs written by HK birders like John Holmes.

Some of my more cosmopolitan colleagues here at 10,000 Birds have much to share as well. Duncan, globe-trotter that he is, was able to recommend the right field guide: The Birds of Hong Kong and South China by Clive Viney, Karen Phillipps, and Lam Chiu Ying, naturally. Many different editions of this book are floating around, which means the one you find may not be up to date. My own edition was slightly out of date but still extremely valuable.

Special thanks must go to Redgannet who has painstakingly cataloged birding knowledge amassed over years of international travel. We’re lucky to read about his adventures and observations regularly on this site, but the Asia page on his own brilliant blog is required reading for any birder heading to Hong Kong.

Always be birding
Most birders don’t need this reminder. While I only dedicated part of my time to scheduled birding events, I always had my bins handy. This worked extremely well, since I saw lifers at every location that didn’t turn up anywhere else.

bigbuddhaLooking for Large-billed Crow? Go see the Big Buddha!

Plan the Peak
If there is a better vantage point than Victoria Peak from which to admire the magnificent skylines of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, I don’t know it. Victoria Peak is also the best spot from which to admire Black Kites soaring over said skyline. I read that the Peak was a great place for thrushes in winter; experience proved the veracity of that observation, but you’ll need to examine the underbrush closely. Expore the nature trails of the Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Road and the Peak Loop, but first check out Victoria Peak Garden. Though I got to the Peak relatively early, I didn’t find the Garden until later in the day and feel certain I missed some great sightings.

Apply for your Mai Po permit
WWF restricts access to the crown jewel of Hong Kong birding sites, so plan ahead by applying for your Mai Po Overseas Naturalist permit well in advance. This is taken very seriously, so do not put it off.

Think about taxonomy
Many of the bird reports I’ve seen use the IOC taxonomy, which can be starkly different from the Clements Checklist used by eBird. The differences can be confusing: I still can’t figure out the Clements corollary to one of the leaf warblers we encountered!

Get a guide
This advice, which I’ve often eschewed to my detriment, applies to any trip to unfamiliar territory. The best birding derives from a combination of many factors, not the least of which is local intelligence. A great guide makes birding so much easier, effective, and enjoyable that I’ve now resolved to always treat myself to at least a day of the best available guiding. Guaranteed, you will not get the best of Mai Po or Tai Po Kau without help. I feel privileged to have explored these special ecosystems with a guide that knew them as well as anyone could. Treat yourself to the same.

In summary, Hong Kong and Macau have way too much to offer in terms of culture and nature to resist. Any birder will find a trip there to be truly memorable and rewarding. Enjoy!

Stejneger's StonechatStejneger’s Stonechat


1 Gadwall
One pair seen from the hide at Mai Po Nature Reserve.

2 Eurasian Wigeon
Many seen at Kam Tin and Mai Po.

3 Northern Shoveler
Many seen at Kam Tin, Mai Po, and Long Valley.

4 Northern Pintail
One pair seen from the hide at Mai Po.

5 Garganey
One seen at Mai Po Nature Reserve.

6 Green-winged (Eurasian) Teal
Many seen at Kam Tin, Mai Po, and Luk Keng.

7 Tufted Duck
Many seen at Kam Tin, Mai Po, and Luk Keng.

8 Red-breasted Merganser
One pair spotted in Starling Inlet during the HK Birdwatching Society walk. I’m chagrined to note that this is one of the rarest species I saw during my trip. Imagine me there raring to see more exciting Asian avifauna while the rest of the group screeches to a halt to spend 45 minutes admiring birds I see all the time in New York. Considering how infrequently mergansers are seen in Hong Kong, the excitement was understandable and infectious.

9 Little Grebe
4 or more seen both at Mai Po and in Starling Inlet.

10 Great Crested Grebe
4 in Starling Inlet.

11 Great Cormorant
Numerous everywhere. Hundreds massing at Mai Po, many coming into breeding plumage.

maipowetlandsGreat Cormorants massing in Mai Po

12 Gray Heron
Common everywhere with water.

13 Purple Heron
1 seen at Mai Po.

14 Great Egret
Common everywhere.

15 Intermediate Egret
Many seen at Mai Po.

Intermediate EgretNot Little, but not Great: Intermediate Egret

16 Little Egret
Common everywhere.

17 Chinese Pond-Heron
Numerous everywhere there was water.

18 Striated Heron
1 seen at Mai Po, 1 seen at Luk Keng.

19 Black-crowned Night-Heron
1 seen over the bay off Victoria Park; 1 seen at the reservoir on Macau.

20 Eurasian Spoonbill
1 at Mai Po mixed in with the Black-faced Spoonbills.

21 Black-faced Spoonbill
Many at Mai Po, which is one of the best places in the world to see this endangered species.

Black-faced SpoonbillsBlack-faced Spoonbills

22 (Western) Osprey
1 at Starling Inlet; 1 at Mai Po.

