Mai Po Marshes: A Natural Symphony of Bird Cries

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated and densely built cities in the world. Its high density of skyscrapers has even earned Hong Kong the name of a concrete jungle. It is also a city that never sleeps because of its vibrant nightlife. Hong Kong may sometimes give you headaches because of its constant car horns and human voices. It is time we get away to the tranquil nature – Mai Po Marshes.

Mai Po Marshes (米埔濕地) is a nature reserve located near Yuen Long in Hong Kong. A haven for migratory waterbirds, the 380-heactare marshes and mudflats are where around 90,000 birds take refuge every winter. Furthermore, the reserve is home to a host of wildlife including birds of over 400 species, butterflies of over 100 species, crabs, shrimps, mammals, reptiles, and plants of over 250 species. 49 species of birds that inhabit the reserve are of global conservation concern including the black-faced spoonbill (黑面琵鷺). Spring and autumn are the best time for bird-watching. Visitors will hear calls and shrieks of birds in every direction as they forage for food and feed themselves on fish, shrimps and crabs. Mai Po Marshes showcases Hong Kong’s biodiversity and its auditory aspect, i.e. natural bird sounds, can be regarded as a soundmark of Hong Kong.

We may contrast the natural bird sounds with those in the bird market at Yuen Po Street (園圃街) in Mong Kok where nearly 100 stalls are set up to sell caged birds, often of bird types such as parrot, lovebird and Chinese hwamei (畫眉). How would they sound different from their free, uncaged counterparts in Mai Po Marshes? Maybe it has struck some people that while the bird sounds heard in the bird market may be more singsong, mellow and tamed, bird sounds in Mai Po Marshes are an integral, seamless part of the wild nature. Does it seem a fair assessment to you or do you think the assessment is heavily influenced by the landscape accompanying the bird sounds?