Any review of the birding aspects of this province must be coloured by the tragic earthquake of May 12th 2008, when 80,000 people were killed, and many more injured. The scale of the tragedy puts the frivolities of birding into perspective.
Landlocked Sichuan Province has long been one of the most popular Chinese destinations for overseas birders. Although the basin around the provincial capital, Chengdu, is polluted and heavily built-up, the mountains at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau are only a few hours drive to the west. Here there are species that would be familiar to those who have birded elsewhere in the Himalayas, as well as many of China’s fifty-or-so endemic bird species. Clear blue skies, snowcapped mountains and ethnic Tibetan culture all add to the excitement of a visit.
The bird tour companies began exploratory trips to Sichuan in the 1980s. Twenty years on, a typical three-week programme has evolved into visits to isolated peaks such as Emei Shan and Wawu Shan, a visit to Wolong/Balangshan, a visit to the Tibetan Plateau through Rouergai and on to scenically outstanding Jiuzhaigou.
Emei Shan (“Shan” is mountain in Chinese) has a well-developed tourist infrastructure. There are plenty of places to stay at different levels of the mountain. Fit and keen birders can walk from the base (around 600m) to the summit at 3,000m, or descend the many stone steps. Emei can also be tackled by birding around different levels, for example near mid-level Wannian Temple (cable car access to 1,020m) or from Leidongping/Jieyin Hall beneath the summit (at the end of the road at 2,500m).
Wawu Shan is about three hours drive southwest from Leidongping at Emei. Wawu is famous as the place of discovery of Sichuan Treecreeper. It has a remarkable summit plateau habitat of bamboo beneath fir trees, although it is very wet and misty in May and June. No fewer than eight species of parrotbill have been seen at Wawu Shan. It is probably easier to see Grey-hooded Parrotbill and Emei Liochichla here than at Emei Shan.
Wolong was close to the epicentre of the tragic May 12th 2008 earthquake, and there was loss of life at both the Panda Research Centre and at Shawan village. One can only hope that recovery will continue to progress.
The road from Wolong westwards over Balangshan pass provides access to good habitat up to an elevation of 4,700m. Chinese Monal, White Eared Pheasant and Grandala are among the many special birds recorded near the road.
The Tibetan Grasslands near Rouergai are home to different birds, such as Hume’s Ground Tit, Tibetan Lark and (in summer) breeding Black-necked Cranes.
Jiuzhaigou is a famous, scenically beautiful and hugely popular National Nature Reserve (NNR), still open for business year-round. It is located in the Min Shan, an area with many Chinese endemics. Sought-after birds here include Sooty Tit, Spectacled Parrotbill, Snowy-cheeked Laughingthrush and Rufous-headed Robin. These birds may also been seen at the less-visited Wanglang National Nature Reserve, which has a common border with Jiuzhaigou. Tangjiahe NNR, a good site to see mammals such as Takin, as well as endemic Golden Pheasant and Slaty Bunting, is nearby.
Although the earthquake has affected a vast area at the centre of commonly-birded areas of Sichuan, it should be remembered that Sichuan is a huge province with many new site discoveries to be made. These days there are local Chinese birdwatching groups such as the Chengdu Birdwatching Society and Mianyang Bird Society who are exploring the many ornithologically little-known corners of the province.
John & Jemi Holmes
Guides & Tour Operators
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
China Birding Tour
China Birding is a travel company based in China, Chengdu and Tibet.We do tailor made itineraries for any bird watchers who have an interest in the birds of China: Qinghaai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet. We have the experience. We can do tour arrangements for individuals or for for birding travel companys visiting China. We can arrange all your hotels, travel and guiding…
Parrotbill Nature Tours
We are local Chinese. We came into contact birding tourism nearly 15 years. Up to 2016 we have been cooperating with more than 10 of the best birdwatching companies worldwide. Up to 2016, we have operated more than 150 tours involving more than 1200 birders from all over the world. In the last 5 years we have organised around 30 private tours involving more than 180 birders. We have earned lots of good feedback from clients
Sichuan province, right in the heart of the Middle Kingdom, is a fabulously bird-rich region, home to the bulk of China's endemic birds and the majority of its Giant Pandas…
Sichuan province, right in the heart of the Middle Kingdom, is a fabulously bird-rich region home to the bulk of China's endemic birds (and the majority of its Giant Pandas!). On this new tour we'll concentrate on seeing the endemic and near-endemic species as well as sampling the superb food, genuine hospitality and dramatic scenery for which the region is rightly famous…
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.
