Hong Kong is an excellent place for the bird watcher. The various habitats in the central and northern New Territories are home to a number of resident sub-tropical species, but the territory is at its best from September to May when passage migrants and winter visitors can be seen. Our day tours usually take in the three key sites of Tai Po Kau, Mai Po and Long Valley.
Tai Po Kau holds a greater range of native tree species than any other woodland in Hong Kong and is consequently the best forest area for birds. Like any woodland birding site it can be frustrating and disappointing, but on a good day the forest provides views of some of Hong Kong’s most colourful birds: Scarlet and Grey-chinned Minivets, Orange-bellied Leaf bird, Silver-eared Leiothrix, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Fork-tailed Sunbird and more. Flycatchers, warblers and thrushes occur in winter and on passage. Hainan Blue Flycatcher arrives in April to breed during the summer months.
The globally significant wetland, Mai Po Marshes Reserve, situated on the Australasia migratory route is Hong Kong’s birding jewel in the crown. The reserve is world-famous for its wader migration in spring, including the Asian specialities of Nordmann’s Greenshank, Asian Dowitcher and the near-extinct Spoon-billed Sandpiper. It is also an important site in winter for endangered species such as Black-faced Spoonbill and Eastern Imperial Eagle. In the full day birding schedule, Mai Po Reserve may take up the major portion of the day, especially if our visit coincides with a good high tide and we head out to the hides overlooking the Deep Bay mudflats.
The agricultural fields at Long Valley hold a number of open-country and wetland species throughout the year, including breeding Greater Painted-snipe.
If you have interests in certain habitats or species, please let us know and we’ll do our best to accommodate you.
Walk Hong Kong's Birding Guides Bird watching tours for Walk Hong Kong were initiated by Roger Muscroft in 2005. Under Roger’s guidance, the tours went from strength to strength, and Roger brought on board John Holmes in 2008 and David Diskin in 2011 to make Walk Hong Kong the premier tour agency in Hong Kong for visiting bird watchers. Roger has recently retired from Walk Hong Kong but John and David continue to offer professional guiding services for overseas birders.
John Holmes came to Hong Kong in 1978. He soon discovered a passion for birds when rambling in Hong Kong’s Country Parks. Since then, birding has led him to many interesting parts of Asia. Still a committed birder, these days he participates in Hong Kong’s monthly waterfowl counts and edits the English language edition of the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society’s quarterly bulletin. John’s birding blog can be found here.
John is very happy to get the chance to share his enthusiasm for Hong Kong birds and birding places. John is the star on our you-tube video.
David Diskin has spent most of his working life in Asia, including 20 years in Hong Kong. He is the author of Birding Hong Kong: A Site Guide and one of the co-authors of The Avifauna of Hong Kong. More recently he has written and published Hong Kong Nature Walks: The New Territories and Hong Kong Nature Walks: Kowloon, Hong Kong and Outlying Islands. His latest book is Mai Po: The Seasons – A Photographic Essay.
Bird watching sites in Hong Kong are relatively undemanding in terms of physical fitness. Tai Po Kau is uphill for the first few minutes but is fairly easy-going after that. Mai Po Marshes require the greatest amount of walking and we may cover a distance of 5-6 km, especially if we take in the Deep Bay mudflats. However, all walking at Mai Po is on the flat, as are the fields at Long Valley.
The weather is very taxing in some seasons, especially the hot and humid summer months. The main bird watching season is from late September to early May.
As all tours are private/exclusive, the final itinerary depends upon the wishes of the client. We usually recommend that a full day birding tour takes in Tai Po Kau forest, Mai Po Reserve and Long Valley, which are the three premier birding sites in Hong Kong. This may vary depending on the time of high tides at Mai Po. Half day tours usually take in one or two of these key sites.
Pick-up for bird watching outings is at one of the stations on the East Rail Line out in the New Territories – usually University station or Fanling station depending on the itinerary. Drop off at the end of the day will again be at a station on the East Rail Line. Transport to and from these stations is by private car. Full details of how to get to the pick-up point from your hotel will be provided before the tour.
A full checklist of the birds seen is emailed to the client after the tour as an Excel file.
