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Shaanxi Province

White-collared Yuhina Yuhina diademata ©Alister Benn Website

China possesses a huge diversity of bird life, largely attributed to the varied physical landscape and ecological conditions seen over it’s vast territory. Hengduanshan, Qinlingshan, and Huaihe basically divides China into northern and southern regions, helping to create a country that has large areas of wetlands, salt marshes, mountains ranges, deserts, plateaus, forests, alpine meadows, and grasslands. Such areas create ideal habitats for many different species of residing, breeding, migrating and wintering birdlife.

The Shaanxi Province is located in central China and covers an area of 205,600km2. The provincial capital is Xi’An, often thought to be the cradle of Chinese civilisation. It is most famous for the Terracotta Warriors, uncovered by local farmers in 1974 and considered to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries in recent history.

Shaanxi is located within both the temperate and subtropical zones, and shows great climatic differences between the areas north and south of the Qinling range. The province can be divided into three geographic (and hence climatic) terrains, the northern loess plateau, the middle Guanzhong plain, and the southern Qinba mountainous area. The northern loess plateau is the middle area of the Loess Plateau and covers most of northern Shaanxi. The Guanzhong Plain (also known as the Weihe Plain) was formed by the alleviation of the Wei River, the largest branch of the Yellow River. The plain begins in Baoji in the west and ends at the Yellow River in the East. The Qinba Mountain area includes the Qinling and Daba ranges, with the Hanshui valley between them.

The Qinling Mountains are the most significant geographical formation in the Shaanxi Province, and the only area in China that functions as a watershed for the country's two most significant rivers, the Yangtze River and the Yellow River. The Qinling Mountains run from west to east and cover more than 52,000km2, forming the natural division between northern and southern China (and the Shaanxi Province) in terms of geography and climate. This mountain range is also very important as it is the northernmost distribution area for the giant panda and is also one of the areas with the densest panda population.

The Qinling Mountains are ecologically significant, dividing the province and reaching elevations of almost 3800m. Such dramatic elevational changes, have led to equally dramatic changes in the flora and fauna in different regions, with this area being home to the most biologically rich temperate forests in the world. The peaks of the Qinling Mountains form a barrier to the cold dry northern air (coming from Inner Mongolia), allowing warm rain and flourishing growth on the broad southern slopes. Due to this and the large elevational changes, a huge diversity of plant and animal life exist on the southern Qinling slopes (including species such as giant panda, golden monkey, golden takin, golden eagle, and crested ibis – all first class protected species).

The provincial capital of Shaanxi is Xi'an.

Top Sites

Changqing National Nature Reserve - Yangxian County, Hanzhong Prefecture

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Many areas of the Qinling Mountains are now designated National Nature Reserves, often made so in an effort to converse giant panda habitat and other endangered species. With this protection many other plants and animals have benefited, including the crested ibis Nipponia Nippon, one of the most endangered bird species in the world. Due to captive breeding and release programs at Louguan Tai and Yangxian, this species has been brought back from the brink of extinction and can now be seen in the wild in Changqing National Nature Reserve. This reserve is one of the best places to view wildlife, and birdlife, in the Shaanxi Province.

Changqing National Nature Reserve is located on the southern slopes of the Qinling Mountains, in south-west Shaanxi about 300 km south of Xi’An city. The Reserve is almost 30,000 hectares in size and its highest peak reaches 3100m. It is one of the most important ecological areas and broadleaf temperate forests in China, providing one of the best and last remaining places where giant panda, golden takin, golden monkey and crested ibis can be found in the wild. It is also home to 39 other threatened animals and 31 threatened plants.

