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The 30 Most Common Birds in China

common birds in china
Chinese Pond Heron: Photo by Vincent Wang

Introduction

Discover the most common birds in China, a country renowned for its rich avian diversity. From the ubiquitous Eurasian Tree Sparrow, often seen in urban areas, to the Chinese Pond Heron, China hosts a plethora of bird species adapted to various habitats. Keep an eye out for the charismatic Oriental Magpie-Robin with its distinctive black and white plumage, as well as the elegant Common Kingfisher, a symbol of rural landscapes. Join us as we explore the fascinating world of China’s most prevalent bird residents, providing insight into their habitats, behaviors, and significance in Chinese culture and ecology.

Common Birds in China

Jump to a species!

Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)

  • Features: This is a medium-sized sparrow found in parts of Asia and Europe. It has a compact build with a conical bill and looks similar in both males and females. Adults have a reddish-brown crown, a white collar, and a streaked brown back. Their face is white with a black spot on the cheeks, and they have a short black bib on the chin. Their underparts are grayish-white with a buff-brown tint, especially on the flanks. The wings have chestnut color with white tips, forming prominent wing-bars. Their bill is black, sometimes with a small yellowish patch at the base. Juveniles have a duller appearance with a grayish patch on the crown and reddish-brown sides. They make harsh vocalizations similar to House Sparrows but with a greater variation in pitch, along with distinctive flight notes.
  • Habitat: In the Far East, where the House Sparrow (P. domesticus) is not found, this bird is commonly seen in developed areas, including urban centers. It coexists with House Sparrows in Mongolia. In Europe, it is rarely found above 1500 meters, but it can be found as high as 4400 meters in Asia.
  • Diet: This bird primarily feeds on domestic agricultural grains such as corn, wheat, oats, and rye, as well as commercial birdseed containing millet, sunflower, and milo, along with various weed and grass seeds. During spring, it consumes shoots, buds, and flowers of fruit trees, and during breeding season, it includes arthropods like spiders and insects in its diet. It forages in open areas on farms for spilled grain and in nearby grasslands and woodlots for seeds, arthropods, and fruit, typically staying below 10 meters in height while foraging both on the ground and in trees.
  • Range: Eurasian Tree Sparrows are the most widespread bird species in China. They can be found easily practically anywhere in the country. China has several subspecies present. The nominate form is found mostly in northeast China, particularly the northern parts of the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia; dybowskii has some overlap with the nominate form in the northeast but ranges more in eastern Inner Mongolia and Liaoning); kansuensis is found in northern China; dilutus ranges in the western part of the country; tibetanus has a broad range from central China to the eastern part of the Tibetan plateau; hepaticus is found in southeastern Tibet.

Light-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus sinensis)

  • Features: This bulbul is medium-sized, noisy, and easy to spot. The typical adult has a distinctive head pattern with a black crown, moustachial stripe, and white postocular stripes forming a band on the upper nape. It also features a white patch at the rear of its dark ear-coverts and a white throat. Its upperparts are greyish-brown with dull olive on the mantle, while the wings and tail are dark grey-brown with olive fringes. The underparts are whitish with a pale grey-brown breastband, yellowish-grey belly, and streaked undertail-coverts. Both males and females look alike. Juveniles have paler upperparts, a less distinct breastband, and paler wings and tail. Different subspecies may vary slightly in appearance, with some lacking certain markings or having variations in color intensity.
  • Habitat: This bird is typically found in cultivated areas, along the edges of cultivation, orchards, gardens containing large shrubs, scrublands, and open woodlands, usually up to an altitude of 500 meters.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYn-9kNISvc&pp=ygUTbGlnaHQgdmVudGVkIGJ1bGJ1bA%3D%3D
  • Diet: This bird feeds on a range of food items including berries, small figs, soft fruits, and vegetables. It also consumes insects, such as flies, which it sometimes catches in flight. It is often seen perched conspicuously on the tops of bushes and forms large flocks during the winter. Although its foraging behavior is not well understood, it is known to gather food in various ways.
  • Range: These bulbuls are very common in the eastern third of China. China has two subspecies: the nominate, found in central and eastern China, south to Fujian, and hainanus, which can be found more in southeast China (Hainan and Guangdong).

Spotted Dove (Spilopelia chinensis)

  • Features: This dove is sizable and robust, characterized by its long, square-tipped tail. A distinctive feature of its post-juvenile plumage is the black-and-white lacelike pattern of spots on the hindneck, which serves as a diagnostic feature for identification.
  • Habitat: This bird is commonly found in habitats characterized by groves of tall trees like those lining urban streets or acting as windbreaks in agricultural areas. It also frequents smaller, densely foliaged trees or shrubs, often surrounded by open spaces such as forest clearings, fields, cultivated areas, vacant lots, or lawns. Access to reliable sources of water is essential. In its native range, it prefers relatively moist woodlands and jungles, avoiding dry regions. It adapts well to human-disturbed environments. In Asia, it occupies various habitats including towns, villages, gardens, groves of trees, cultivated areas, and open forests. While it’s typically found in lowlands, it can be spotted up to 1000 meters in altitude on Borneo. It thrives in cultivated areas such as rice fields, parks, degraded mangroves, and plantations of oil-palm and coconut.
  • Diet: The diet of this bird is primarily composed of plant material, accounting for up to 99.5% of its intake, according to some sources. This includes seeds, green shoots, buds, spilled grain, and food scraps. A table detailing food items from various regions of Australia can be found in Higgins and Davies. When foraging, it mainly searches for food on the ground, occasionally picking berries and seeds directly from shrubs, vines, and small trees, but it more commonly collects them after they have fallen to the ground.
  • Range: The nominate subspecies is a very common dove in central and eastern China.