Equipment Both guides carry a telescope – particularly useful for observing water birds at Mai Po. They can also provide extra binoculars if needed. Appropriate reference books are available, primarily ‘The Birds of Hong Kong and South China’ (Eighth edition).
Fees and other details All tours are exclusive. Fees are as follows:
Full day: HK$2,400 for one or two people, HK$3,000 for three people, HK$3,600 for four people.
Half day: HK$1,200 for one or two people, HK$1,500 for three people, HK$1,800 for four people.
Please note: if a visit into Mai Po Reserve is included in any of the above outings, clients need to pay for a permit at the reserve on the day. This is currently HK$180 per person (November-April), HK$150 per person (May-October).
Our maximum group size is four. Under the terms of Walk Hong Kong's licence, groups over four have to be responsible for their own transport arrangements.
General requirements Please provide us with a contact phone number in Hong Kong, or the name of the hotel where you are staying, plus the name the booking is made in.
We need notification of any cancellation before the morning of your tour. It is also important that you ring us if you are delayed.
Footwear We recommend you wear either robust walking shoes or trainers/sneakers. Casual sandals or open shoes are not suitable for trails, which can be rocky in places.
Clothing Sun and rainfall can be intense and a hat is recommended. During the winter season (November - March) temperatures can drop with a chilling wind, so a sweater/fleece is advisable. During the wet season (April - September) a waterproof jacket is recommended. In warmer months (May - October) it is advisable to carry a spare T-shirt or other garment to change into at the end of the hike. Skin Protection Suntan lotion should be used throughout the year, and applied frequently during the hike. Food We provide a simple packed lunch (sandwiches, fruit, biscuits) and extra water on our full-day tours. Please tell us if you have any special dietary requirements. Please bring a backpack to carry food, water and other necessities.
Water Please carry sufficient water for your own needs. In the warmer months, this may equate to one litre for every two hours of walking. Dehydration is a real risk on hot days. Choose mineralised rather than distilled water. Consider an electrolyte replacement drink as well.
Personal needs Please notify us of any medical conditions that we should be aware of. We will assume clients have their own medications for asthma or known illnesses. Insect repellent is not obligatory, but advisable if you tend to attract insects.
Payment Payment can be made in cash at the start of the tour, or by electronic money transfer pre-tour. Prices quoted in Hong Kong dollars. HK$7.75 = US$1.00
In the middle of last year we decided to visit Hong Kong for a few days on the way home to Australia from England. Once we discovered Mai Po Marshes existed, the task was to work out how to visit. The Walk Hong Kong website was the answer. We wished to combine a day of mainly birding but with some culture while in the New Territories. Our first of many emails outlining our requirements was quickly responded to by Roger Muscroft. Roger advised that he may not be our guide on the day, but Walk Hong Kong would provide a suitable guide. David Diskin was nominated as our guide and we quickly settled into sorting out the details. Because of the tide time, David readily agreed to an earlier than normal start and arranged for early access to the site and all the necessary permits. Early this year, to our dismay, we discovered that the Public Holiday for Ching Ming Festival was a day earlier than usual because of 2012 being a leap year. We had tried to avoid the Public Holiday. Yet another email to David to see if we could change the day to 5 rather than 4 April. A few days later back came the email, all fixed, permits and early start still OK for 5 April.
On the day we met David as arranged. He drove us to Mai Po from University Station and we knew very quickly that we were in good hands. David’s bird knowledge and site knowledge were both excellent and after about 15 minutes we knew we were in for a treat. Our day at Mai Po will go down as one of our birding highlights in nearly 40 years of birding. Without David’s help we would have been floundering, having trouble in identifying the birds, knowing where to go and at what time.
Our late afternoon plans were literally dampened by very heavy rain, but David managed to drive us to several sites, and park just outside so we could do some sightseeing. In all, a sterling effort by David and Walk Hong Kong. If we return to Hong Kong, we will definitely be in touch. Shirley & Bill
Hello! Thank you for the lovely bird watching trip. We really enjoyed it. We had a good time in Hong Kong altogether. The bird list is the same I have except I saw Yellow-bellied Prinia in Mai Po. There were three of them just beside me in the bushes. I saw these cute birds clearly but quickly. Regards from snowy Finland.
