Birding info of Yunnan, China
Sitting on Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau in the southwest of China, Yunnan Province covers 394,000 square kilometers in land territory and shares the border with Myanmar in west, Laos and Vietnam in south. The province has over 60% of its territory covered by forests, the elevation of most of its land territory is between 2,000 to 2,800 meters. Generally, it is known as the “Kingdom of plants and animals”, and also famous for the Yunnan Baiyao and Yunnan food such as Yunan Rice Noodle.
Yunnan has abundant water resources with dense mountain streams, foaming rivers and numerous lakes. With the Tropic of Cancer running through its southern part, Yunnan has a generally mild climate with warm winter and comfortable summer, characterized by its monsoon climate and mountain climate.
As a result, the province has the richest biodiversity of China which accounts for over 50% of the total flora and fauna species of China including about 18000 kinds of plants. The lush vegetation provides ideal habitat for a lot fascinating wildlife including Asian Elephant, Black/Myanmar Snub-nosed Monkey, Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey, Hoolock Gibbon, Gaoligong Pika, etc.
Yunnan has the most abundant bird resources in China, among the 1,470 bird species of China, there are over 1,000 bird species have been recorded here including some unique species such as Rufous-throated Partridge, Common Hill Partridge, Mountain Bamboo Partridge, Kalij Pheasant, Grey Peacock Pheasant, Lady Amherst's Pheasant, Hodgson's Frogmouth, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Great Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, Blue-throated Barbet, Golden-throated Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, Greater Yellownape, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Collared Falconet, Oriental Hobby, Long-tailed Broadbill, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Common Green Magpie, Crested Finchbill, Black Bulbul, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, Cachar Wedge-billed Wren-Babbler, White-crested Laughingthrush, Scaly Laughingthrush, Red-tailed Laughingthrsush, Red-faced Liocichla, Rufous-backed Sibia, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Pale-billed Parrotbill, Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Dark-sided Thrush, Himalayan Thrush, Golden Bush Robin, Spotted Forktail, Hill Blue Flycatcher, Large Niltava, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Fire-tailed Sunbird, Streaked Spiderhunter, Scarlet Finch etc.
Winter is the best birding time in Yunnan, as most birds move to lower altitudes where is warmer and has more food available. Besides, the birds tend to stay as flacks in winter which gives more opportunities to see them.
There are many incredible birding sites such as Gaoligong Shan (Baihualing), Hongbenghe, Yingjiang, Daying River, Nabangtian Fields, Rongshuwang (Banyan King), Trail to Xima, Ruili, Moli Waterfalls, Nanjingli Ridge, Tongbiguan, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Laifengshan National Forest Park, Dali (Er Hai & Cang Shan), Wuweisi Temple, Xi Shan in Kunming, Zixishan, Ruili Botanical Garden, Napahai Lake, Sudian, Lijiang Wetland Park, Pingbiandaweishan National Forest Park, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Meili Snow Mountain, Black Dragon Pool, etc.
Some Important Birding Sites in Yunnan
Gaoligong Shan (Baihualing & Gaoligong Nature Reserve)
Located on the western side of Yunnan Province, Gaoligong Shan belongs to the south end of Hengduan Mountain Ranges, the elevation changes sharply from 900 meters at the bottom to 4,000 meters at the peak. As a result of its 7 complete vegetation types, Gaoligong is rated as one of 26 hot spots for biodiversity by Conservation International. So far around 525 bird species have been recorded here, accounting for 43.3% of the total in Yunnan province, in which 40 are endangered bird species under national protection.
Some species like feeding on the ground such as Silver Pheasant, Mrs. Hume’s Pheasant, Hill Partridge, Mountain Bamboo Partridge, Rufous-throated Partridge, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Red-tailed Laughingthrush, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Blue-winged Laughingthrush, Scarlet-faced Liocichla, Grey-winged Blackbird, Long-tailed Thrush, Wedge-billed Wren-Babbler, Grey-bellied Tesia, Slaty-bellied Tesia, Chestnut-headed Tesia, etc.
While in the dense virgin forests, you can look for Himalayan Cutia, Mountain Imperial Pigeon, Great Barbet, Golden-throated Barbet, Blue-throated Barbet, Broad-billed Warbler, Bay Woodpecker, Greater Yellownape, Red-tailed Minla, Scarlet Finch, Grey-headed Parrotbill, Spot-breasted Parrotbill, Whiskered Yuhina, Rufous-vented Yuhina, Striated Bulbul, Flavescent Bulbul, Beautiful Sibia, Long-tailed Sibia, Large Niltava, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Golden Bush-Robin, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Short-billed Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Yellow-cheeked Tit, etc. In addition, we should see some beautiful sunbirds including Fire-tailed Sunbird, Black-throated Sunbird, Mrs. Gould's Sunbird, Green-tailed Sunbird, etc.
There are a lot of “bird blinds” built in Gaoligong because of the development of the bird watching which should give you more opportunities to see the above-mentioned species.
