To acquaint ROC citizens with the rare migratory birds that winter in Taiwan and to raise consciousness about the importance of conserving their habitat, Chunghwa Post is issuing a set of four stamps and a miniature sheet on the black-faced spoonbill featuring its ecological behaviors including migration, at rest, spreading their wings, foraging for food and the life of the flock.
The black-faced spoonbill is a migratory bird. Its
current global population is estimated at only a little over 1,000. Both the Red Data Book of Wild Birds
and the Republic of China in Taiwan listed it as an endangered species. Found only in East Asia, it has a range that extends from Russia and the Korean Peninsula in the north, to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Vietnam in the south. The black-faced spoonbill’s principal breeding grounds are the islands off the west coast of Korea (near the border of North and South Korea) and the depopulated rocky islands on the open sea of Liaoning Province, China. Currently, the Zengwun Estuary is the bird’s most important wintering ground. In recent years, development of coastal land has had a major ecological impact on the black-faced spoonbill’s habitat.
The black-faced spoonbill has a long bill, long legs and a long neck. Its feet are webbed. It is a medium- to large-sized wading bird, and its flat elongated black bill looks like a Chinese lute, or pipa—hence its Chinese name pilu, meaning the pipa egret. An average adult has a body that is about 74 centimeters long. It looks very graceful when it walks and spreads its wings. Therefore, it is nicknamed the “Black-Faced Dancer.” An adult has white winter plumage; in summer, it will develop yellow aigrette at the back of its neck, and its breast area will turn golden yellow.
The designs of the four stamps and the miniature sheet follow:
(1) Migration (NT$2.50): Every October, the black-
faced spoonbills start their journey south to where they
will spend the winter. The Zengwun River Estuary in
Taiwan supports the largest winter population. Then in March of the following year the birds set off on their return journey north.
(2) At Rest (NT$2.50): To make their long flights, the birds require ample nutrition and rest. Black-faced spoonbills normally adopt standing, kneeling or sitting postures while resting. Among these, standing is the most common.
(3) Spreading Their Wings (NT$15): Adult and immature black-faced spoonbills can be distinguished by the difference in the plumage of their heads and breasts, the color of their iris, the yellow spots around their eyes, the colors and patterns of their bills, and the black spots at the tips of their flight feathers. Among these, the black spots at the tips of their flight feathers are easiest to observe when they are flying, flapping or spreading their wings.
(4) Foraging for Food (NT$25): Their principal sources of food are fish and shrimp. At dusk, they array themselves in a straight line, wading in fish farm ponds or tidal flats. Each bird inserts its bill in the water and moves it right and left in search of food. As soon as they discover prey, they quickly close their clamp-like bills, tightly grip their captive, and jerk their heads backwards to swallow.
(5) The Life of the Flock (NT$20): They group together for the following reasons: 1. because it decreases the impact of the wind and stems the loss of heat; 2. because it protects them from their enemies; 3. because it raises their group success rate in hunting for food; and 4. because, with suitable habitat growing ever scarcer, they are forced to cluster in what remains.
Chunghwa Post has specially commissioned Mr. Chi-jen Lai, the original designer of the issue, to handle the plan of “Conservation of Birds Postage Stamps Pictorial – Black-faced Spoonbill.” Each copy will consist of one set of 4 stamps, one miniature sheet and 4 color postal cards which can be drawn out. Chinese and English interpretations with relative photographs will be used to describe vividly and intellectually for the black-faced spoonbill. The item is certainly suitable for both gifts and collectibles.