Hey there, Arrived home safely, but a bit late last night..........24 hours of travel! Thanks again for such a great day. We were pleased to see so many species (116), especially the special ones. The following day Sue and I walked about a bit, looking for birds at the Peak, but didn’t see anything new. Doug and Carol were too tired, so just enjoyed the view. We were so glad we planned a stopover in Hong Kong as we really enjoyed the city. We had a great meal at Sai Kung and did a walkabout to see the fish in the water tanks. Sue was especially surprised to see a family with their poodles on chairs getting handouts from the meal. Pete ( an international bird tour guide from Canada, his wife and friends,
Hi John. This message is primarily in response to your bird list but I cannot begin other than by saying what a wonderful day you gave us. Thank you for the list........Thanks also for the picture of the Scaly Thrush; fantastic, but not as good as seeing the real thing thanks to you!! Best regards Terry and Jennifer (UK) (Visited Tai Po Kau, Long Valley and several other sites.)
Hi Roger from a sunny but cold Southend. First thank you for two wonderful days. Mai Po was excellent and the tour the next day equally good; both days just what we asked for. Thank you also for the bird list and the wonderful pictures of the Purple Heron. What a bird and such wonderful views. Best regards, Terry and Jennifer (UK) (Visited Mai Po - full day + full day 'scenic drive in New Territories, with birds as a bonus!)
ROGER, we did get the email and went out to the butterfly gardens, it was very slow but i did get a new bird, the grey backed thrush. so it was worth the trip out. we got nothing new at kowloon park on the sunday but we did see 3 more parakeets there which were ALEXANDRINE. had very good looks at them. the 26th was a really great day. thanks for the effort you put in. the dabman. Bill/USA & Easy/Australia
Roger: Thank you for your fine guide service and excellent company this week. Thanks for providing the bird list of our observations. I very much appreciate your ability to recall everything that we could identify. Two questions for you. Could you give me the name of the reserve that we visited first on 12/28? And could you remind me of the mostly blue/grey thrush that you thought I might have seen in Kowloon Park, near the mosque? Thanks again for a great day. Next time I'll plan to catch the high tide. Best wishes. Cordially, Dan
Dear Roger Thank you so much for the super two days I[we] had with you. Also thank you for the list which I will work through carefully, especially after I’ve entered everything on the computer. The program then gives me a list as a product of the records. It will be a week or two before I can even start; so I hope you won’t mind if I try to reconcile any queries with you after that?
Anyway thank you so much for your expertise & really enjoyable company in Hong Kong. As you know I was a relatively reluctant visitor in the first place but our time birding together completely changed that way of thinking! Thank you too to John. It is just such good fun to be out discussing birds with like minded company.
We saw a heck of a lot. I was, I suppose, a weeny bit disappointed about the Gulls. I had no idea there would be so few; I had already pictured myself trying to understand Mongolian from Caspian & Vega from Herring! So, if our daughter stays in NZ, any future visits will have to be in the winter!
