Birdwatching in China

China list includes over 1,400 species of bird recorded or expected inits huge territory. This number outruns any other temperate country in the world, plus a small inflation as a result of China’s tropical southern fringe.

With such a vast country, the choice is infinite. Almost all of China’s 600 nature reserves are interesting for the bird enthusiast, but we can help narrow down the possibilities with a brief review of the special species and special places in each of the seven main regions of China. The accompanying map marks 40 of the prime sites for birdwatchers and shows the dimensions used to identify the seven bio-geographical areas of China.

In the north-east of the country one can find some wetland sites that are important for breeding waterfowl. Oriental White Storks, several species of crane and many ducks, geese and swans breed in these areas. Best localities are Zhalong and Momoge, but Lake Kankha on the Russian border is also a wonderful place. These areas should be visited in summer. Forest birds are best seen in Changbaishan reserve or, for real tundra birds such as Capercaillie, Hazel Grouse, Great Grey Owl, Pallas's Rosefinch, Northern Bushtit up in the conifer forest north of Harbin and the Huzhong-Hanma reserve.

 

For the birds of the great northern steppes, you should travel up the Yellow River through the loess and ordos plateaux to Helanshan and Qilianshan mountains and the Xilingele reserve of Inner Mongolia. Other excellent places in northern China include Baidaihe on the Hebei coast, a great place to watch passage migrants, whilst the mountain reserves of Shennongjia in Hubei and several reservers in the Qinling mountains just south of Xian in Shaanxi are excellent place to visit.

 

In the north-west of China, the two mountain ranges of Tinashan and Altay provide a range of Habitats, from alpine and conifer forest to desert conditions. There are some important Lakes in Tianshan where geese, swans and some cranes nest. Desert birds can be seen in the Tarim and Turpan depressions, but travel is difficult from the main town of Urumqi. The great reserve of Arjin mountains has salt lakes and mountains and is about as remote as you can get in China. 

Jankowski's Bunting
Jankowski's Bunting
Mt. Tianshan
Mt. Tianshan
Mt. Helan
Mt. Helan
Bohai Bay
Bohai Bay

The plateau region of China is full of potential, but most foreign birder do not get far from Lhasa. You can travel down into the Chumbi Valley between Sikkim and Bhutan to see wetland birds and some Himalayan birds, or down into the Yalong Zangpo (Brahmaputra) valley and the most forest of south-easter Tibet.

Rubber Hill, Qinghai
Rubber Hill, Qinghai
Striated Laughingthrush
Striated Laughingthrush
Pink-tailed Bunting
Pink-tailed Bunting
Zhangmu, Tibet
Zhangmu, Tibet

In south-western China you can find the bulk of the country’s narrow-ranging endemic birds in Sichuan: in the Wolong panda reserve or Emei Shan sacred mountain reserve. Wolong in the Qionglai mountains boasts nine different species of pheasant. Fanjianshan in Guizhou province and Baimaxueshan in Yunnan are other excellent reserves to visit in this unit. whilst the mountain reserves of Shennongjia in Hubei and several reservers in the Qinling mountains just south of Xian in Shaanxi are excellent place to visit.

 

South-eastern China contains important lakes such as Dongting and Poyang Lake in the Yangtze valley, where hundreds of thousands of waterbirds winter, including White Cranes, swans, geese and storks. Visitors should take plenty of clothes in winter and a snorkel in summer. The endemic mountain birds of the south-east are best seen in Wuyishan reserve and Fujian and Jiangxi provinces, where excellent conditions have been provided for foreigners.

 

Tropical south China has many good places to see birds. Most famous are Ruili & Yinjiang, where are close to Burma border. Also Chebaling NNR and Nanling Forest Park in Guangdong Province, Nongang NNR and Xidamingshan in Guangxi Province, Jianfengling and Bawangling on Hainan Island, and such excellent reserves as Kenting, Taroga and Dawushan in Taiwan. 

Wolong NNR
Wolong NNR
Siberian Crane in flight
Siberian Crane in flight
Cabot's Tragopan
Cabot's Tragopan
Nanling Forest Park
Nanling Forest Park

Most bird families have long and full lists of members, but there are some families and groups that are particularly Chinese. For instance, China is the centre of distribution of pheasants, with 62 species out of a global total of about 200.

 

Another particularly Chinese group is the laughingthrushes, of which China boast no fewer than 36 species, or more than half the world total. China is very rich in crows and rosrfinches, and is also especially rich in ducks, swans and geese, its 50 species being about a quarter of the world total.

 

Perhaps closest to the heart and culture of China, however, are the cranes. Nine of the world’s 14 species live in China, breeding in the north and migrating in winter to southern wetlands. The fantastic elegant dancing displays of the cranes, combined with their lifelong faithfulness and regularity of habits, have endeard them to the people and they have been revered in verse and art from the earliest time.

Snow-cheeked Laughthrush
Snow-cheeked Laughthrush
Brown Eared-Pheasant
Brown Eared-Pheasant
 Grey-hooded Parrotbill
Grey-hooded Parrotbill
Wintering cranes of Poyang Lake
Wintering cranes of Poyang Lake