Oriental Magpie (Pica serica)

  • Features: This magpie stands out with its black and white plumage, long graduated tail, and relatively wide bill that curves downward at the tip. Its head to breast and most of its upperparts are black with a subtle purple and green sheen, while the scapulars are white. The upperwing is glossy black with hints of green or blue, and the tail has a glossy green and reddish-purple tint. Both sexes have dark brown eyes, black bills, and legs. The Chinese form is petite and dark, closely resembling the nominate race but distinguished by its slightly shorter tail and a greener sheen on the secondaries.
  • Habitat: This bird occupies a vast range of open landscapes, particularly those with scattered trees, while steering clear of treeless areas and dense woodlands or forests. In human-altered environments, it prefers mixed farmlands, parks, and gardens with overgrown hedges and small tree clusters. Notably, it has become more prevalent in urban settings, especially in areas adorned with tree-lined avenues, in recent years.
  • Diet: Though omnivorous by nature, this bird primarily functions as a carnivorous scavenger. Its diet adapts based on local habitats, consisting mainly of invertebrates, particularly beetles, along with small mammals, lizards, frogs, bird eggs, and nestlings. It also scavenges carrion and occasionally preys on adult birds.
  • Range: Common in central and eastern China.

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)

  • Features: During breeding season, the male nominate race has a black mid-crown to nape and hindneck, with a black chin and throat, and the rest of the head is white. Its wings are grayish-black with broad white fringes on the tertials and median and greater wing-coverts, forming two white wingbars. The tail feathers are black with narrow white fringes on the central pair and white with a dark wedge on the outer pairs. The black throat extends down to the breast, and the underparts are white with a grayish wash on the breast sides and flanks. Breeding females are slightly duller, with some gray on the crown and nape and often have pale spots on the throat. Outside of breeding season, both sexes have an olive-gray wash on the crown and nape, with a white chin, throat, and upper breast with some black mottling. Immature birds have a brownish-gray head, a dusky moustachial stripe, and grayish-white underparts, sometimes tinged buffy, with a narrow dark gray-brown gorget.
  • Habitat: This bird inhabits a wide range of non-forested wet and dry environments, including seashores, rocky or sandy upland rivers, slow-moving lowland rivers, lakeshores, farmlands, gardens, parks, and short grasslands commonly found near factories in urban areas. It is often seen near human settlements in towns and villages. During migration and winter months, it frequents the edges of reservoirs, lakes, ponds, sewage works, wells in deserts, irrigated fields, and rice fields. It also occupies various open short grasslands, towns, and villages, as well as campsites and beaches.
  • Diet: This bird primarily feeds on both land and water-dwelling invertebrates, with occasional consumption of seeds and berries. During the pre-nesting period, the ocularis subspecies primarily forages near human settlements, farms, and dumps, especially those near fisheries, and often follows agricultural machinery. It also searches for food in woody debris along coastlines, on muddy river and lake banks, and on dry moss and lichen in tundra areas.
  • Range: Several subspecies occur all over China throughout the year. ocularis winters in southeast China, coming from breeding grounds Siberia and Alaska; baicalensis breeds in northwestern China and winters in the south of the country (and India); lugens can be seen irregularly on China’s east coast; leucopsis breeds all over the eastern side of China and winters in the south, being the most widespread race in China; alboides is fairly common and scattered in south-central China.

Japanese Tit (Parus minor)

  • Features: This tit is notable for its large black head and prominent white face patch. It features pale or yellow underparts separated by a black ventral line. Its uppermost mantle is olive-yellow, transitioning to plain olive below and greyish olive on the scapulars and back. The underparts are mostly whitish, with a pinkish-buff wash on the breast sides and upper flanks, and a greyish hue on the lower flanks. The female resembles the nominate species but has olive fringes on the tertials.
  • Habitat: In Siberia, Western China, and Mongolia, this bird is mainly found in thickets of riverine birch or willow trees and mixed forests. It also inhabits isolated groups of trees in open steppe areas, near villages and settlements. In Mongolia, it can also be seen in open semi-desert areas and mountain forests.
  • Diet: This bird’s diet has been extensively studied. During summer, it primarily consumes small invertebrates and larvae, usually up to 1 cm in size. In other seasons, it also eats seeds and various other items. Its diet of invertebrates includes cockroaches, grasshoppers, crickets, damselflies, small dragonflies, lacewings, earwigs, bugs including aphids, ants, millipedes, mites, moths, flies, caddis flies, scorpion flies, bees (with stings usually removed), wasps, beetles, spiders, harvestmen, snails, and woodlice. Seeds and fruit, mainly from deciduous trees and shrubs, particularly beech and hazel, are consumed mostly during the non-breeding season.
  • Range: The nominate subspecies is present in south-western China, including eastern Tibet; P. m. tibetanus has a similar range, but ventures a bit further south in Tibet; P. m. subtibetanus ranges from south-eastern Tibet through southern China; P. m. commixtus occurs south of the Yangtze River to Hong Kong.

Chinese Blackbird (Turdus mandarinus)

  • Features: This thrush is large and uniformly dark in color. The male of the nominate race is entirely sooty black above and brownish-black below, with a narrow orange-yellow eyering. It has dark irises, an orange to bright yellow bill, and blackish to dark brown legs. The female is slightly browner than the male and has a paler chin and throat with broader, darker streaks, and a less distinct eyering. Its bill is brownish, with some dull yellow at the base, mainly on the lower mandible. Juveniles are dark brown with varying paler buff mottling and streaking. The race sowerbyi is smaller and darker below than the nominate.
  • Habitat: This bird is commonly found in various types of open woodlands, particularly deciduous forests, as well as edge habitats, parks, gardens, plantations, and orchards. It is also seen in grassland areas that have plenty of shrubs and other types of cover.
  • Diet: This bird primarily feeds on invertebrates, particularly earthworms and various insects in their adult and larval stages. It also consumes seeds, berries, and fruits, and occasionally preys on small vertebrates. Studies in Fujian found that the stomachs of 94 birds contained mostly insects, along with some snails and worms, while plant material included fruits different trees. In Hunan during autumn and winter, the bird mainly consumes fruits from plants like Rubus and Cinnamomum, supplemented by fly larvae, mole-crickets, earthworms, grasshoppers, dragonflies, and other insects, along with snails and small frogs. It primarily forages on the ground, flipping leaf litter and uprooting moss with its bill, and makes short runs with pauses while scanning for prey in grassy areas. It also feeds in trees and bushes when seeking fruits and berries.
  • Range: There are two subspecies, both occurring in China: The nominate form is found in eastern China north to Beijing; sowerbyi breeds in central China and sometimes ventures to the south in the non-breeding season.