But I really did enjoy it & thank you so much. We would love to see you up here if ever you can. ATB Mike & Annie ( www.nwbirds.co.uk)
Hi Roger, Even though it was raining throughout the day, my wife and I enjoyed the birding trip. Your skillful adjustment of the programme/sites based on the changing weather conditions enabled us to still see a fair number of birds. The attention to details also ensured we remained comfortable even on a wet day. Thanks for the detailed bird list. I particularly appreciate the inclusion of scientific names in the bird list as it enables me to make reference in my local bird guide which uses different common bird names from those in Hong Kong. Thanks also for the sightseeing recommendations, Michelle and I had a good walk about in Sai Kung and enjoyed the seafood very much. Regards, Hin (Singapore)
Hello John, Thank you for some very enjoyable scouting and birding in HK. The group enjoyed their time and their HK birds very much. I have been fortunate to have a great, positive group to hang out with and that this trip has allowed me so many days of birding, in what was originally going to be a culture only tour! For me personally it was great to return to HK, to meet Geoff, Paul, you and Roger, and to re-familiarize with many southern species. I hope that there will be a chance to go birding together again in the future. I hope that Mai Po will re-open soon and that you will enjoy a pleasant spring of photography and birding. Best wishes, Dr Mark A. Brazil Author, Consultant, Naturalist and Lecturer - Mark Brazil website
John I must just quickly let you know what a very special part of our holiday our morning with you on Friday the 9th April was!! We were so delightfully surprised at the number of first ticks we got on that morning. On the way there Graham was not happy about being dragged out on a walk which would exacerbate his knee condition. However he hardly felt any effects at all and this has confirmed to him that this is a pastime we could enjoy together. I hate watching sport which he is passionate and very knowledgable about. But we could do bird walks all over the world together thus getting out and about in nature without upsetting his knee!!! The leisurely excercise would do him the world of good. So your morning with us was a good marriage enrichment outing as well as a wonderful birding experience. It has also taught me that it is not only "wild nature" which harbours the abundace of bird life we experienced in the market gardens. My son's young friends were amazed to learn there were even enough birds left in China and especially Hong Kong to make a walk worthwhile!! We have introduced many people in South Africa and Hong Kong to your websites as well. The highlihgts for me were the sightings of Asure Asian Magpie and the rare Spoonbill. Thanks for taking us down that track to the gate of the closed Mai PoWetland. We will definitely try and book a tour with you in that reserve possibly in June or a less humid time next year. Anyway we wish you well in your future birding endeavours. Thank again. Kind Regards from us both, Kath Australia Birdwatching April 2010 We really enjoyed our day with Roger we felt very indulged with our private guide! We appreciated the social history, environmental aspect, the human interaction with the physical environment (farming), the personal account as well as the birding of Hong Kong provided by Roger. It has been an excellent way to learn about a major city. Have a great day. Cheers Sarah & Kate, Australia, birdwatching April 2010
Hi Roger I have not replied earlier as I knew you were away - I hope all is well with your family. Thankyou for the bird list, that was an amazing number of birds and I wasn't even counting. I had a fantastic day even if you felt things were low key at Long Valley and Tai Po Kau. You still managed to find birds for me as I chatted away!! The view of the birds from the hides at Mai Po is stunning - it is like being in a different world - a private bird world. Thankyou for your time and effort, I had a fantastic day. Saying to people 'I went bird watching in HK' fails to convey what an amazing experience it is. You are a gem! C Fowler UK full day birding
Roger Thanks for the list - haven't worked out how to print it off yet, but will do soon so we can have a good look at it - seems OK so far. We hit Melbourne last night in fine style - pretty hot today, but we can live with that knowing what it has been like back home! We most thoroughly enjoyed the day and it wasn't a step too far at all the way we ended it. We both got back to the hotel having done far more than we expected but feeling uplifted because of it, so don't worry about that. We are now enjoying being out in the lovely countryside about an hour north west of Melbourne - lots of birds here too and the odd roo plodding around in the bush! All the best David & Ellie Full day birding 18th January Dear Roger I am sorry to be so late in getting back to you. On our return to the UK I managed to pick up a fairly bad dose of swine flu from which I am still recovering and Chris has suffered from a dreadful cold. But we must say a BIG thank you for our day together - we really enjoyed it and saw so many birds ...it was just what we needed. I have a lot of work to do on my own birding list, but when it is ready I will send it over, and I will have a look at the blog as well. We managed to get back to Tai Po Kau on our own for another visit. We saw a Crested Goshawk - really close in a tree on the RHS side of the main path, just below the picnic area, and had fabulous views of Scarlet Minivets moving in a mixed flock through the canopy further along. Flycatchers and warblers were everywhere and all at once! We