Going aloft and online to follow birds

Local | Michael Shum 7 Nov 2019

Nature lovers will be able to listen to bird sounds and track changes in numbers throughout the year with the launch of Hong Kong Wildtracks, the first online interactive audio map that covers our feathered friends.

The website is a joint effort by the Hong Kong Baptist University and the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society.

University geography lecturer Karen Woo Lai-yan said: "Although Hong Kong has a small land area, rich biodiversity can be found in the territory. It's home to plenty of wildlife. Of the more than 550 species of birds, 341 species can be found on the new audio map."

The map, which took 16 months to create, includes more than 60,000 items of local ecological data. They include bird sounds and soundscapes, bird distribution, species diversity and numbers.

The aim of the pioneering map is to promote Hong Kong's biodiversity and support nature conservation through raising public awareness and interest.

Woo pointed out that the website can push people to appreciate nature as well as be a useful tool for academics conducting research.

"It can help us understand bird distribution and breeding status over the past 20 years, which will be invaluable for supporting local biodiversity research, ecological assessment and long-term monitoring for protecting threatened habitats and species," she said.

Christina Chan Yin-ming, assistant manager of the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, explained: "The theme of the website is based on natural sounds. People are always hearing birds but don't know what they are. Now people will be able to identify and recognize bird types through the website."

And the singing of birds can provide more than natural music to human ears.

"The sound of each bird is unique," Chan said. "Some songbirds can only be identified by their melodies. Some birds will only sing during the breeding season and will just call for the rest of the year."

Rebekah Wong Shun-han of the Baptist University Library, who helped create the website, said the map was developed with the latest GIS technology to integrate survey data, geographic locations, animal information, pictures and soundtracks.

The Hong Kong Wildtracks exhibition is now open in the Baptist University library, where it will run until November 20.

michael.shum@singtaonewscorp.com

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