23 Crested Serpent-Eagle
1 at Luk Keng

24 Greater Spotted Eagle
While birding Mai Po, tons of Great Cormorants fled the pools in a rush. David observed that they only flush for eagles, so we stopped and scanned. A couple of minutes later, this one Spotted Eagle soared by. Interestingly, this was the only eagle we saw, even though eagles have typically perched at one end of Mai Po this winter.

25 Eastern Marsh-Harrier
1 harrier strafed the birds in Deep Bay.

26 Crested Goshawk
2 sightings of goshawks picking fights with smaller accipiters at Luk Keng.

27 Japanese Sparrowhawk
1 at Luk Keng.

28 Besra
1 at Luk Keng.

29 Black Kite
Common everywhere. Victoria Peak is the perfect place to observe kites soaring against the city skyline. I was fascinated to learn that Black Kites serve the same ecological niche in their range that Turkey and Black Vultures do in North America.

30 Common Buzzard
1 from the top of the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery; at least 1 at Mai Po.

31 White-breasted Waterhen
A couple seen both at Mai Po and Long Valley.

32 Ruddy-breasted Crake
1 perfect sighting exactly where David Diskin expected it at Long Valley!

33 Eurasian Moorhen
Decent numbers at Luk Keng, Mai Po, and Long Valley.

34 Eurasian Coot
A couple at Mai Po.

35 Black-winged Stilt
Numerous at Kam Tin, Mai Po, and Long Valley.

36 Pied Avocet
Lucky to see many of these birds in the drainage channel in Kam Tin.

37 Black-bellied (Grey) Plover
Numerous at Mai Po.

38 Gray-headed Lapwing
This Asian species winters in Hong Kong, where the most reliable place to spot it is the infamous drainage channel in Kam Tin. We scanned numerous spots for this species as well as the vagrant Long-billed Plover that had been visiting. We dipped on the latter and only caught sight of a distant group of 7 or so lapwings once we had given up hope. Isn’t that the way of it?

drainageditchDrainage ditch birding FTW

39 Kentish Plover
Some spotted at Mai Po.

40 Little Ringed Plover
Great numbers both at Mai Po and Kam Tin.

41 Greater Painted-snipe
One of my target species. Long Valley is the most reliable spot for these splendid skulkers and I’m happy to say we say at least 7 males and females. Gorgeous!

42 Terek Sandpiper
An early group of about 15 from the hide at Mai Po.

43 Common Sandpiper
Good numbers at Kam Tin and Mai Po.

44 Green Sandpiper
Many seen at Mai Po and Long Valley.

45 Spotted Redshank
One group spotted in an inland pool at Mai Po.

46 Common Greenshank
Very common at Kam Tin, Mai Po, and Long Valley.


47 Marsh Sandpiper
Seen at Mai Po.

48 Wood Sandpiper
Some seen at Kam Tin, Mai Po, and Long Valley.

49 Eurasian Curlew
Quite numerous at Mai Po.

50 Temminck’s Stint
One group spotted from the hide at Mai Po.

51 Dunlin
Common at Mai Po.

52 Common Snipe
At least 8 spotted at Long Valley.

53 Pin-tailed Snipe
1 identified at Long Valley.

54 Oriental Pratincole
1 early migrant being harassed by gulls at Mai Po. Awesome!

mudskipperMudskipper at Mai Po!

