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Bird-watching opens path to many possibilities

Growing interest in hobby leads to changes to lives, as well as to minds and habits.

China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-27 10:04

Birds of China by Liu Yang and Chen Shuihua.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Merging bird-watching with scientific research has always thrilled Liu. In the summer of 2008, while collecting research samples at the Beishan National Farm in the Huzhu Tu autonomous prefecture in Haidong city in Qinghai province, he came across birds that looked similar to the Red-flanked Bluetail, a species that normally appears in the spring and autumn. Surprisingly, they were breeding. This discovery challenged established knowledge. Liu and his team collected and analyzed DNA and acoustic samples, leading to the recognition of two additional species, the Qilian Bluetail (T. albocoeruleus) and the Taiwan Bush Robin (T. formosanus).

"Even though I have seen over 90 percent of the bird species in China, I still encounter intriguing bird behaviors and phenomena in the wild that inspire further research," he says.

But research is just one aspect of his work. "Scientific research and popular science shouldn't be seen as separate entities. Your research questions stem from nature and life, and the results should be made accessible to the public," he explains.

As the author and editor of three field guides to birds, Liu has also written introductions to several popular science books on birds, and regularly gives lectures, helps review the annual report of the China Bird-watching Records Center, and advises the Bird ID Master mini program on WeChat, which helps beginners identify species. He hopes his work is of benefit to both people and birds.

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