Birds at Beidaihe, China

by Martin Williams

Please see full version at Beidaihe - Migration Hub of the Orient on my "new" site. (The current page is retained as some sites still link to it)

I first visited Beidaihe, a resort on China's east coast, in spring 1985, and have returned each year since, mostly as leader or co-leader of migration surveys and birding tours, a couple of times for a holiday. In all, I have spent over a year at the town, garnering a Beidaihe list with over 300 Asian migrants, and experiencing superb spells of birding. In addition, trying to stimulate conservation work — it was partly on my urging that, in spring 1990, the town established an unimpressive nature reserve.
            Unimpressive without landscaping work, that is. I remember waxing lyrical about the reserve's potential to Dr George Archibald, Director of the International Crane Foundation. Given the numbers of birds traveling the flyway over Beidaihe, I said, the reserve could host bird densities as high as the best migrant traps in North America. `Yes,' replied Archibald. `But these are megaticks.'


            Beidaihe now ranks as the place to see east Asian migrants. Pick any of the Asian vagrants to North America and, chances are, it occurs at Beidaihe. Oriental Pratincole (Glareola maldivarum)? Siberian Blue Robin (Erithacus cyane)? Siberian Rubythroat (E. calliope)? Eyebrowed Thrush (Turdus obscurus)? Lanceolated Warbler (Locustella lanceolata)? All are common. Fork-tailed Swifts (Apus pacificus) pass over in thousands. The estuaries are visited by flocks of Mongolian Plovers (Charadrius mongolus). Wood Sandpipers (Tringa glareola) and Long-toed Stints (Calidris subminuta) prefer damp paddyfields, which in late spring are the places to search for Pechora Pipits (Anthus gustavi).         
            Birds overflying the area chiefly follow the coastline, or the narrow plain between the bay and mountains to the west. Leading from Beidaihe to the south of what was once called Manchuria, this plain apparently serves as a migration corridor — especially for birds of grassland and wetland, such as geese, bustards, and cranes.

If you're interested in visiting Beidaihe, you could contact Jean Wang of the town's Sky and Ocean Travel Service, which has often handled birding groups/individuals - can arrange excursions to Happy Island etc. Email:

Beidaihe checklist

Martin Williams Hong Kong