Little/Dimorphic Egret (Egretta garzetta)

  • Features: The Little Egret, also known as the Dimorphic Egret, is a slender, medium-sized heron measuring between 55 to 65 centimeters in length, with a wingspan of 88 to 106 centimeters, and a weight typically ranging from 350 to 550 grams. Males generally exhibit larger sizes compared to females across all parameters. The nominate subspecies is primarily monomorphic, with instances of apparent dark morphs likely resulting from hybridization with the Western Reef Heron (Egretta gularis).
  • Habitat: The Little/Dimorphic Egret primarily resides in various shallow and temporary or permanent wetlands, which can be freshwater, brackish, or saltwater environments. These include the edges of streams and shallow lakes, open swamps, marshes with vegetation, floodplains, rice fields, irrigated areas, flooded meadows, aquaculture ponds, salt pans, sandy beaches, mudflats, and mangroves.
  • Diet: The Little/Dimorphic Egret is an adaptable feeder, consuming various prey such as small fish, typically ranging from 1 to 4 centimeters in length, though sometimes up to 10 centimeters. It also eats insects like locusts, beetles, dragonflies and their larvae, mole crickets, and crickets. Additionally, it consumes amphibians and reptiles like frogs and snakes, crustaceans such as shrimp and crayfish, rodents, small birds, spiders, worms, and mollusks.
  • Range: Common in suitable habitat in eastern and central China.

Little/Tricolored Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

  • Features: Small and chubby, this bird often has a fluffy rump. During breeding, the nominate race has a blackish-brown cap extending from behind the eye to the chin and upper throat, and across the back to the hindneck, upperparts, and upperwing-coverts. The remiges are brownish-grey, with some white on the secondaries and often at the base of the inner remiges, forming a large panel on the wing. It has chestnut coloring behind the eye, on the lower throat, foreneck, and sides of the neck. The bird is dark brown from the base of the neck to the flanks and breast, with fluffy flanks showing some chestnut and light buffy coloring. The abdomen and base of the tail are whitish, with whiter undertail-coverts. Its iris is dark brown, bill black with a small whitish to yellowish tip, and legs dark greenish-grey.
  • Habitat: This bird is commonly found in a variety of wetlands, typically small and shallow, such as small lakes, ponds, and canals. It also frequents sheltered bays and vegetated shores of larger lakes and reservoirs. Outside of the breeding season, it can be seen on more open waters and occasionally along the coast and in estuaries protected from large waves. It inhabits areas ranging from lowlands to mountains, occurring in southwestern China up to approximately 4000 meters in altitude.
  • Diet: This bird primarily feeds on insects and their larvae, particularly mayflies, stoneflies, various water bugs, beetles, flies, caddis flies, and dragonfly larvae. It also consumes mollusks, crustaceans, and amphibians, mainly young ones but also adults, including small frogs and occasionally newts. Additionally, it sometimes takes small fish, with the largest prey being up to 11 cm in size.
  • Range: The subspecies poggei is widespread and common across much of the country, particularly the eastern, southern, and central portions.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

  • Features: Adult plumage remains consistent throughout the year. In the basic plumage, the adult male of the nominate subspecies (rustica) has a rufous-chestnut forehead, glossy steel-blue crown and upperparts, black wings and tail with white patches on the inner webs of the tail feathers (except the innermost pair), and greatly elongated outer tail feathers. The throat is rufous-chestnut with a broad steel-blue breastband, while the rest of the underparts, including the undertail coverts and underwing coverts, are creamy or buffy white. Adult females have a similar appearance but with less glossiness and shorter tail-streamers. Subspecies vary in size, the width of the breastband (narrower in Asian subspecies), and the color of the underparts. For example, tytleri has rufous-chestnut underparts, mandschurica has paler ochre underparts, and gutturalis has creamy white underparts.
  • Habitat: In northern Africa and Asia, it commonly breeds in bustling towns and cities. The species likely originally nested in mountainous regions, along lakeshores, and seacoasts, where caves or rock faces provided nesting sites, with large hollow trees also serving as nesting spots. In Eurasia, Barn Swallows have been observed nesting at elevations of up to 2,440 meters in Iran and the Himalayan Mountains.
  • Diet: The Barn Swallow mainly feeds on flying insects, although it may collect dead or dying insects on the ground during bad weather. Changes in agricultural practices, such as increased pesticide use, may impact its diet over time.
  • Range: The nominate subspecies only occurs in the far northwest in China; tytleri breeds in northeast China and sometimes winters in the south of the country; the buff-bellied gutturalis breeds from the Himalayan region north and east all over China, including occasionally in the south; mandschurica breeds in northeastern China.

Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach)

  • Features: The medium-sized shrike has a long to very long, graduated tail. The nominate race features a black forehead and facial mask extending as a broad band through the lores and eye to the lower side of the nape, with a dark grey crown to mantle, and a rufous back and rump. Its upperwing is blackish, with tertials edged in pale buffish-white, secondaries narrowly tipped in pale, and a conspicuous white patch at the base of the primaries. The tail is black with white tips, and the outer rectrices are edged in pale buff. The throat is white, and the underparts are whitish, with a strong rufous tinge on the side of the breast and flanks. The melanistic form fuscatus found in Southeast China, Hainan, and Northeast Vietnam has a mostly black head and entire wing and tail, with the rest of the plumage being dark grey, becoming dull rufous-brown on the rump and tail-coverts. Its iris is dark brown, bill black with a paler base on the lower mandible, and legs greyish-black. The sexes are similar, with the female having somewhat browner legs than the male. Races differ mainly in size, tail length, and the color of the head and upperparts, with longicaudatus being similar to the nominate race but with a much longer tail, darker rufous upperparts, and a larger primary patch.
  • Habitat: This bird prefers open landscapes with scrub, light woodland, and bushes, often found in cultivated areas such as steppe, semi-desert, and grasslands with scattered bushes. It also frequents young plantations, gardens, parks, and occasionally the edges of evergreen forests. In Central Asia, it is commonly seen near cultivation with planted trees, like shelter-belts along roads and railways, avenues and parks in towns, and orchards in villages.
  • Diet: This bird is very adaptable and opportunistic in its feeding habits. It consumes a wide variety of insects, with a preference for larger species like grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles. It also regularly preys on vertebrates such as small mammals, lizards, frogs, crabs, and small birds, including nestlings up to the size of a Laughing Dove. It is relatively bold and fearless, often hunting from prominent perches and capturing most of its prey on the ground. It also hawks insects in the air and hops along the ground. Occasionally, it steals food from other birds and may impale some of its victims.
  • Range: Two subspecies occur in China: the nominate form is found in central and southern China, including east to Hainan; tricolor occurs in southern China, including southern Tibet and Yunnan.

Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyanus)

  • Features: Easily recognizable within its range, this bird features a black hood, greyish mantle, and blue wings and tail that make it stand out. It has a relatively large head with a slightly ruffled appearance on the nape, short and broad wings, and a long tail that is broad and strongly graduated. Its bill is small, slim, and pointed, with short and dense nasal tufts, while its legs are relatively short and not very sturdy. The nominate race has a black hood extending below the eye, shiny black crown and nape, and a contrasting white throat and malar region. Its upperparts are dull greyish, the upperwing is powder-blue, and the tail is blue with brownish feather shafts. Underparts are whitish with a sandy-grey wash, and the iris is dark brown to black, with a black bill and legs. Sexes look similar. Races vary mainly in size and color intensity: stegmanni is darker and greyer, interposita is a grey form darker than stegmanni, swinhoei is similar to interposita but browner, and kansuensis is greyish above and creamy whitish below with a smaller bill.
  • Habitat: This bird is commonly found in lowland thickets, particularly in mixed willow and Prunus thickets found on riverine islands. It can also be seen in parks, including those in city centers, and overgrown gardens. While it avoids dense forests and mountain slopes, it is often spotted in wooded farmland, orchards, and broken deciduous and mixed woodlands. Its habitat ranges from sea-level up to 1600 meters.
  • Diet: This bird is omnivorous, meaning it eats a wide variety of food, especially insects, their larvae, fruits, and nuts. In Ussuriland, its diet varies throughout the seasons, including fruits, spiders, and insects in spring, mainly spiders and insects in summer, fruits and berries in autumn, and invertebrates found in leaf litter, galls, bark, fishermen’s baits, and carrion in winter. It forages in small to sometimes large flocks, moving from tree to tree in a follow-the-leader style. When they find a new feeding spot, the flock spreads out, with some birds exploring the tree canopy for insects and fruits while others search the ground for food. They also store food like acorns and pine seeds in caches in loose soil. Though usually shy and cautious, they can become quite bold in city parks and near villages, scavenging for scraps or raiding rubbish dumps and litter bins.
  • Range: The nominate subspecies occurs all over east-central Asia, including parts of China; stegmanni is found in Manchuria, in China’s northeast; swinhoei occurs in eastern and central China, east to Jiangxi and Zhejiang; interposita ranges in northern China, particularly Shaanxi; kansuensis can be found in western China (Gansu, Qinghai, and Sichuan).

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

  • Features: The bird has a white forehead, crown, and throat, with a wide black stripe above the eye extending to the back of the crown and forming crest plumes during the breeding season. Its foreneck is grayish-white with two broken black streaks, and it has a pale gray upper back and hindneck. The lower back and upperwings are blue-gray, with dark gray to black flight feathers. The underwing is gray to whitish, with a black shoulder patch. The flanks and tail are gray, while the belly-sides are black and the rest of the underparts are pale gray to white. It has a long, heavy yellow bill with a dull brownish tint, yellow eyes and lores, and brownish-yellow legs and feet, which turn deep orange to red during the breeding season. Subspecies are distinguished by differences in size and plumage color on the neck, upperwing, and back plumes, with some lacking buff tones and having notably paler necks and upperwings.
  • Habitat: Highly adaptable, this species thrives in various shallow water environments, whether freshwater, brackish, or salt, as long as they remain ice-free for a significant portion of the year. It typically favors habitats with some tree cover but is also found in open areas. Its habitat ranges from inland regions, including rivers, lakes, marshes, and rice fields, to coastal areas such as deltas, estuaries, tidal mudflats, and mangroves.
  • Diet: The primary diet consists of fish, although it adapts its feeding habits according to habitat and season, showcasing a highly opportunistic nature. There have been observations of it consuming locusts in Saudi Arabia, highlighting its ability to exploit different food sources. Its success in hunting largely relies on the abundance of prey species, and it quickly adjusts to new prey opportunities, such as introduced fish species.
  • Range: In China, only the subspecies jouyi occurs, found in almost all of China (absent largely from the northwest).

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

  • Features: Medium-sized gallinule with predominantly black plumage, highlighted by a striking yellow-tipped red bill and a red elliptical frontal shield. It features a prominent white line along the top of its flanks, and its white lateral undertail-coverts are noticeable due to constant tail flicking. The nominate race showcases a dark slate-grey head and neck extending to the mantle, with the head appearing almost black. The upperparts range from dark olive-brown to olive-green, sometimes with a hint of dark rufous. The tail is black with a subtle olive tinge and a green gloss. The underside is slate-colored, with white feather tips on the flanks and olive-brown shading on the rear flanks. The iris is red, and the legs and feet are bright yellow-green to yellow, with the upper half of the tibia being orange. Both sexes resemble each other, although females are typically smaller.
  • Habitat: It inhabits diverse freshwater wetlands with emergent vegetation, found in both stagnant and flowing water bodies. While it adapts to various climates, it’s sensitive to freezing temperatures. You can find it in rivers, streams, canals, lakes, dams, pools, ponds, and marshy areas, including flooded locations like rice fields and swamps.
  • Diet: It eats both plants and animals, with the ratio varying. Plants include algae and moss, while animal foods range from earthworms to insects like beetles and flies, as well as small fish, tadpoles, and sometimes bird eggs. It also scavenges carrion and eats scraps like vegetable leftovers, duck food, and fish food. It feeds while swimming, walking on floating plants, or grazing in open grasslands or farmlands, often near cover.
  • Range: The nominate subspecies is present and common in most of central, eastern, and southern China.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