2006 [06 June] - Sam Woods
China is a truly fascinating part of Asia – for birding, and also for its interesting history and unique culture. This tour took in some great scenery from the wide open, grassy plains of the Tibetan Plateau to the hulking, snow-capped mountain peaks around Balang Shan. Along with the great scenery there were obviously some great birds – not least among these some beautiful Asian Pheasants that are always a big draw for many birders visiting this exciting birding region…
2007 [06 June] - Keith Barnes
This was an abbreviated version of our regular central China tour, cut down to 15 days as that was all the time the participants had available. The itinerary differed slightly from our regular trip and given that it was six days shorter than usual we were extremely happy with the 260 species we scored on tour, this was only 13 birds shy of the 3 week total from 2006…
2007 [07 July] - Vincent van der Spek - Sichuan & Qing Hai
2009 [06 June] - Keith Barnes
This was our most successful ever Sichuan trip to date, finishing off with 307 bird species for the tour, including almost all of the major Central Chinese specialties, but it was also one of the toughest. We had to deal with some major obstacles and challenges to travelling through this, simply one of the most beautiful and spectacular parts of the world! Most of the participants had been to Bhutan, in it’s own right gobsmackingly gorgeous, and all had to admit that while Bhutan was more interesting culturally, Sichuan took the cake for physical beauty…
2010 [05 May] - Henk Hendriks
…The hillside behind the deserted Wolong Grand Hotel is sometimes referred to as Sawan. The specialties are Golden Pheasant and Slaty Bunting but a nice selection of more common species can also be observed in the general area…
2010 [06 June] - Keith Barnes
The breathtaking Blue-eared Pheasant standing in the open for everyone on one of the last days of the tour was an undoubted highlight; while others may say that the sheer numbers of the rare and reclusive Lady Amherst's Pheasants seen several times earlier in the tour were much better. We recorded 13 species of Phasianidae on this tour including eight pheasants! We also had some luck with rarer non-endemic species, such as the incredible Saker Falcon that we found with chicks at a nest! Another major favourite was the regal Black- necked Cranes, we saw 17 of these elegant birds foraging unconcernedly near the side of the road, and were able to watch them at our leisure…
2010 [06 June] - Sam Woods
Not only did we do well in terms of pheasant species, but the views were spectacular of almost all of them, from the male Golden Pheasant that lingered on an open trail at Wuyipeng, to the flurry of nine Lady Amherst’s Pheasants that were seen during one incredible day, gracing the road up Wawu Shan’s quiet mountain road, to the male Temminck’s Tragopan that used an open breeze block by the road up Wawu as a calling post in the early morning mist, allowing us to admire his intricate patterning through our well-trained scope! As if that was not enough we should also mention the surprise Silver Pheasant that shocked us near the base of Emei Shan early on the tour; and we should not forget the pair of Chinese Monals feeding quietly in a flower-sprinkled alpine meadow up on Balang Shan; or the marvelous pair of Blue Eared-Pheasants that showed up in the spruce- cloaked slopes of Baxi…
2013 [06 June] - Frank Lambert
…We all heard the endangered Sichuan Partridge, but despite numerous attempts to see one, only Jan managed to get a view of this elusive species through the understorey as it scuttled past us. Another bird briefly seen by a couple of people was Temminck’s Tragopan, two of which we flushed from a tree along one of the trails….
2013 [06 June] - Hannu Jannes
…The winner of the bird-of-the-trip vote was, by a large margin, the incredible Chinese Monal, which we saw extremely well in Wolong, followed by the splendid Golden Pheasant, the amazingly confiding Verreaux's Monal Partridge and Temminck's Tragopan….
2014 [06 June] - Craig Brelsford - Sichuan & Yunnan
...On the Old Erlang Road in Sichuan, spotting, waiting out, and finally photographing a rare female Firethroat, as well as photographing and sound-recording a male...
