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Crested serpent eagle

Scientific name: Spilornis cheela

An endemic subspecies in Taiwan, the crested serpent eagle is a fairly common resident raptor in Taiwan. The bird is characterized by dark brown feathers, with a black crest on its head which is adorned with white stripes. Its eyes, tip of beak, and legs are khaki yellow. When flying, it rarely flaps its wings, as it relies on warm air currents to gently carry it in the air. The crested serpent eagle likes to eat snakes. It also captures small mammals, birds, and lizards.

Mountain scops owl

Scientific name: Otus spilocephalus

The mountain scops owl is on average 15cm to 17cm tall. A brownish yellow bird, it has a light-colored tummy with dark spots. Its irises are yellow, and so is the tip of its beak. The bird likes to make sounds at tree tops, as if announcing “this place is mine.” Highly concentrated, it looks for prey in lower vegetation or at branches close to the ground. But, sometimes, it is just because it’s so concentrated that it becomes less alert. Even as people approach it, it won’t necessarily fly away. The bird would quietly hunt the prey down, after hearing the prey. The mountain scops owl can easily get hit by speedy cars because it flies rather slowly.

Crab-eating mongoose

Scientific name: Herpestes urva

At 36cm to 47cm long, plus a tail of 16cm to 28cm long, the crab-eating mongoose looks rather busty. It is also called the straw-cape mongoose because its fur is of the color of a straw cape. As its name suggests, the animal eats crabs. It also eats fish, birds, insects, and amphibians. Thus, it is mostly found in rock caves near rivers and creeks, or caves it has dug on its own. The crab-eating mongoose is a precious endangered species.

Reeves's muntjac

Scientific name: Muntiacus reevesi

The herbivore loves munching on young leaves and sprouts. The smallest endemic deer in Taiwan, it is no bigger than a medium-sized dog, at 40cm to 70cm long, plus a tail of 4cm to 10cm. The reeve’s muntjac is covered with light brown fur, with dark brown fur on its back. It has such clear preorbital glands that it seems like a four-eyed deer. When nervous, angry or excited, the muntjac produces secretions through the glands. Sometimes it also cleans the glands with its tongue. A male reeve’s muntjac has upper canine teeth (tusks), making it the only deer that has horns and tusks, which are used during fights. The reeve’s muntjac can be found by a river or in a forest, at dusk and at dawn. It is especially easy to see it in middle to low altitude natural areas, such as Wantan Historic Trail and mountainous Gongliao.




Broad-leaf fern

Scientific name: Dipteris conjugata

A living fossil with Jurassic features, the broad-leaf fern is the only dipteridaceae plant in Taiwan. The plant usually spreads out with its two fan-shaped leaves along thin rock walls, looking like a broken umbrella. Thus, it is known as “the broken umbrella fern” in Mandarin. It is also called “the nature’s compass” because it likes to face the Sun.

Coupled Dipteris (Dipteris conjugata) in Taoyuan Valley

by Taiwan Ecotourism Association (TEA) 2022.6.23

Bumping into Coupled Dipteris (Dipteris conjugata) on the top of steep cliff facing east in Taoyuan Valley, and then I recalled it is also seen on the same cliff line in northern side, Caoling Historic Trail.

Evolution of Dipteridaceae reached its peak in Mesozoic Era (Middle Life Era, 225~65 million years ago ) and it spread around the world, from the Arctic Circle to the South Pole, across all the continents. As we can learn from fossil, there were about 6 genera and 60 species of Dipteridaceae, while only 1 genus and 6 species are left today. Currently, Dipteridaceae has limited distribution in South East Asia and its northern distributional limit is in northern Taiwan, Ishigaki Island and Iriomotejima Island. Distribution of Dipteridaceae is quite scattered nowadays, and it only grows on cliff, mountain ridges, clearings or under forest margins with sufficient light. Its ecological habit has not changed since Mesozoic Era. Mesozoic Era is commonly known as the age of dinosaurs. During this period, Gymnosperm such as Pinaceae (pine family), Taxodiaceae, Cupressaceae, and Cycadaceae were dominant tree species, and some tree ferns of Dicksoniaceae might occasionally stood there too. The landscape was like current savanna in Africa but with higher humidity. Dipteridaceae grew a lot in such well-lit environment. Broad-leaved tree within the group of Angiospermae started to evolve 100 million years ago, and it gradually dominated the earth 65 million years ago. Broad-leaved forests are multilayered with epiphytes and vines/climbers, thus Dipteridaceae which requires open and high relative humidity has to shrink back to a very limited area.

Through learning stories of Coupled Dipteris in Taoyuan Valley, we can tell environmental changes in recent 200~100 million years; and most important of all, it is ensured that Taiwan has environmental condition of that in 200~100 million years ago.

Flying spider-monkey tree fern

Scientific name: Taiwaniana alsophila

The plant can grow beyond 10 meters tall. It is mostly found in the shaded parts of a forest, at no more than 2,000 meters above the sea level. The flying spider-monkey tree fern looks quite like a brush pot tree. Its withered leaves don’t fall off. Instead, they hang below the tree crest, looking like a skirt. The flying spider-monkey tree fern has a firm trunk and a tidy crest. It can be used as a mushroom-growing base or a sunscreen hut, as well as materials for building a greenhouse or landscaping purposes. Its sprouts and cores are edible - a traditional kind of indigenous food.

Torenia concolor

Scientific name: Torenia concolor

Torenia concolor’s flower is, on average, 2.5cm to 4cm long. The plant is often found on sunny, misty hills, at low altitude throughout Taiwan. Its leaves take the shape of centipede legs, and the plant itself usually stretches out on the ground. Thus, it is called “the crouching centipede” in Mandarin. Torenia concolor’s flower is bluish purple, sometimes white. The plant can survive on barren land. It is highly resilient, especially against pests and diseases.