The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Asia (and its islands)

CHINA’S SICHUAN & NORTHERN YUNNAN: The Ultimate Chinese Endemics Tour

Friday 17th May – Wednesday 5th June 2024

Leaders: Simon Mitchell and a local bird guide

20 Days Group Size Limit 7
Northern Yunnan Pre-Tour Extension

Tuesday 14th May – Friday 17th May 2024

4 Days Group Size Limit 7
Saturday 17th May – Thursday 5th June 2025

Leaders: to be announced and a local bird guide

20 Days Group Size Limit 7
Northern Yunnan Pre-Tour Extension

Wednesday 14th May – Saturday 17th May 2025

4 Days Group Size Limit 7


Birdquest’s Sichuan & Northern Yunnan, China birding tours, explore the richest part of this fascinating country in terms of endemic birds and other Chinese special birds. Our Sichuan & Northern Yunnan, China birding tours, explore southwest China and offer comprehensive coverage and an unsurpassed number of endemics and other major specialities, not to mention fantastic scenery and wonderful cuisine. Highlights of our Sichuan, China birding tours include a fabulous series of pheasants, Chinese (or Severtzov’s) Grouse, Black-necked Crane, Père David’s Owl, Firethroat, White-speckled (or Biet’s) Laughingthrush, Gold-fronted Fulvetta, Streaked Barwing, an amazing variety of parrotbills, Yunnan Nuthatch, Przevalski’s Finch (a monotypic family) and sometimes the rare Blackthroat.

China is a vast and enigmatic land that has long fascinated outsiders. For naturalists, it has been China’s wealth of endemic birds and mammals, epitomized by the Giant Panda and the rare pheasants and other birds that inhabit the mountains along the eastern rim of the Tibetan Plateau, which have exerted an almost irresistible attraction. As with so many other remote areas, the difficulties associated with getting there, whether natural hazards or man-made obstacles, merely added to the fascination. Even now, with access much easier, comparatively few birders have had the opportunity to see for themselves the marvellous endemic birds of China.

The diversity of birdlife is somewhat limited in parts of the heavily populated east (although even here there are some superb areas for birding) but, in complete contrast, vast tracts of the north, west and centre of China are sparsely populated and this enormous region offers some of the finest birding in Asia. For those with a particular interest in Asian birds, or indeed for anyone who loves to travel far from the beaten track, a visit to interior China offers something uniquely rewarding.

During this exciting tour, we shall visit Sichuan and northern Yunnan, a region in the very heart of China that best reflects the astonishing avian diversity of this huge country (which has an avifauna of over 1300 species). Sichuan and northern Yunnan lie at the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau and these superb provinces have the richest concentration of Chinese specialities, holding around two-thirds of the country’s endemic birds! Not only do Sichuan and northern Yunnan offer the best opportunities for seeing China’s prime specialities, but due to the great diversity of their habitats, ranging from the subtropical lowlands of the Red Basin and rich evergreen foothill forests to cool temperate zone forests, alpine meadows, dramatic snow-capped mountain peaks and vast grasslands at the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, there is a remarkable wealth of birds in general. Without a doubt, Sichuan and northern Yunnan are the very best of China!

This ‘Ultimate Chinese Endemics’ tour, producing more of the speciality birds of Sichuan and northern Yunnan than any other, is a fabulous adventure, with incredible scenery as well as wonderful, rarely observed birds. Dramatic improvements in the standard of accommodation and in the condition of the roads in recent years (they are now often good or even very good), combined with the discovery of new areas with easier access for birding, mean that this is no longer such a tough tour as it once was. A bonus is some of the best food we encounter on any Birdquest tour!

We start our Sichuan, China birding tour in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, from where we travel northwards to Tangjiahe, one of China’s Giant Panda reserves that still has plenty of bamboo remaining. Here we will have our first exposure to Sichuan’s rich avifauna including the spectacular Golden Pheasant, Baikal Bush Warbler, Emei, Claudia’s, Kloss’s, Sichuan and Chinese Leaf Warblers, Three-toed and Spectacled Parrotbills, Spotted and Elliot’s Laughingthrushes, Golden-breasted and Grey-hooded Fulvettas, White-collared Yuhina, Sooty and Yellow-bellied Tits, Sichuan Treecreeper, and the skulking Slaty Bunting. There is also a chance for the rare Przevalski’s (or Rusty-throated) Parrotbill. Some interesting mammals occur here too, and we may well see Takin and Chinese Serow.