  • Features: During most of the year, adult males and females look very different. Males in breeding plumage have a dark green head, chestnut-brown breast, and grayish underparts, with a white neck-ring and white outer tail feathers. Their wings show iridescent blue or violet-blue patches, outlined in white. Females have a streaky pattern on brown feathers, with a pale belly and white outer tail feathers. Their wings are similar to males’, but they have a white line on the leading edge of the wing patch.
  • Habitat: The bird can be found in almost any wet area within its range, including small ponds, lakes, and marshes, as long as they are shallow and have some vegetation. It avoids fast-moving or deep waters but is comfortable in mudflats, ponds, and reservoirs. It’s not bothered by human activity and can often be seen in parks and irrigation areas. During the non-breeding season, it also ventures to coastal areas. It usually stays in lowland areas but can be found at higher elevations, up to 2000 meters in the Western Palearctic and even higher during migration in southwest China.
  • Diet: The bird is both a plant and meat eater, and it takes advantage of various food sources it finds. During breeding, it mostly eats insects like midge larvae and dragonflies, as well as aquatic creatures like snails and shrimp, and earthworms. Outside of breeding, it mainly eats seeds, acorns, aquatic plants, and crops like corn and rice. It often feeds by dabbling at the water’s surface or dipping its head underwater.
  • Range: In China, Mallards of the nominate form are most common over winter, but can also be found fairly regularly throughout the year, across the entire country, where suitable habitat is present.

Oriental Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis)

  • Features: The male of the nominate race has a shiny blue-black color on its back and breast, with a white belly and bands along the wings. Its tail is long and graduated, with white sides. It has a black bill and legs. The female resembles the male but is gray instead of black, except on the wings. Juveniles are dark brownish-grey with blackish spots on top, white bands on the wings, and reddish edges on the wings. Their faces, breasts, and flanks are mottled dark on buff, while their bellies to vents are whitish.
  • Habitat: It lives in various habitats like dry forests with some evergreen trees, disturbed swamp forests, teak forests, riverbanks in forests, edges of logging areas, bamboo forests, secondary forests, gardens, orchards, parks, coconut plantations, tall tree farms, small fields, hedges, villages, creekside forests, beach vegetation, cocoa plantations with Albizia trees, mangroves, open areas, and waste disposal sites.
  • Diet: It mainly eats insects like crickets, beetles (including weevils and ladybugs), locusts, ants, caterpillars, dragonflies, wasps, termites, flies (especially dung flies), and their larvae. It also eats other invertebrates like leeches, earthworms, mollusks, millipedes, crabs, spiders, and small vertebrates such as geckos and fish. Additionally, it consumes nectar from certain plants like Salmalia and Erythrina, as well as seeds and fallen fruits. They feed mostly on the ground, hopping upright with their tail pumping over their back. Sometimes, they catch winged termites while flying.
  • Range: The nominate subspecies are common throughout eastern and southern China, including Hainan.

Oriental Turtle Dove (Streptopelia orientalis)

  • Features: The bird has a bluish-grey forehead fading into brownish-grey with a touch of rufous on the neck and pinkish on the face. A black patch is on the neck’s side with grey-tipped feathers. The belly is pinkish-buff, and the underside is whitish with pale grey undertail-coverts. The back of the neck has dark grey feathers with rufous-buff edges. The wing feathers have dark centers, some with orange-buff or light chestnut edges. The primaries are black with pale edges, the rump and underwing are dark bluish-grey, and the tail feathers are mostly dark grey with paler tips. Eye colors range from light red to golden, the bill is mostly black or grey with a pale horn-colored tip, and legs can be dark pink to purple. Females are duller, and the meena race is brighter with rufous edges on feathers and a white tail band.
  • Habitat: Found in diverse habitats, from boreal to tropical forests. It is present in sparse woodlands, scrublands, and wooded farmlands adjacent to cultivated fields.
  • Diet: Forages in paddy fields, consuming cereals, pine seeds, herbs, bamboo shoots, and green plant shoots. It has been seen feeding on small snails. Its primary feeding activity occurs on the ground.
  • Range: The nominate subspecies is present in southern China, up through the Himalayas; meena is found irregularly in southern Tibet; agricolis is present in west Yunnan and Hainan.

Crested Myna (Acridotheres cristatellus)

  • Features: Description: This bird is mostly black with a tuft or crest on its forehead and white patches at the base of its wings. The males are bigger with a more noticeable crest than females, but otherwise, they look alike. Its feathers have a faint purplish-brown tint, especially on the back. The wings are brownish-black with white bases on all primary feathers. Its bill is ivory or horn-colored with a pinkish rosy base, and it has yellow-orange eyes and feet. Juveniles are slatey brown with white wing patches and smaller crests.
  • Habitat: In southern China, this bird is abundant and can be found across open plains, grasslands, fields, and the edges of forests. It is also frequently seen near villages and within urban areas. During dusk, it forms small groups and heads to communal roosting spots where individuals are vocal and create a noisy environment. In its natural habitat, it prefers lowland areas, including open fields and cultivated land like rice paddies. Additionally, it is commonly observed in parks and gardens within suburban areas. However, it tends to avoid wooded areas.
  • Diet: In southern China, the diet of this bird is mostly made up of animal food and vegetable matter. Animal food primarily consists of insects. Plant-based foods include seeds, fruits, and berries like Ficus retusa and Sapium sebiferum. Additionally, they may consume other fruits like Lantana camara and Cordia cylindristachus, and they are known to scavenge dead fish and human leftovers.
  • Range: Two subspecies occur in China: the nominate form is found in southern and southeastern China; brevipennis occurs in Hainan in southern China.

