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Sichuan Birds
a brief introduction

Geological Facts and Habitat

Sichuan belongs to China’s Southwest Provinces (Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou). It is situated at the eastern border of the Tibetan High Plateau and comprises both, parts of the rough and alpine high plateau as well as subtropical lowlands - the Sichuan Basin. Latter also lies south of the Qinlin Mountain Range which provides shelter from cold polar winds in winter.

The Sichuan Basin fills only ca. 40% of the entire provincial area. The bigger part belongs to the Tibetan High Plateau which was added by a new administrational arrangement of China’s provinces in the 1950s.

The climate within the Sichuan Basin is humid and subtropical. In contrast, the Tibetan High Plateau with mountains up to more than 7000m and grassland at an average elevation of about 3800m is characterized by a mainly arid and cold climate.

There are about 650 species of birds recorded from Sichuan. Most are residents, some are migrants and some are on transit. However, due to the high altitude difference between Sichuan Basin and high plateau most of the residents still are migrants - altitude migrants: In summer they are able to breed at higher altitude while in winter they can move to much lower elevations without traveling far distances. Sichuan features 37 endemic bird species which comprises almost two thirds of the endemic birds of the whole of China. Gamebirds, parrotbills, robins and laughingthrushes rank top of Sichuan’s "speciality" birds.

 

You can find images of birds of Sichuan on the bird gallery (or under "photographs" on the navigation bar)

We also recommend following link for some great images of Birds of the Tibetan High Plateau:
Tibet Birds

 

The Transitional Zone

tetraophasis_szechenyii Remarkable and very important for birds and bird watching is the transitional zone between the two completely different climates - a narrow belt along the borderline of the basin and high plateau. Here nature features a lot of biological treasures, such as Giant Panda, Snow Leopard, Snub-nose Monkey or Sichuan Hill Partridge. The very high altitudinal range - from 300m up to 5000m and higher and the humid climate throughout the year, caused through the neighbourhood of the Sichuan Basin, are the main reasons for its unique ecosystem and its quite healthy environment. Additionally, steep and narrow valleys and gorges make this area difficult to access. Therefore, cultivated land only makes a small portion of this area.

Hundreds of bird species live here in this narrow belt. Worth mentioning are laughingthrushes, gamebirds, rosefinches, parrotbills, robins, warblers, woodpeckers, and redstarts in general. Unfortunately, birds of prey are scarce. Too often they become victims of poachers or die of poison.

 

The Sichuan Basin

Within the Sichuan Basin the habitats of many species were destroyed by excessive agriculture and logging in the past. Additionally, there took place some unusual campaigns e.g. against the "four pests" – flies, mosquitoes, rats and sparrows – propagated by Chairman Mao. What still remains after the Mao era is the attitude to subjugate and exploit nature up reisfelder to its limits. The adverse impact on nature is still going on, especially in dense populated areas (to which the Sichuan Basin belongs). Wildlife and thus birds have been harmed seriously. The non-passeriformes, especially have no good fate. They were preferred and are still preferred to become a good and decent dinner when caught. Nevertheless, in the past few years environment protection has seemed to become more and more essential to the government. Since habitat protection has started in certain areas, the situation of many birds has been improving step by step.

The Sichuan Basin serves as transit corridor for migratory birds, especially the border along the Tibetan High Plateau, which is a very important north-south navigation line. The mountain range in the east – between Sichuan and Hubei Province – has the same function for instance for the Black Stork. Due to an abundance of water and rivers there still remain areas of marshland or swamps with a relative intact environment, such as along the river banks of the Jialingjiang, Tuojiang and Fujiang.

 

Western Sichuan

putou Western Sichuan can be divided into the above mentioned transitional zone, a broad band of majestic mountain ranges, and the vast grasslands of the Tibetan High Plateau. Ice capped mountains are furnished with necklaces of rock, and large coniferous forests and rolling meadows at their waist compose a masterpiece of art. In lower elevations we find deciduous, and even lower down, evergreen forest. Despite heavy logging activity in many areas in the 1980s and 1990s there still is enough space for animals. Additionally, the forest has been growing steadily since the log ban in 1999.

At high elevations and amongst well protected rock formations many birds of prey such as eagles, vultures, and accipiters, as well as snowfinches, snow partridges, snow pigeon etc. find an excellent habitat. Many species of pheasants, partridges, laughingthrushes, parrotbills, fulvettas, robins, etc. live in the dense and far stretched mountain forests below. A sudden attack by a couple of Red-billed Blue Magpies against a Buzzard, or the characteristic voice of the Koklass Pheasant belongs to the daily performance in this realm. Fast rushing rivers with cataracts and waterfalls are more common than peacefully flowing rivers. Thus, redstarts are ubiquitous, but birds, which need standing water bodies such as waders, geese, cranes will not find their way into these deep valleys between vertical rock formations.garrulax_maximus

They prefer huge areas of grassland with meandering streams and rivers, which are situated between those high mountain ranges. The more we get to the West these grasslands become wider and wider, and open up to vast marshland or bushy hills. The biggest wetland on the eastern high plateau is Zoigê (chin. Ruo‘ergai) – the annual meeting point for the Black-necked Crane and many geese, ducks, storks, etc.

