Even though a hugely crowded, developing city, so typical of the new China, Chengdu can provide interesting birding. Even within the city boundaries there are opportunities to get some great ticks.
During passage uncommon species can turn up in the city. Perhaps the most notable of these are the Blackthroats that turn up in the Sichuan University.
Chengdu also has sites with an interesting variety of resident birds.
Chengdu is an ever expanding city – so good birding spots on the outskirts often become gobbled up into new development projects. But within half an hour of the outer city you can still get into farming areas where there’s a chance for Greater Painted Snipe. Passage can be interesting on Paddyfield areas – Chestnut-eared Bunting, Wagtails and various Pipits can turn up – while Grey-headed Lapwing are regular Spring and Autumn visitors.
But it’s the city’s rivers and parks that are the main destinations for most birding groups – with Chinese Grosbeak and Long-billed Plover high on their lists.
WHERE TO WATCH IN THE CITY
During the spring/summer season green areas will provide habitat for Chinese Bulbul, Black-throated Tit, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, White-browed Laughingthrush, Oriental Magpie Robin, Chinese Blackbird and Chinese Grosbeak.
Special places on interest include -
A park around the Dufu Cottage tourist site. This consists of a newly built park – free entrance -surrounding the older area of the Dufu cottage park – which costs 60RMB entrance. The new section of the park has trees and shrubs that are potentially good for birding. For best results, and less staring faces, try to get there early and if possible give it a miss on those crowded weekends. A nice feature of this park is a small lake, which is located outside the ticketed area, where there are Little Egret, White-breasted Waterhen and a chance of visiting species like Ferruginous Duck and Common Tern. The big trees that are close to the lake are a good place to see Yellow-billed Grossbeaks and with luck you can pick up White-cheeked Starling in this area.
Inside the Dufu cottage park there are lot of old trees and still a few dark shady corners that haven’t been ‘over-gardened.’ There’s a lot of birders who’ve given interesting lists for this little park within a park, which includes birds like David’s Fulvetta, and Flycatchers, Warblers and even BOP’s during passage.
As far as recent records go this is the hottest location in the city for passage migrants – which is also due to it being the most watched. The university grounds is another city-center site, that contains nice old trees, where you can still find nice dark corners of scrub that hold passage migrants. Phylloscopus and Seicercus warblers, robins, flycatchers and thrushes – birds that have turned up include Golden Bush Robin, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Gould’s Shortwing, Firethroat, White-tailed Robin, Chinese Wren Babbler and Chinese and Orange-headed Thrush.
Resident birds in university include Chinese Grosbeak, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker and Chinese Blackbird, while Rufous-bellied Woodpecker is a winter visitor.
Two big Rivers run through the heart of Chengdu – and for most of their lengths they are bounded by green park type habitat that make them areas where you once again can spot the common Chengdu species. The river environment itself is interesting, even though most of river-banks comprise of manmade wall – but during periods where water levels are down exposing mud the bird watching is better. The best areas are on the outskirts of the city – there’s a good section of muddy islands out by the new exhibition center. Here look out for Long-billed plover and other waders. In spring you get Citrine and Eastern Yellow Wagtails together with Rosy Pipit. During passage the planted parkland on the man-made banks can contain mixed flocks of migrant passerines – this is also a good area for Chinese Grosbeak the usual egrets and herons are present – together with Cinnamon Bittern.
Another Chengdu wetland site is Qinglong Lake - just to the East of the city - popular with local birders, here you can find Pheasant-tailed Jacana.
CHENGDU PANDA BREEDING CENTER AND THE BOTANICAL GARDENS
These two sites – on the outskirts to the north of the city – are relatively close together and hold some good birds.
The Chengdu Panda Breeding Center, a very popular tourist destination, is good for birding. Breeding species include – Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Red-billed Leiothrix, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Rufous-faced Warbler and Chinese Grosbeak - there's also a heronry with Black-crowned Night Heron, Eastern Cattle Egret and Little Egret. In the past there used to be Forest Wagtail and Chinese Bamboo Partridge - but it seems overzealous park management, where native plants have been replaced with alien species, have made these species more difficult to find
Passage can also be interesting here – there’s a small lake and the vegetation and surrounding grass will attract tired and hungry birds.
During the winter Slaty Bunting are among the visiting birds.
Tickets for this site cost around 60RMB.
The Botanical Gardens is another site with big trees and plenty of Grosbeaks. Species I've picked up here during the summer include Tiger Shrike, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Chinese Grosbeak, Black-naped Oriole, Grey-headed Woodpecker and Yellow-rumped Flycatcher. Much bigger and less famous that Dufu - weekday visits should be a little more peaceful here.