Yingjiang (Hongbenghe & Dayingjiang River)
Located at the end of the southwest, Yingjiang is a county that borders with Myanmar. With opulent sunshine, flourishing virgin forests and various habitats, over 680 kinds of birds have been recorded here, which count around 50% of birds of China. That’s what makes YingJiang one of the unmissable birding destinations in China.
The Hornbill Valley is an important spot in Yingjiang, it is an up-and-coming birding site that renowned for the best place to see hornbills including Great Hornbill, Oriental Pied-Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill in China. In addition, there is a big variety of pheasants, laughingthrushes, flycatchers including Grey Peacock-Pheasant, Red Junglefowl, Kalij Pheasant, White-cheeked Partridge, Green-billed Malkoha, Crested Serpent-Eagle, Jerdon's Baza, Collared Scops Owl, Spot-bellied Eagle Owl, Brown Boobook, Red-headed Trogon, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Blue-eared Barbet, Greater Flameback, Lesser Yellownape, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Collared Falconet, Oriental Hobby, Long-tailed Broadbill, Blue-naped Pitta, Black-hooded Oriole, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Collared Treepie, Sultan Tit, Striated Swallow, Black-crested Bulbul, Grey-eyed Bulbul, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Red-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Coral-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Large Scimitar-Babbler, Spot-throated Babbler, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Streaked Wren-Babbler, Nepal Fulvetta, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, White-rumped Shama, White-tailed Flycatcher, Lesser Shortwing, Blue-winged Leafbird, etc.
Besides, Dayingjiang River is also worthy to visit. In the reed marshes and benchland of the River, inhabited some very special species, such as the River Terns, but it can be difficult as there are only around 10 terns visit this area every winter. Other species you may encounter including Indian Spot-billed Duck, Small Pratincole, River Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover, Temminck's Stint, Coppersmith Barbet, Alexandrine Parakeet, Red-breasted Parakeet, Blossom-headed Parakeet, Striated Grassbird, Rufescent Prinia, Grey-breasted Prinia, Grey-throated Martin, Asian Barred Owlet, Dusky Warbler, Collared Myna, Great Myna, Citrine Wagtail, Paddyfield Pipit, Little Bunting, etc. Here the “bird hide” is also optional to increase your chances.
Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve
Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve is located in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture and covers 241,776 hectares, the reserve was established in 1981 and was listed in "Man and Biosphere Reserve Network" by UNESCO in 1993. The well-grown tropical rain forest and monsoon forest in valleys and hills contain one-sixth of the total plant species and a quarter of the total animal species in China. By now, the reserve has recorded 427 bird species and subspecies of which 45 only found here in China.
Ruili (Nanjingli and Moli Tropical Forest)
Ruili is one of these few places in China where has a relatively intact tropical rainforest system, thus, Ruili is renowned for one of the best places to see tropical birds in China. In the lush bamboo bush and dense forest of Nanjingli, you can look for Grey-headed Parrotbill, Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Pale-billed Parrotbill, Golden Babbler, Rufous-backed Sibia, White-browed Piculet, Long-tailed Broadbill, Black-eared Shrike-Babbler, Mountain Tailorbird, Spot-winged Grosbeak, etc.
While in Moli Tropical Forest, you can put some efforts in search of Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Streaked Wren-Babbler, Dark-sided Thrush, Long-tailed Broadbill, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Red-headed Trogon, Coppersmith Barbet, Rosy Minivet, Large Woodshrike, Common Iora, Grey-bellied Tesia, Yellow-bellied Warbler, Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Pale-billed Parrotbill, Rufous-backed Sibia, Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, Little Forktail, White-crowned Forktail, Black-backed Forktail, Slaty-backed Forktail, Spotted Forktail, etc.
Dashanbao Nature Reserve
With elevation ranging from 3,000 to 3,300 meters, Dashanbao Reserve is located in the west of Zhaotong County and is the largest wintering habitat for Black-necked Crane on Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau. The reserve covers 19,200 hectares and was included in the List of Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance in 2004. According to statistics in 2009, the population of wintering Black-necked Crane in the reserve has reached to 1,199.
Nabang (Tongbiguan, Nabangtian Fields, Rongshuwang, Trail to Xima)
Around this small frontier town, Nabang, inhabited some very special restricted-range species especially in the Nabang terrace Wetland and Xima Ancient Silk Road. In Nabang terrace Wetland, you can focus on Indian Spot-billed Duck, Greater Coucal, Crested Treeswift, Asian Palm-Swift, White-breasted Waterhen, River Lapwing, Grey-headed Lapwing, Red-wattled Lapwing, Chinese Pond Heron, Striated Heron, White-throated Kingfisher, Crested Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Green Bee-eater, Ashy Woodswallow, Striated Grassbird, Wire-tailed Swallow, Asian Pied Starling, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Red-billed Starling, Vinous-breasted Starling, Collared Myna, Great Myna, Pied Bushchat, Scaly-breasted Munia, etc.