55 Saunders’s Gull
Mai Po in winter is an ideal spot to seek out this vulnerable species. We saw many from the hide.

56 Black-headed Gull
1 spotted off the coast of Macau; many spotted at Mai Po.

57 Black-tailed Gull
Many spotted at Mai Po.

58 Herring (Heuglin’s) Gull
Many spotted at Mai Po.

59 Caspian (Mongolian) Gull
Many spotted at Mai Po.

60 Whiskered Tern
1 early bird at Mai Po.

61 Rock Pigeon
Greatest numbers in Kowloon Park but seen at other urban locations.

62 Oriental Turtle-Dove
1 bird mixed in with Spotted Doves at Mai Po.

63 Red Collared-Dove
1 bird mixed in with Spotted Doves at Mai Po.

64 Spotted Dove
Extremely common everywhere. Cannot miss.

65 Asian Koel
4 at Barra Hill in Macau; 2 at Mai Po.

66 Greater Coucal
1 spotted at Luk Keng.

67 Pacific Swift
2 observed overhead at Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island.

68 House Swift
Numbers seen at Luk Keng, Kam Tin, and Mai Po.

69 Common Kingfisher
A few seen at Luk Keng and Mai Po.

70 White-throated Kingfisher
A few seen at Luk Keng and Mai Po.

White-Breasted KingfisherWhite-throated Kingfisher

71 Black-capped Kingfisher
2 spotted at Luk Keng.

72 Pied Kingfisher
2 at Luk Keng; 1 at Mai Po.

73 Rose-ringed Parakeet
Small numbers at Kowloon Park and other urban areas.

74 Gray-chinned Minivet
At least 8 males and females seen at Tai Po Kau.

75 Scarlet Minivet
One pair seen at Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery.

76 Long-tailed Shrike
Single birds spotted a various points at both Luk Keng and Mai Po.

77 Hair-crested Drongo
One lucky sighting flying across the road while driving in Kam Tin.

78 Azure-winged Magpie
A few birds from the established population at Mai Po.


79 Gray Treepie
This species has been reliable in winter at Luk Keng. We encountered at least 2 birds. Nice!

80 Eurasian Magpie
Seen in decent numbers on Guia Hill and at Mai Po.

81 Large-billed Crow
Heard only at Mai Po, but seen in great numbers at Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island.

82 Collared Crow
Prefers wetlands. Seen in decent numbers both at Luk Keng and Mai Po. What a cool crow.

83 Barn Swallow
Seen in small numbers at Luk Keng, Mai Po, and Long Valley.

84 Japanese (Cinereous) Tit
Extremely common everywhere. Cannot miss. HK birders maintain that the local tit is Cinereous, although Japanese does turn up occasionally.

85 Yellow-cheeked Tit
Seen in decent numbers at Tai Po Kau. Beautiful bird!

86 Velvet-fronted Nuthatch
I was so excited to see this species at Tai Po Kau, where it turned up in small numbers.

taipokauTHE place to see Yellow-cheeked Tits along with minlas, mesias, leothrixes, bulbuls, and babblers!

87 Red-whiskered Bulbul
Extremely common everywhere. Cannot miss, even though you’ll want to. Annoyingly diverse range of calls.

88 Light-vented (Chinese) Bulbul
Extremely common everywhere. Cannot miss. And what is with the unhealthy fixation on the vents of bulbuls? Of all the aspects of this raucous and conspicuous species one might focus on, its vent is probably last on the list. I much prefer the alternate name Chinese Bulbul.

89 Chestnut Bulbul
Seen in decent numbers at Tai Po Kau.

90 Mountain Bulbul
Seen in decent numbers at Tai Po Kau even though the species is considered rare in eBird.

91 Pygmy Cupwing
1 seen and many heard at Tai Po Kau, where its numbers have increased since the early 1990s. This bird is also known as Pygmy Wren-Babbler, which better represents its adorable wren-like appearance.

92 Mountain Tailorbird
A number seen at Tai Po Kau.

93 Dusky Warbler
A few spotted lurking in reeds at Kam Tin, Mai Po, and Long Valley.

94 Pallas’s Leaf-Warbler
Singles seen both at Victoria Peak and Tai Po Kau.

95 Yellow-browed Warbler Peak
The common wintering leaf warbler. Seen in numbers in Macau and at Victoria Peak, Tai Po Kau, and Long Valley.

96 Eastern Crowned Leaf-Warbler
Frankly, I don’t even know if this is the right species. We saw what David Diskin refers to as Goodson’s Leaf Warbler at Tai Po Kau. Maybe that’s this species, maybe not.

97 Zitting Cisticola
A few seen zitting about at Mai Po.

98 Common Tailorbird
Seen in good numbers on Guia Hill, at Luk Keng, Victoria Peak, and Tai Po Kau.

99 Yellow-bellied Prinia
Heard many at Luk Keng but finally got good views at Mai Po.

100 Plain Prinia
Seen and heard in great numbers at Luk Keng and Mai Po.

101 Indochinese Yuhina
A group of 5 spotted at the trailhead of Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Road at Victoria Peak. This species is also referred to as Striated Yuhina or Collared Siva, but I best prefer Chestnut-collared Yuhina, which describes the bird’s most obvious marks.