also did the HK Wetland Park which was good for Temminks Stint and good views of an Osprey - but too many cameras in the hide to make it comfortable. Our trip to Tap Mun was fairly quiet because we were concentrating on the photography with Jackie, but we managed a pretty good sighting from the ferry of two White-Bellied Sea Eagles soaring with their wings held in a V-shape and a Pacific Reef Egret around the island harbour. Our last birding trip was along the Lugard Road around The Peak. We sat to munch our sandwiches on one of the benches just a few hundred yards from the start and were quite suprised to see a male Mugimaki Flycatcher ! We had a brilliant time in HK and are indebted to you for helping us to adjust to the different habitats and avifauna of the region. It made a big difference. Every good wish Russ & Chris (Bird-watching Nov 09. From UK) Dear Roger Thank you for your e mails and especially for the amazing list. No wonder it was such a fantastic day! I enjoyed every minute of it, helped along by your knowledge, experience and enthusiasm. You did a wonderful job both in finding 86 different species of birds and in keeping the three of us happy when our experience was so varied. Certainly you were very kind and encouraging to me as a complete beginner in the presence of those with considerable experience! And it was great to visit such contrasting areas of the Northern New Territories. It has certainly wetted my appetite and who knows I might even be seriously hooked now! Joanna. UK Full day bird-watching 23 Nov 09 Dear Roger Many thanks for the list and advice on binos. We didn't see a redshank and I cannot help you on the bunting - a "don't know". We had a memorable day with you. Apart from seeing many new species, we thoroughly enjoyed visiting some beautiful spots and varied habitats. Hoping to be in touch next time to tap further into your expertise. With best wishes,Tom & Angela (UK)Bird watching Nov 09
Hi Roger We really had a good time and thoroughly enjoyed our day birding. I have been recounting tales of the bird list *(82 species)* to my pro birding friend, Andy, and he is very jealous. He did not see anywhere near as much stuff as we did (ha ha!) when he visited. I think you are correct about the hobby, it was a fine looking specimen. Anyway, thanks once again and the next time we come to Hong Kong, we will do it again! Best wishes Andy & Rebecca (UK)
Have had an excellent day out with Roger, covering a variety of sites and thereby different habitats, thus maximising the range of species picked up. Through meticulous planning Roger ensured that we moved around sites at a relaxed pace, but one that ensured that we arrived at key points at the right time to benefit from the tide pushing birds to show their best. I also appreciated the advice based on nearly 30 years of HK birding in commenting on the birds I had seen, and others I had not been likely to see, in my travels around HK, also the after sales service in providing a list of the birds we recorded.....they were coming too thick and fast for me to take notes whilst we were watching.
Best wishes, Mike. Birdwatching March 09 (Mike is a very experienced birder and ringer from Scotland. 91 species recorded, many new for Mike. In his own words: '...from my own look through the book yesterday I reckon that I had 50 new species for me......that is more than I have ever had in a day anywhere.....and there were some pretty superb birds amongst them.')
Roger, Thank you so much for a wonderful day. At first I couldn't believe the total count--82 species! But I checked through the list and it sure looks right. Thanks to you, we now know the places we want to return for some more fabulous birdwatching while we're here in Hong Kong. We both really enjoyed your company, and appreciated that you took the time to list all the birds we saw. Also, what a treat it was to see the festival preparations in Ho Sheung Heung and taste soya with ginger and sugar! You are a multi-talented guide--birds and local culture! I was serious when I said that if you ever find yourself near Washington, DC, we'd love to show you some of our favorite birding spots. Thanks again, Janet Full day Bird watching March 2009
Dear Roger We were sad that we had not left more time for our four days "transit" in Hong Kong; I don't think that either of us realised quite how much open space & nature walking would be in Hong Kong when we devised our world trip. So thank you so much for showing a small part of it to us. We had such a thoroughly enjoyably day with you and the Gavin Maxwell lecture was a real bonus. Despite the spoonbills, eagles, kingfishers and even the wonderful Painted Snipe seen during the day, the highlight for me still has to be the "disappearing" Chinese Pond Heron. Thanks for the great pictures and the checklist. From our perspective, the experience could not have been improved. Thank you for providing the highlight to our visit to Hong Kong. With kind regards Nicholas & Karen Bird watching Hello Roger, We have enjoyed looking through the (bird)list you sent us; I think we had managed about 50!* It has been good fun remembering that beautiful day in Hong Kong on some cold winter evenings in England. We spent a few days in Oxford at the end of last week, and one day we had a walk along the Thames and saw heron and great crested grebe. Our very best wishes to you. Tim and Christine UK Bird watching (*88 species were recorded)
The bird watching trip with Roger was wonderful - we saw so many birds before even leaving the car park, it was a prelude to the day ahead. I just loved it. Roger knew so much about the environment, the birds it was wonderful. Julie & Dean, Australia Lamma Island and Bird watching tours