In terms of Rongshuwang, Trail to Xima, you can walk up to the famous King Banyan tree and look for some low-elevation specials including Wreathed Hornbill, Crested Serpent-Eagle, Black Eagle, Crested Goshawk, Wedge-tailed Green-Pigeon, Pin-tailed Green-Pigeon, Mountain Imperial-Pigeon, Green-billed Malkoha, Rufous-headed Parrotbill, Pale-billed Parrotbill, Red-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Coral-billed Scimitar-Babbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Lesser Yellownape, Greater Yellownape, Bay Woodpecker, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, White-browed Piculet, Long-tailed Broadbill, Bronzed Drongo, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Collared Treepie, Ashy Bulbul, Grey-eyed Bulbul, Yellow-bellied Warbler, Rufous-faced Warbler, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, White-hooded Babbler, Puff-throated Babbler, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, White-crested Laughingthrush, Golden-fronted Leafbird, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Hill Blue Flycatcher, etc.
Laifengshan National Forest Park
Laifengshan Park is the largest park in Tengchong where you look for Silver Pheasant, Black-breasted Thrush, Brown-winged Parrotbill, and Slender-billed Oriole, Maroon Oriole, etc.
Dali (Er Hai & Cang Shan)
Dali is most famous for the Huge Lake named Erhai and the grand Cang mountain standing by the western side of the lake. In the Er Hai area, you can expect some common waterfowls like Purple Swamphen (Grey-headed Swamphen).
For birders, Cang Mountain is very attractive for its rich forest species of low and middle elevation. According to statistics, over 200 bird species have been recorded here due to the various habitat types. Start early may be reworded by the star bird Lady Amherst's Pheasant, you can search for other specials including Spotted Nutcracker, Black-browed Tit, White-browed Fulvetta, Rusty-capped Fulvetta, Yunnan Fulvetta, Stripe-throated Yuhina, Rufous-capped Babbler, Elliot’s Laughingthrush, Spotted Laughingthrush, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Chestnut-tailed Minla, Yellow-throated Bunting. With a good amount of work, you also have chances to see Rufous-tailed Babbler and Bar-winged Wren-Babbler.
Covering about 16,000 hectares in land size, Zixi Mountain is the largest natural park of Yunnan province, the forest coverage is as high as 91%. The park is dominated by evergreen forest and Yunnan pine forest which provide an ideal habitat for many Nuthatchs as well as some specials of southwestern China. Over 200 bird species have been recorded here, the most attractive targets here are the endemic Yunnan Nuthatch and the rare Giant Nuthatch. Other interesting forest birds indeed including the stunning Mrs. Hume's Pheasant, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Speckled Piculet, Gray-capped Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Minivet, Gray-chinned Minivet, Blyth's Shrike-Babbler, White-throated Fantail, Yellow-bellied Fairy-Fantail, Ashy-throated Warbler, Buff-barred Warbler, Black-faced Warbler, Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Black-streaked Scimitar-Babbler, Chinese Thrush, Himalayan Bluetail, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Mountain Bulbul, Ashy Drongo, Spectacled Fulvetta, Yunnan Fulvetta. Sometimes, the shy Mountain Tailorbird can be spotted in the lush mixed broadleaf-conifer forest.
Kunming (Xishan & Kunming Botanical Garden)
Xishan and Kunming Botanical Garden have diverse plants that provide good habitats for different wintering and resident birds including Red-tailed Minla, Blue-winged Minla, Red-billed Leiothrix, Japanese White-eye, Black-breasted Thrush, Blue Whistling Thrush, Black-headed Greenfinch, Crested Finchbill, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Long-tailed Shrike, and Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler, etc.
Discovered in 1876, Black-necked Crane is not only known as the world's latest crane species but is also renowned for being the only crane species that breeds on this high elevation plateau. It will stay at the breeding place on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau until migrating to the south in wintertime. During their migration each winter, Napa Lake is one of its most important destinations. Other brilliant species including Black Stork, Bar-headed Goose, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Brown-headed Gull, Pallas's Gull, Black Kite, White-tailed Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Grey-backed Shrike, Red-billed Chough, Daurian Jackdaw, etc.
Not far from the Napa Lake, located the Shangri-La Botanical Garden where can find some unique forest species on the plateau that include White-browed Tit-Warbler, Rufous-tailed Babbler, Yunnan Nuthatch, Chinese Fulvetta, White-browed Fulvetta, Black-browed Tit, Coal Tit, Rufous-vented Tit, Grey-crested Tit, Sichuan Tit, Grey-backed Shrike, Elliot's Laughingthrush, White-throated Redstart, Rufous-breasted Accentor, White-winged Grosbeak, Streaked Rosefinch, Long-tailed Rosefinch, Chinese White-browed Rosefinch, Grey-headed Bullfinch, Black-headed Greenfinch, Godlewski's Bunting, etc.