After Mangkhut, the hills went quiet: What happened to our birds?

graham reels
Naturalist and author Graham Reels

Birdsong is one of the charms of life in Sai Kung. After Mangkhut, however, the hills went quiet. Where had the birds gone? Were some killed by the storm’s ferocity? Did they fly off to safer locales?

SAI KUNG BUZZ asked zoologist Graham Reels what he thought had happened to our birds. Graham spent 10 years surveying wildlife in the Hong Kong bush as a researcher for the HKU Zoology Department. He wrote the book, ” Confessions of a Hong Kong Naturalist”, reviewed here.

This is Graham’s reply to BUZZ Editor’s enquiry:


“Yes, quite a whopper of a typhoon, that one. My guess is that most small, resident birds would have had time to find suitable shelter during the passage of the storm. In the days immediately afterwards there would likely be some impact on normal foraging behaviour: insect-eating birds may have initially found food hard to come by, whilst fruit-eating birds would be faced with the problem that all their food was now strewn widely over the ground rather than hanging from the branches in readily detectable concentrations.

Typhoons are not a new phenomenon, however, and the local wildlife have had many thousands of years to adapt to them. “Biggest impacts are likely to have been on migrating (non-resident) birds that got caught up in the maelstrom. September is the start of the autumn passage period during which many migrant birds pass through Hong Kong. These could have been blown off course, forced to take shelter in less-than-ideal places, and disorientated. I imagine that storm-related mortalities would have been much commoner amongst migrants than amongst residents.


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