Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hong Kong: Yuen Po's Stock in Trade

In my previous post I made some general remarks (not entirely complimentary) about the Yuen Po Bird Garden. Now I think I should show you some of the many birds - at least 40 species, and I don't know how many hundreds of individuals - that I saw there.

Many of the birds on display - like this Senegal Parrot (Poicephalus senegalus) - were species you might find in the bird trade anywhere in the world. There were parrots of many species, including numbers of African Grey Parrots (Psittacus erithacus) that may well have been wild-caught and were likely of illegal origin. There were Yellow-fronted Canaries (Serinus mozambicus), the African species known as Green Singing Finch in the trade, almost certainly captive-bred. I was more interested, though, in the native Chinese songbirds that probably originated from bird-trappers on the mainland - and there were plenty of them.

Probably commonest were Japanese White-Eyes (Zosterops japonicus), offered in individual cages piled one atop the other, though this is a species commonly bought for release and sold en masse. The clean white underparts mark this bird as probably the SE China race Z. j. simplex, as you might expect.

These Crested Mynas (Acridotheres cristatellus) are almost certainly intended for release. Chan's thesis records that many birds like this suffer from feather damage, and that some may be carrying infectious diseases including avian flu.

Larks, strangely enough, are common in the market. Most of these are Mongolian Larks (Melanocorypha mongolica), presumably brought in from northern China. The bird in the front, though, appears to be one of the skylarks, and here identification gets tricky. I think this bird is an Oriental Skylark (Alauda gulgula) based on the fine breast streaking, but I am far from sure.

This is also, I think, an Oriental Skylark; it shows the rufous in the wings that is supposed to be characteristic of this species. Larks are apparently very common in the bird garden and other bird markets, with the majority of them intended for release (though, oddly, there are no records I can find of Mongolian Larks for Hong Kong; probably not many survive release); hence the mass cages typical of birds kept for this reason.

Silver-eared Mesias (Mesia argentauris) are popular cage birds in many countries. This appears to be the particularly beautiful red-breasted race ricketti, perhaps brought in from southern China or Vietnam. This individual had lost its tail feathers, and was the only one I saw in the market.

Chats of the genus Saxicola seemed popular in the market. This is a Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola maura), apparently a non-breeding male of the dark Chinese race przewalskii.

This is a Grey Bushchat (Saxicola ferrea), an adult male in breeding plumage.

Finally, this is a Pied Bushchat (Saxicola caprata), the commonest Saxicola in the market even though it does not occur in the wild around Hong Kong and is fairly localized in China; the birds may have come from Vietnam. It is a male in non-breeding plumage - notice the buff feather fringes on the underparts.

I think this is a Pied Bushchat too, though a very oddly-plumaged one - a partial albino? Does anyone have any other ideas?

This was the only Siberian Blue Robin (Luscinia cyane) in the market - a restless little bird with a short, continuously bobbing tail.

This is an Orange-headed Ground Thrush (Zoothera citrina). I saw two in the market and another on sale in the nearby goldfish market, one of only a very few birds there.

Leafbirds, popular for both their plumage and their song, were a frequent offering in the market. This one is a Golden-fronted Leafbird (Chloropsis aurifrons).

The Fork-tailed Sunbird (Aethopyga christinae) is the only native sunbird in Hong Kong, where it lives in forest tracts such as Tai Po Kau, Sunbirds are delicate creatures in captivity, and the few I saw in the market looked quite listless.

This one gave me pause for a moment, but I finally realized that it was an immature male Crested Bunting (Melophus lathami). Chan does not mention this species, so it is probably rare in the markets even tough it is native to Hong Kong.

Finally - as a contrast to all those birds in tiny cages - here is a truly wild bird, a Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) dropping in to the market in search of some fallen seeds. It is the commonest city bird in Hong Kong, totally un-exotic, but it still seemed like the best one to end this otherwise unhappy collection.

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