Trip Report: South Korea, September 1996

Jim Turner and Kate Trainer;

[Ed.s note: These locations are also covered in the authors' extensive all-Asia report.]

Places Mentioned


A fairly large city of historical importance in southeastern South Korea. Kyongju is a major transportation hub and is easily reached from anywhere in Korea. Seoul is 3-6 hours away by bus, depending on the speed (and price) of the bus. Kyong-ju is an easy place to bird at two different convenient locations.

The central bus station, hotel district, and main business district are located on a river bank -- and remarkably, immediately across the bridge there is no urbanity. There is good birding in the river banks across the street from the bus station, and a few minutes walk across the bridge. On the opposite bank, turn right and walk to a car park (about 1 km.) There is a loop road from that car-park leading to the Tomb of General Kim. The entire loop and the tomb area provide good woodland birding, and the entire loop is about a 5 km walk from the bus station. Good open-country birding is also present along the road between the bridge and the car-park, especially around the Eden Hill Restaurant.

The other good Kyong-ju birding area is at the Pulguk-sa historic site. Local busses leave every few minutes to Pulguk-sa, departing just across the riverbank road from the Kyong-ju bus station. Very large crowds frequent Pulguk-sa -- but they are mainly inside the walls and can be easily avoided by continuing uphill from the main parking lot and following a cobbled forest path on the right of the main gate. After several hundred meters, watch for a path to the left, which goes back downhill to the back walls of the temple. Along this path are several ponds and good forest birding.


A fishing village on the east coast of South Korea. Buses pass through Hupo every couple of hours, linking coastal cities. There are several suitable hotels along the main road a few blocks south of the bus station, and others about 2 km. away in the port area. Hupo is a simple but friendly town, where nobody speaks English, and there are no money exchange facilities. A few blocks south of the bus station, there is a street that angles to the right. Follow that street a couple of blocks to a bridge, and walk inland along the north bank of the river. That road passes through productive birding in agricultural areas, and after a kilometer or two, rises through less developed hillsides. Keep to the left after a small bridge. Another birding site, in season, is reached by bearing right at the small bridge, and following the road several kilometers, where there may be waterfowl on a lake on the left side of the road.

From Seoul, Hupo can be reached via Kyong-ju or Kangnung, with a bus change in either city -- a journey of about 7 hours.


A National Park in the extreme northeast of South Korea. This is a very popular park, and extremely crowded. The birding prospects are not good unless you are prepared to hike far past the masses of people. We passed on that idea, and birded around the town of Sorak-san and along the road (very busy) to the National Park.

Field Guides

Any field guide to the birds of Japan would be useful for birding in Korea, and would describe virtually every species. The only field guide I know of to the birds of Korea is a very nice little photographic book (in Korean, with English and Latin names of species) readily available at any bookstore.It is title number 97 in a series published by Daewonsa. It is priced right at W3500 and pictures 32 of the 50 birds on this list.

Species List

Location code:
k = Kyong-ju
h = Hupo
s = Sorak-san
b = Seen from bus

 k...   Little Grebe               Podiceps ruficollis
 k...   Great-billed Heron         Ardea sumatrana
 k..b   Grey Heron                 A. cinerea
 ...b   Reef Egret                 Egretta sacra
 kh.b   Great Egret                E. alba
 k...   Little Egret               E. garzetta
 k...   Black-crowned Nightheron   Nycticorax nycticorax
 k...   Mandarin Duck              Aix gallericulata
 k...   Gadwall                    Anas strepera
 k...   Eurasian Wigeon            A. penelope
 k...   Spot-billed Duck           A. poecilorhynchus
 k...   Garganey                   A. querquedula
 k...   Northern Goshawk           Accipiter gentilis
 .h..   Northern Sparrowhawk       A. nisus
 .h..   Northern Hobby             Falco subbuteo
 k...   Ring-necked Pheasant       Phasianus colchicus
 k...   Hazel Grouse               Tetrastes bonasia
 .h..   Wood Sandpiper             Tringa glareola
 ...b   Pied Avocet                Recurvirostra avosetta
 kh.b   Herring Gull               Larus argentatus
 ...b   Slaty-backed Gull          L. schistisagus
 .h..   Common Tern                Sterna hirundo
 k...   Rock Dove                  Columba livia
 khs.   Oriental Turtle-Dove       Streptopelia orientalis
 k.s.   Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker  Dendrocopus kizuki
 k...   White-backed Woodpecker    D. leucotis
 kh..   Barn Swallow               Hirundo rustica
 kh..   Brown-eared Bulbul         Hypsipetes amaurotis
 khs.   Eurasian Jay               Garrulus glandarius
 khsb   Black-billed Magpie        Pica pica
 khs.   Marsh Tit                  Parus palustris
 khs.   Great Tit                  P. major
 khs.   Varied Tit                 P. varius
 k...   Coal Tit                   P. ater
 kh..   Long-tailed Tit            Aegithalos caudatus
 ..s.   Eurasian Nuthatch          Sitta europaea
 kh..   Vinous-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis webbiana
 khs.   Daurian Redstart           Phoenicurus auroreus
 k...   Arctic Warbler             Phylloscopus borealis
 .h..   White's Ground Thrush      Turdus dauma
 kh..   White Wagtail              Motacilla alba
 kh..   Yellow Wagtail             M. flava
 ..s.   Japanese Wagtail           M. grandis
 kh..   Bullheaded Shrike          Lanius bucephalus
 .h..   Yellow-throated Bunting    Emberiza elegans
 .h..   Siberian Meadow-Bunting    E. cioides
 .h..   Oriental Greenfinch        Carduelis sinica
 khs.   Eurasian Tree-Sparrow      Passer montanus

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