Daurian Redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus)

  • Features: The male bird of the nominate race has a grey crown and black face with a white wing patch. Its rump is orange-rufous, and its underparts are orange-rufous and blackish. The female is mid-brown above with a white wing patch, while juveniles are dark brown with buff mottling. In the leucopterus form, males have a glossy black gorget and darker grey crown, while females are more olivaceous above.
  • Habitat: These birds inhabit sparse subalpine woods, forest edges, riverside thickets, secondary jungle, scrub, clearings, tea gardens, and open areas near human settlements, including gardens and parks. They are found in hilly, partially wooded, and cultivated regions in China and Taiwan, often perching on telephone lines along roads, in gardens, grassy areas with scattered bushes, and groves with thick undergrowth of brambles.
  • Diet: These birds primarily feed on insects, berries, and seeds. In China, birds consume insects, including grasshoppers, ants, flies, bugs, and weevils, along with grass seeds. They make short flights from their perches and occasionally perform short aerial sallies.
  • Range: Both subspecies can be found in China: the nominate form ranges in northeast China as far as Shandong and in the southeast, south from Henan and Anhui; leucopterus is in central and eastern China, including southeastern Tibet.

Vinous-throated Parrotbill (Suthora webbiana)

  • Features: This parrotbill is small with a long tail. In fresh plumage (November), it has a reddish-brown forehead merging with the upper part color on the nape and uppermost mantle. The upperparts are warm-toned mid-brown, slightly buffier on the upper tail-coverts. Flight feathers and tertials are dark brown with buffish-cream inner edges. The outer fringes of the secondaries and primaries are strongly rufous-chestnut. Ear-coverts to throat and upper breast are pinkish-cream with faint warmish brown streaks. Juveniles are darker above than adults with less bright crown and slightly warmer upperparts. Subspecies differ mainly in color tone.
  • Habitat: These birds inhabit scrubland, thickets, secondary growth, forest edges, areas transitioning from early to mature secondary woods, as well as hedges, bamboo groves, reeds, marshes, tea plantations, and plant nurseries.
  • Diet: This bird primarily eats seeds, flowers, fruits, and buds. It also consumes insects and their eggs, such as locusts and caterpillars from geometrid moths.
  • Range: China has five subspecies: the nominate form is found in eastern China, by the coast; elisabethae occurs in extreme southern China, in Yunnan’s southeast; fulvicauda also occurs in the east, but in western and southern Hebei; mantschurica is found in the northeast; suffusa is found widely in central and southeastern China.

Grey-capped/Bonin Greenfinch (Chloris sinica)

  • Features: This finch has a medium size, strong bill, and slightly forked tail. In males of the nominate race, the forehead and face are deep olive-green, extending to the chin and throat. The crown, nape, and rear ear-coverts are dark grey or blackish-olive. The mantle, back, and scapulars are rich warm brown, with the upper mantle often washed olive or grey-green. The upper rump is paler warm buff-brown, while the lower rump is yellow to yellowish-brown with green feather edges. The tail is black or blackish-brown, with bright yellow at the base of outer edges, forming prominent panels at the sides. The chin, throat, and neck are yellow or greenish-yellow, transitioning to warm brown on the breast and deeper brown on the flanks. The belly and undertail-coverts are yellow, and the underwing-coverts are pale yellow. Females are similar but duller, with a uniformly grey head, indistinct darker feather centers on a slightly duller mantle and back, and warm buff-brown underparts.
  • Habitat: These birds inhabit lowland and lower mountain forests with broadleaf and coniferous trees, including secondary forests. They can also be found in trees and bushes along river valleys, riverbanks, hedgerows, and the edges of cultivated areas, orchards, parks, and gardens, up to about 2400 meters. During the non-breeding season, they descend to plains, coastal fields, and the edges of villages and urban areas.
  • Diet: These birds mainly eat a variety of seeds, including weed, shrub, and sunflower seeds, as well as rice, buckwheat, and other grains. Sometimes they also eat small insects. They search for food in shrubs, trees, and on the ground, and in some areas, they visit feeders and bird tables. They are often found in pairs or small groups, but during the non-breeding season, they can gather in large flocks of up to about 1000 birds, especially in cultivated fields.
  • Range: In China, at least four subspecies are present: the nominate form is found in central, eastern, and southeastern China; chabarowi occurs in the far northeast; ussuriensis is also found in the northeast, in Inner Mongolia, but further south than chabarowi; kawarahiba can be found occasionally in south and southeast China in non-breeding seasons.

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

  • Features: Adults of this bird have a distinct appearance, with a black cap, upper back, and scapulars, gray wings, rump, and tail, and white head and neck sides. Their underparts are white to pale gray. They have a stout black bill, red eyes, and yellow-green legs for most of the year, turning pink during the breeding season. During courtship, their lores become black, and their black cap and back develop a blue-green gloss. They also have well-developed white head plumes. Non-breeding adults have a duller cap and back, lack nuchal plumes, have greenish-blue lores, and pale yellow legs and feet.
  • Habitat: These birds have a diverse habitat range, from freshwater to brackish or saltwater environments, including floating kelp beds up to 500 meters from land in the Falkland Islands. They are commonly found in areas with aquatic vegetation, along forested margins of rivers, streams, lagoons, and coastal mudflats. They also frequent human-made areas such as pastures, rice fields, crop fields, reservoirs, canals, and fish ponds. However, they typically nest in well-protected areas like islands and zoos. During migration, they can be found in dry land and along marine coasts. They roost in leafy trees with thick cover, such as oak, pine, mangroves, or bamboo, sometimes gathering in large numbers.
  • Diet: This bird is an opportunistic feeder, consuming a diverse range of foods such as leeches, earthworms, aquatic and terrestrial insects, prawns, crayfish, clams, mussels, squid, freshwater and marine fish, amphibians, lizards, snakes, turtles, small mammals, birds, eggs, carrion, plant materials, and scavenging garbage and refuse from landfills.
  • Range: The nominate form is found regularly all over the country, barring the drier western region.