Changqing Reserve is one of the best places for birding in the Shaanxi Province, and it has 154 species of birds living within its boundaries, 17 of which are endangered. A further 176 species, 13 endangered, are found in the rural area just outside the Reserve. Some species that can be seen in the reserve and surrounding rural landscape include the golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos, golden pheasant Chrysolophus pictus, blood pheasant Ithaginis cruentus, Temminck's tragopan Tragopan temminckii, Chinese bamboo partridge Bambusicola thoracica, sooty tit Aegithalos fuliginosus, vinaceous rosefinch Carpodacus vinaceus, laughing thrushes, parrotbills, collared finchbill Spizixos semitorques, and the crested ibis Nipponia nippon, which can be seen both in the wild at Changqing and at a captive breeding centre in Yangxian County.

Hongjiannao - Yulin Prefecture

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Hongjiannao can be found in the Yulin Prefecture, in the northwest of the Shaanxi Province. It is considered to one of China’s largest desert lakes and is a haven for aquatic birds. It is home to at least 26 species of bird that currently have second class state protection.

Huanglong Nature Reserve - Yanan Prefecture

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Huanglongshan Nature Reserve is located in north-central Shaanxi in the Yanan Prefecture, and ranges in elevation from 620m to 1783m. It was established in 2003 in an effort to protect a population of Brown Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon mantchuricum, a species endemic to northern China, which was discovered there in 1998. The distribution of this species relates to a band of temperate broadleaf-conifer forest that extends through Shanxi, Beijing, northern Hebei, and westwards into central Shaanxi.

Qiachuan National Park - Heyang County, Weinan Prefecture

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Qiachuan National Park is located in the Weinan Prefecture and has been listed as a provincial scenic and historic spot since 1995. This lake area contains remnants of ancient cultures that thrived along the Yellow river and its tributaries, and covers a total area of 110km2. It has abundant water birdlife, particularly noted for its aquatic migratory bird watching.

Taibaishan - Taibai County, Baoji Prefecture

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Taibaishan reserve is located on the northern slopes of the Qinling Mountains, and shares borders with Taibai, Mei, and Zhouzhi Counties. It was declared a National Reserve in 1986, and covers an area of 56,325 hectares, with its highest peak (Taibai Mountain) reaching an elevation of 3,767m.

The reserve is mostly mountain forest and grassland, and provides habitat for 1,550 species of wild plants, 192 wild birds, and 62 species of animals. It is home to endangered and vulnerable bird species, including the rufous-headed robin (Luscinia ruficeps) and the black-throated blue robin (Luscinia obscura). Other species which can be located at Taibaishan include Temminck's tragopan, blood pheasant, golden pheasant, Fujian Niltava, Sichuan treecreeper and orange-flanked and golden bush-robins.

Contributor

Christine Watts

Volunteer Australian Youth Ambassador for Development [part of a sustainable tourism project]

Changqing Reserve, Shaanxi

watts_christine@hotmail.com

Useful Information

Provincial Bird

Crested Ibis Nipponia nippon

Guides & Tour Operators

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Birding Pal

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Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

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Northern China: Manchuria and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau…

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CloudBirders

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CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2013 [04 April] - Jesper Hornskov

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2013 [06 June] - James Eaton

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…With the continued closure of Wawu Shan certain species would still be difficult to find on most regular tours so we opted for a visit here in the off chance of finding a Grey-hooded Parrotbill. After arriving on the summit two of the first birds we found were good ones – a female Golden Bush Robin, followed by two territorial Chestnut-crowned Bush Warblers vying for our attention….

2013 [06 June] - Max Berlijn

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2015 [06 June] - James Eaton - Sichuan & Shaanxi

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The vast area covered by China is a major birding destinations packed with endemics and localised specialities, but also offering large and diverse species lists. Top among all of these is Sichuan, where stunning scenery, exciting cuisine and magic birding combine into one of Asia’s top birding destinations.

Reserves

Taibai Mountain Nature Reserve

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Located at the juncture of Taibai, Mei and Zhouzhi counties of Shaanxi Province, Taibai Mountain Nature Reserve was established in 1986 with an area of 56,325 hectares…