102 Japanese White-eye
Extremely common everywhere. Cannot miss. If you’re desperate to pad your list, scan flocks for Chestnut-flanked White-eye. I wasn’t that desperate.

103 Rufous-capped Babbler
Seen in decent numbers at Tai Po Kau.

104 Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler
Heard at Victoria Peak. Heard many and got poor views of 1 at Tai Po Kau.

105 Masked Laughingthrush
Seen in groups at Luk Keng, Kowloon Park, and Mai Po.

Masked LaughingthrushMasked Laughingthrush

106 Chinese Hwamei
1 seen in underbrush at Guia Hill in Macau. So cool!

107 Black-throated Laughingthrush
A couple seen at Tai Po Kau.

108 Silver-eared Mesia (Leiothrix)
Seen in decent numbers at Tai Po Kau. Gorgeous!

109 Red-billed Leiothrix
1 spotted at Tai Po Kau. This lovely species is also known as Pekin Robin or Pekin Nightingale.

110 Blue-winged Minla
Seen in decent numbers at Tai Po Kau.

111 Oriental Magpie-Robin
Extremely common everywhere. Cannot miss, cannot look away.

Oriental Magpie-RobinOriental Magpie-Robin

112 Blue Whistling-Thrush
2 spotted in different locations at Victoria Peak.

113 Red-flanked Bluetail
Singletons spotted just about everywhere in Macau and Hong Kong away from urban areas.

114 Daurian Redstart
Several spotted at Mai Po; 1 seen at the Big Buddha on Lantau Island.

115 Siberian (Stejneger’s) Stonechat
Seen in good numbers at Mai Po and Long Valley. IOC has split this species off as Stejneger’s Stonechat.

116 Scaly (White’s) Thrush
1 lovely bird seen at Luk Keng. Apparently, this species has appeared in the New Territories in good numbers during this winter.

117 Gray-backed Thrush
1 seen at Guia Hill; 2 seen at Victoria Peak.

118 Eurasian (Chinese) Blackbird
Only one of the trip seen at Kowloon Park; heard at Long Valley.

119 Eyebrowed Thrush
1 or 2 seen at Victoria Peak.

120 Pale Thrush
1 seen at Victoria Peak.

121 Crested Myna
Extremely common everywhere, especially outside urban areas. Smart looking bird.

122 Common Myna
2 seen at Mai Po.

123 Black-collared Starling
Extremely common everywhere. Cannot miss.

Black-necked StarlingExpect better views than this of Black-collared Starling

124 Red-billed Starling
Small flock spotted outside the House of the Mandarin in Macau. Some seen at Mai Po; huge flocks at Long Valley.

125 Orange-bellied Leafbird
A male and female at Tai Po Kau; eBird lists this species as rare at TPK, but birders see it consistently.

126 Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
1 seen at Luk Keng.

127 Fork-tailed Sunbird
Seen in decent numbers at Victoria Peak, Tai Po Kau, and Mai Po.

Fork-tailed SunbirdThe female Fork-tailed Sunbird is not nearly as gaudy as the male

128 Western (Eastern) Yellow Wagtail
The IOC splits Eastern and Western Yellow Wagtails. The taivana race, known as Green-crowned Yellow Wagtail, seen at Kam Tin. The macronyx race, called Southeast Siberian Yellow Wagtail, seen in decent numbers at Mai Po and Long Valley.

129 Gray Wagtail
A couple spotted at Kam Tin.

130 White Wagtail
Good numbers of the leucopsis race seen at Kam Tin, Mai Po, and Long Valley.

131 Olive-backed Pipit
Spotted in Victoria Peak Garden as well as Mai Po, Long Valley, and Tian Tan Buddha. Its alternate name of Indian Tree Pipit describes its occassional unpipitlike perching behavior well.

132 Yellow-billed (Chinese) Grosbeak
At least 7 mixed in with starlings at Luk Keng. Great bird.

133 Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Extremely common everywhere. Cannot miss.

134 White-rumped Munia
A couple of large flocks at Luk Keng; 1 at Tian Tan Buddha.

135 Nutmeg Mannikin/Scaly-breasted Munia
1 bird mixed in with White-rumped Munias at Luk Keng.

White-rumped MuniaWhite-rumped Munia


1. Rhesus Macaque
Several mooching food at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, 2 seen wild in Tai Po Kau.
(OK, this isn’t much of a list, but all wild monkey sightings deserve recognition!)

rhesusmacaqueMonkey at a monastery


Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.