 

Important bird-watching sites:

1. The Transitional Zone
In the borderland between the Sichuan Basin and the Tibetan High Plateau many nature reserves have been established during the past 25 years, from which not only the Giant Panda benefits. Due to a currently intact environment, good service and high convenience, the following sites meet the requirements of bird-watching activities excellently:
Wolong (NR), Wanglang (NR), Tangjiahe (NR), Labahe (NR), Baishuihe (NR), Wawushan (National Park), Emeishan (Buddhist Mountain), etc. are amongst the most famous in this area.
Prominent birds:
Bar-backed Laughingthrush, Giant Laughingthrush, Red-winged Laughingthrush, White-spotted Laughingthrush, Slaty Bunting, Golden Pheasant, Temminck's Tragopan, Chinese Thrush, Rufous-tailed Babbler, Grey-hooded Parrotbill, Golden Parrotbill, Emeishan Warbler, Sichuan Treecreeper, Golden Bush Robin, White-browed Bush Robin, Speckled Wood Pigeon, Golden-breasted Fulvetta.

2. High Mountain Ranges
Within the broad band of mountain ranges, places like Jiuzhaigou (NR), Huanglong (NR), Mounigou/Songpan, Mengdun Valley, Mengbi mountain range, Hailuogou (Minya Konka), Yajiang and many other sites in the prefectures Garze (Ganzi) and Ngawa (Aba) offer numerous bird species. Especially in the vicinity of monasteries or sacred mountains the animal world is still without serious harm. Poachers do not dare to hunt and kill within these territories because of religious influence.
Prominent birds are:
Chinese Grouse, Buff-throated Partridge, Snow Partridge, Tibetan Partridge, White Eared Pheasant, Chinese Mountain Fulvetta, Three-banded Rosefinch, Pink-tailed Rosefinch, Great Rosefinch, Derbyan Parakeet, Brown Accentor, White-browed Tit, Yunnan Nuthatch, Long-tailed Minivet, Sichuan Wood Owl, Tibetan Snowcock, Snow Pigeon, Grandala, Rufous- headed Robin, Blackthroat.

3. Grasslands of the Tibetan High Plateau
In general, many birds living within the grassland depend on water and thus prefer areas with abundant water resources such as wetlands, marshlands or meandering streams. The most recommended site is the huge wetland in Zoigê (chin. Ruo‘ergai) and Hong Yuan, but other sites along rivers and lakes in Dege, Serta, and Ngawa (chin. Aba County) are also very recommendable.
Prominent birds are:
Black-necked Crane, Black Stork, Red-crested Pochard, White-eyed Pochard, Bar-headed Goose, Pallas's Sea- Eagle, Mongolian Plover, Blue-eared Pheasant, Grandala, Himalayan Griffon, Lammergeyer, Cinereous Vulture, White-rumped Snowfinch, and thousands of larks

grus_nigricollis

4. Southern Sichuan
In Yibin City the Shunan Zhuhai (Bamboo Ocean) should be mentioned as an excellent birding locality. Another great place is the town Luzhou with the sites Mt. Laojunshan and Fubao.
By including the independent City Chongqing to Sichuan, the Changjiang (Yangtze) with its long banks and hundred of small tributaries makes a wonderful area for bird-watching.
Prominent birds are:
Sichuan Hill Partridge, Grey-faced Liocichla, Temminck's Tragopan, Streaked Barwing, Hwamei, Silver Pheasant, etc.

5. Eastern Sichuan
Mt. Guangwushan, Mt. Micangshan, the Gouxihe wetland in Langzhong/Mianyang, the water reservoir of Shengzhong, the river banks of Jialingjiang River, Tuojiang River and Fujiang River are worth a trip.
Prominent birds are:
Reeve’s Pheasant, Golden Eagle, Koklass Pheasant, Black Stork, White-throated Laughingthrush

6. Chengdu Plain
The Chengdu Plain is the area between the border of the Tibetan High Plateau and the Longquan Shan – an unspectacular and low (900m) mountain range to the east of Chengdu. Although the plain’s width is about 60km only, it stretches for about 200km in the north-south direction. Especially sites bordering the transitional zone are of interest. Baita Hu (in Chong Zhou district), Hongkou and Longchi (in Dujiangyan district), Longquanshan mountain range, Dayi, Qionglai, Mianzhu and Yazihe (Deyang) bear many bird species in huge numbers.
Prominent birds - see list of the Transitional Zone. The only two differences are that gamebirds missing and that the Plain is easily accessible from Chengdu.

 

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