2014 [08 August] - Petri Hottola - Balang Shan & Emei Shan
...Between 1st and 7th July, 2014, I finally had a chance to visit Sichuan, albeit briefly, with a focus on two sites: Balang Shan (2.000-4.600 m) and Emei Shan (1.000-3.100m). The short duration of the stay was intentional. It was a part of a private RTW tour designed to cross the 7.000 species limit...
2014 [08 August] - Sjef Ollers
2015 [03 March] - Sam Woods - Sichuan & The Tibetan Plateau
...we were very successful, finding almost all of the species on the elite list of birds requested, most notably the Pink-tailed Bunting or Prezevalskiâ€™s Rosefinch, (photo below), leaving this birder with just two more world bird families to complete his family quest.
2015 [05 May] - Pete Morris - Sichuan & Northern Yunnan
Our long run of tours to Sichuan continued with another highly successful visit to what is â€˜the heart of Chinaâ€™. As with the previous visit, we tagged on a visit to Yunnan which added a number of additional localized species, and amongst the 350+ species recorded were a vast majority of the specialities on offer
2015 [05 May] - Summer Wong
After tour Carsten wrote: Thanks for all the nice pictures. Blackthorn, Temminck’s Tragopan and Tawny Fish Owl were among the stars on our trip but I was also impressed by the large number of leaf and bush warblers we saw thanks to your impressive collection of calls!
2015 [06 June] - James Eaton - Sichuan & Shaanxi
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 Asiaâ€™s top birding destinations.
2016 [04 April] - Richard Webb
2016 [05 May] - Glen Valentine & David Hoddinott - Sichuan & Yunnan
406 species recorded, the following were just some of the most memorable and desirable species seen: Tibetan and Snow Partridges; Tibetan Snowcock; Verreaux’s Monal-Partridge; the spectacular Temminck’s Tragopan; Chinese Monal; White Eared, Blue Eared, Blood, Golden and Lady Amherst’s Pheasants; dancing Black-necked Cranes; the rarely seen Solitary Snipe; sky-pointing Eurasian Bittern...
2016 [06 June] - Mike Nelson
With newly described species like Sichuan Bush Warbler and Sichuan Forest Thrush the list of big hitters keeps getting better. We racked up 13 gallinacious birds, fourteen corvids including close views of Sichuan Jay, 11 tits, 27 assorted warblers plus a supporting cast of laughingthrushes, bushtits, robins, flycatchers, redstarts and fulvettas.
2016 [10 October] - Stefan Lithner
...Here we eventually managed to call for a collared scops-owl until it came almost up to us. We also heard Northern boobook owl, but circumstances did not allow us to see it. During our walk we also found a seriously injured serpent in the gutter, likely hit by a vehicle. It was photographed and retrospectively identified as brown spotted viper (Protobothrops mucrosquamatus)....
2017 [04 April] - North Thailand Birding
...The excellent breakfast spread available by 06:00, is not to be missed, especially as included in the price. Collected by Sid at 07:00 and set off toward the Tibetan Plateau. A total change in the weather with overcast conditions and rain - much more the usual Sichuan weather. An all day drive to Baxi, with some roadside scans north of Songpan for Blue Eared Pheasant, of which several successfully located....
Chengdu Bird Watching Society
CDBWS is active throughout Sichuan Province and in other parts of western China…
Mianyang Love Bird Association
E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Contact Mr. Li Peng
Huanglong National Nature Reserve
Biodiversity is very rich in the Reserve. Tall arbors and shrubs, vines, herbs and moss constitute a harmonious picture…
Jiuzhaigou National Nature Reserve
The Reserve is not only rich in plants but also in animal species, among which there are rare species such as giant pandas, golden monkeys, Takins, lesser pandas, otters and swans…
Wanglang Nature Reserve
Wanglang Nature Reserve, established in 1963 by the Sichuan Forestry Bureau, is located in the Minshan Mountains in some of China's most important panda habitat…
Wolong National Nature Reserve
In the Reserve there are over 50 species of animals and 300 species of birds. The number of giant pandas here approximately accounts for one tenth of the total, and therefore Wolong National Nature Reserve is also identified as homeland of giant pandas…
We're a Chinese/ British couple who have a passionate interest in the exiting nature and countryside that's found in the Chinese province of Sichuan. This blog is intended as a guide for those wishing to visit…