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

  • Features: In most areas where it lives, this bird is the only small blue kingfisher. The male of the nominate race has a rufous spot near its eye, a black stripe across its eyes, rufous ear-coverts, and a white stripe on its neck. Its crown and malar stripe are barred blue and black. Its upperparts and tail are a brilliant azure-blue, while its wings are dark greenish-blue with paler blue spots. It has a white chin and throat, and rufous underparts. Its bill is black with a red gape, its iris is dark brown, and its legs and feet are orange-red. It’s distinguished from similar small Alcedo species by its rufous ear-coverts. The female looks like the male, but its lower mandible is orange-red with a black tip. Juveniles are duller and greener than adults, paler below, with dusky barring on the breast, a whitish tip on the bill, and black legs and feet. The race bengalensis is smaller and brighter.
  • Habitat: This bird prefers still or gently flowing water with plenty of small fish and vegetation like reeds, rushes, or shrubs along the banks for perching. It likes streams, small rivers, canals, and ditches more than open water bodies, but it also uses lakes, ponds, and flooded gravel pits. During the breeding season, it needs suitable banks for nesting, although nest sites can be over 250 meters away from where it finds food. In winter, it tends to move closer to the coast, also frequenting estuaries, harbors, and rocky seashores. In tropical regions, it is found in the lower parts of rivers with dense vegetation, creeks in mangroves, swamps, wet grasslands, and large gardens. In some parts of its range, it interacts with similar species, which can affect its choice of habitat.
  • Diet: Fish are the main prey for this bird. They eat a variety of fish species, including minnows, sticklebacks, bullhead, roach, barbel, grayling, trout, dace, chub, perch, young pike, loach, carp, gudgeon, ruffe, bleak, nase, and others
  • Range: Two subspecies in China: the nominate form is found in all over the western side of the country; bengalensis occurs in the south and the east.

Eastern Spot-billed Duck (Anas zonorhyncha)

  • Features: The tips of the inner tertial feathers are white, standing out against the dark plumage. The bill is black with a broad yellow tip and a black nail. The eyes are brown, and the legs and feet are a dull orange color.
  • Habitat: These birds prefer different kinds of wetlands found inland and along the coast, including tidal and brackish areas. They like open low-lying areas with shallow, fresh water and lots of emergent vegetation. They’ve been spotted as high as 3350 meters during migration in southwestern China.
  • Diet: They primarily eat a vegetarian diet, consuming seeds and various parts of grasses, sedges, and aquatic plants. Occasionally, they also eat water insects, larvae, worms, and mollusks like water snails. They feed by dabbling, dipping their heads, and upending in shallow waters, as well as by walking around and probing in marshes. They are typically seen in pairs or small groups, but occasionally gather in flocks of up to 100 birds.
  • Range: Found widespread in eastern China.

White-cheeked Starling (Spodiopsar cineraceus)

  • Features: This bird is a medium-sized, brownish-grey starling with elongated feathers on the nape and throat. Males typically have a black forehead, crown, and nape with a greenish-blue shine, along with a white cheek with some black streaking. Their mantle and back are brownish-grey, while their rump is white. Their wings and tail have a slight greenish gloss, and the tail feathers have white tips. The throat to upper breast is sooty-grey, sometimes with scattered white feathers, and the lower breast and flanks are paler grey to off-white. Females lack the black cap but have a white cheek and rump. Juveniles resemble females but with brown streaks on their cheeks.
  • Habitat: These birds inhabit various open areas, including cultivated land, pastures, open woodlands, parks, and towns. They form communal roosts throughout the year, and some birds may fly up to 40 kilometers each day to forage. There is often overlap in the feeding areas of birds from different roosts, and some roost sites and feeding areas have remained consistent for over 40 years. They may gather in pre-roost assemblies up to 2 kilometers from the roost site.
  • Diet: These birds eat a variety of foods, but their main diet consists of invertebrates, especially insects. They also eat small reptiles like geckos, frogs, earthworms, spiders, crayfish, and various insects such as beetles, butterflies, grasshoppers, flies, ants, and bees. Nestlings are often fed mole-crickets as their main food. Additionally, they consume fruits like cherries, mulberries, and strawberries, with more fruit eaten during the winter months.
  • Range: Regular all over the eastern half of the country.

Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra)

  • Features: There’s a noticeable difference between the black head and neck and the slightly lighter body. The bird has white tips on its secondaries and lacks red knobs on the top of its frontal shield. There’s a pointed projection of loral feathering between the bill and the shield. It’s distinct from F. americana in terms of the colors of its bill, shield, legs, and feet, as well as its dark undertail-coverts and less pronounced contrast between the dark head and the lighter body.
  • Habitat: It primarily prefers large, calm, or slow-moving bodies of water. It can be found in various habitats such as lakes, ponds, reservoirs, barrages, gravel pits, canals, rivers, creeks, marshes, floodlands, and lagoons. It also resides in urban areas near lakes and ponds, as well as in salt pans and clay pans. During breeding season, it utilizes temporary pools and seasonal marshes. It likes fairly shallow waters that allow for diving, with a muddy bottom containing marginal, emergent, floating, or submerged vegetation. While it requires some open water, during breeding it typically stays close to banks or areas with emergent or floating vegetation.
  • Diet: These birds are omnivorous but mostly eat plants. They consume various parts and seeds of aquatic and sometimes land plants, including algae and various types of aquatic and terrestrial vegetation. They also eat seeds from different plants and scavenge plant debris floating on the water’s surface. Their diet includes a variety of animals such as worms, leeches, mollusks, shrimp, insects, spiders, fish, fish eggs, frogs, birds, and small mammals. They use different feeding methods, including scraping algae from hard surfaces, gleaning, dabbling, diving, and grazing.
  • Range: The nominate form is found all the way across China.

Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus)

  • Features: The upper back has long blackish feathers that extend beyond the tail. The wings, upperparts, throat, and belly are white, while the breast has long maroon feathers, and there are long dark grey feathers on the chest. Females are said to have a lighter color on the front of the neck, shorter feathers, no slate-colored patch on the breast, and browner feathers on the shoulders and wingtips. During courtship, their legs turn intense pinkish-red; otherwise, they are yellowish. In the breeding season, their bills are yellow with a bluish base and a black tip (the upper part of the bill is dusky outside of the breeding season). Their eyes are golden-yellow, and their facial skin is greenish-yellow, including a pale ring around the eyes.
  • Habitat: These birds are often found in paddy fields, swamps, ponds, and along riverbanks. They also inhabit mangroves and tidal pools, primarily in lowland areas. In southwestern China, they have been observed up to at least 4000 meters (during migration), and there are occasional sightings in the Himalayas as high as 3570 meters.
  • Diet: The diet includes small frogs, worms, aquatic invertebrates, fish, mollusks, and some terrestrial insects, even small birds. Its feeding techniques are not well understood, but it likely involves standing and walking slowly, feet-first diving, hovering, and dipping. In Hong Kong, they’ve been seen diving into ponds from perches up to 10 meters high. They also feed while flying and have been seen feeding alongside otters.
  • Range: Regular all over eastern China.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

  • Features: The male bird has distinct black nasal tufts, a white to buffish forehead, and a glossy blue-black crown. Its nape is bright crimson-red, and it has large white patches on each side of the black hindneck. The upperparts are bluish-black, often with visible greyish feather bases on the rump and white outer scapulars. The flight-feathers are black or brownish-black with white spots forming bars, and there may be some white in the primary coverts. The belly is generally white or pale greyish-white, with a bright scarlet vent and undertail-coverts. Its bill is short to moderately long and blackish-grey, with a paler base on the lower mandible. The legs are slate-grey or tinged olive.
  • Habitat: Found in various types of woodland and forest, ranging from pure broadleaved forest to stands of conifers. Additionally, frequently observed in copses, tree-lined avenues, parks, and gardens.
  • Diet: The diet is diverse and changes with the seasons in areas with seasonal changes. It includes larvae of wood-boring beetles, moths, and certain wasps. It also consists of various insects like beetles, ants, spiders, and many others. Ants, in particular, are a significant part of their diet. Additionally, they consume crustaceans, mussels, carrion, and sometimes household scraps from feeders. They are known for raiding the nests of other hole-nesting birds and may also eat plant material like conifer seeds and nuts, which are rich in fat.
  • Range: China has multiple subspecies: brevirostris is found in northeast China; japonicus is also in the northeast but only the extreme northeast (Heilongjiang); cabanisi occurs in southeast China and Hainan; stresemanni occurs in central China, including parts of Tibet.

Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops)

  • Features: Easily recognized by its long, curved bill, large crest, and distinctive black-and-white wings and tail. The male has a sandy-buff color with some pinkish tones underneath, and its crest feathers have white spots with black tips. Its wings show white and black bands, and the tail has a white band near the base. The bill is gray, and the legs are short and flesh-colored to dark gray.
  • Habitat: It prefers open areas like pastures, orchards, and vineyards, as well as dry savannas in Africa and steppe regions in Asia. It likes places with short grass or bare ground, along with scattered trees or cliffs for nesting and roosting. These birds need perches, shade, and suitable places to build nests and find food. You often see them around villages and traditional farmlands.
  • Diet: It mainly eats larger insects like crickets, beetles, and caterpillars, as well as spiders and ants. Sometimes it also eats small animals such as lizards and frogs, but it’s rare for it to attack larger prey like toads.
  • Range: China has two subspecies: the nominate subspecies is present in the northwest of the country; longirostris is found in the southern China.

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

  • Features: It’s a large, all-white heron with long black legs and feet, a long neck, and a long all-yellow bill. It has a distinctive S-shaped neck. During breeding season, it grows long plumes on its back, called aigrettes, which it displays during courtship. It also grows long feathers on its lower neck and breast during this time. It doesn’t have a crest or plumes on its head or breast.
  • Habitat: It can be found in various wet areas like marshes, riverbanks, lakesides, and coastal zones, including places like fishponds, sewage works, and rice fields. Sometimes, it’s also seen in agricultural areas like drainage ditches and fields.
  • Diet: Adaptable in its diet, primarily consuming fish but also feeding on crustaceans and various other creatures such as amphibians, reptiles, birds, and small mammals.
  • Range: Two subspecies are present in China: the nominate form occurs in northeast China (Heilongjiang) and winters in the south of the country; modesta is present in southeast and eastern China.

Threats and Conservation

Birds in China face various threats to their survival, including habitat loss due to urbanization, deforestation, and agricultural expansion, as well as pollution, climate change, and illegal hunting. Conservation efforts are underway to address these challenges, with organizations such as the China Bird Watching Network (CBWN) playing a significant role. CBWN focuses on habitat protection, research, education, and advocacy to safeguard bird populations and their habitats across China. Additionally, international organizations like BirdLife International collaborate with local partners to implement conservation projects aimed at preserving critical bird habitats and raising awareness about the importance of bird conservation. Despite these efforts, ongoing vigilance and concerted action are necessary to ensure the long-term survival of birds in China.

Citizen Science

Citizen science initiatives in China are gaining momentum as a valuable tool for monitoring bird populations and understanding their habitats. Among these initiatives, eBird stands out as a prominent platform that allows birdwatchers to contribute their observations and sightings to a global database. By submitting their data, participants help scientists and conservationists track bird distribution, abundance, and seasonal patterns across different regions of China.

In addition to eBird, projects like the China Bird Report (CBR) engage citizen scientists in collecting data on bird species and their habitats, providing valuable insights into avian ecology and conservation needs. These citizen science efforts not only enhance our understanding of China’s rich avifauna but also empower local communities to participate in conservation efforts and contribute to global biodiversity monitoring.

Conclusion

China boasts a diverse avifauna with a wide range of bird species inhabiting various ecosystems across the country. From the bustling cities to remote wilderness areas, birders can encounter a fascinating array of avian life. While some species face threats such as habitat loss, pollution, and illegal trade, conservation efforts led by both governmental and non-governmental organizations are striving to protect and preserve China’s rich birdlife. Continued research, monitoring, and community engagement are essential to ensuring the conservation and sustainable management of the most common birds in China for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

Credits:

Birds of the World – https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/home

Shanghai Birding – https://www.shanghaibirding.com/