China is of those countries so massive that it needs weeks and weeks of birding and lots of return visits to even scratch the surface. It’s a country of great contrasts. While birding in the remote, unspoiled mountains of Sichuan and the Tibetan Plateau, it is easy to forget that in the mega cities of China people are suffering from respiratory problems from some of the world’s worst pollution. The idea of birding in vast China has been intimidating to many Westerners, but things are becoming easier thanks to the emergence of excellent English-speaking local guides, and the fact that a good number of international birding tour companies are now offering tours to China. The infrastructure is being built at scary speed. All in all, China is a brilliant place to bird (with almost 1400 species including 74 endemics plus breeding endemics), and has some of the world’s most beautiful places (such as the wonderland of Jiuzhaigou with its unbelievably blue lakes and waterfalls that take one’s breath away, the snow-capped Himalayan peaks and the vast coniferous forests sprawling below them - and so much more).
Quite a number of the world’s most spectacular pheasants can be found in China, such as Golden Pheasant, Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, Chinese Monal and many others. Also in China, it is possible to drive right up to Grandala, a famous Himalayan beauty that in most countries requires serious trekking at the highest altitudes.
One of China’s most sought-after birds is the Endangered Asian Crested Ibis, which also once bred in Russia and Japan but which is now restricted to a very small part of mainland China. This species was literally brought back from the brink of extinction, when there were only seven birds (four of them adults) remaining in the wild! There are now an estimated 500 birds in existence and like the good old Giant Panda this Crested Ibis story shows the kind of conservation work that China can accomplish.
Other great Chinese birds are Quinhai Ground-Jay, parrotbills, tits, yuhinas, a large suite of leaf-warblers and last but not least, the Endangered (less than 3000 surviving) Black-faced Spoonbill (Hong Kong and Taiwan being major wintering sites for it). And, on the subject of islands, Taiwan and Hainan have numerous endemics. Contributor: Chris Lotz/Birding Ecotours.