Heading further north and west, we eventually drop down from a high pass to the Jiuzhaigou region, situated close to the meeting point of Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces. The alpine valleys of the area, with their rich forests, inhabited by ethnic Tibetans, have a rich avifauna and specialities including the huge Blue Eared Pheasant, the magnificent Père David’s Owl, Salim Ali’s Swift, Chestnut Thrush, Barred Laughingthrush, Père David’s (or Rusty-breasted) Tit, Chinese and Przevalski’s Nuthatches, Tibetan Serin (or Tibetan Siskin), and Grey-headed Bullfinch. The star attraction here used to be the little-known Rufous-headed Robin, which we first discovered here in 1984, but sadly the tiny population appears to have died out, and no other regular sites are known!

From the Jiuzhaigou region, we shall continue our journey westwards, climbing over high, spruce- and scrub-clad passes, until we come to the high grasslands of the edge of the Tibetan Plateau itself, a wild landscape where swarthy Tibetan herders still graze their yaks, ponies and sheep, and where the nomadic lifestyle still continues into the 21st century.

Here, in the Ruoergai region, and further south near Hongyuan, we will explore this mix of habitats for such special birds as Chinese (or Severtzov’s) Grouse, Blood Pheasants, Verreaux’s Monal Partridge, the rare Black-necked Crane, Tibetan Lark, Maroon-backed Accentor, Kessler’s and Chinese Thrushes, Alpine Leaf Warbler, the superb little Crested Tit-Warbler, Giant and Snowy-cheeked (or Sukatschev’s) Laughingthrushes, Chinese Fulvetta, Sichuan Jay, Daurian Jackdaw, the strange Ground Tit (or Hume’s Groundpecker), White-browed and Sichuan Tits, Hodgson’s Treecreeper, Tibetan, White-rumped and Rufous-necked Snowfinches, and Himalayan Beautiful, Pink-rumped, Three-banded and Chinese White-browed Rosefinches. High on many group members’ want list will be the lovely Przevalski’s (or Pink-tailed) Finch, which is now treated as a monotypic bird family.

From the grasslands, already sated with China’s avian riches, we return to the alpine valleys around Maerkang and from there we continue to the famous reserve at Wolong, site of the World Wildlife Fund’s Giant Panda research project. Here we shall search for more exciting specialities, including the superb White Eared Pheasant, the awesome Chinese Monal, Snow Partridge, Tibetan Snowcock, the stunning Firethroat, the rare and little-known Blackthroat (now known to breed on occasion here), the lovely Chinese Rubythroat, the strange Grandala, Chestnut-crowned Bush Warbler, Martens’s Warbler, Brandt’s Mountain Finch and Red-breasted Rosefinch, all amidst truly dramatic mountain scenery.

It will be hard to top this series of amazing areas, yet more is to come as we head south through dry valleys, first to Erlangshan, where we will be looking for Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, Grey-crowned Warbler, Black-browed Tit and Sharpe’s Rosefinch. We also have a good chance of encountering the lovely Streaked Barwing.

Continuing southwards, the forests of Labahe hold some remarkable tame and truly stunning Temminck’s Tragopans, and we also have another chance for Lady Amherst’s Pheasant.

Finally, we shall reach Wawu Shan, a forest reserve that holds in particular Grey-hooded Parrotbill, the handsome Emei Shan Liocichla and the secretive Golden-fronted Fulvetta, as well as Buffy and Red-winged Laughingthrushes, David’s Fulvetta and Sichuan Bush Warbler.

For some additional marvellous birds, we have a pre-tour extension to Lijiang in northern Yunnan, situated not far from the awesome peaks of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Here we will be searching out the little-known White-speckled (or Biet’s) Laughingthrush, Yunnan Nuthatch and Rufous-tailed Babbler (or Moupinia), as well as Black-breasted Thrush, Brown-winged Parrotbill, Black-bibbed Tit and Black-headed Greenfinch.

At the end of our visit to this ornithological Mecca, we shall reluctantly head for home, taking back memories of many marvellous birds and an endless panoply of scenic splendour.

Birdquest pioneered China birding tours to Sichuan as far back as 1984.

What makes the Birdquest Sichuan, China birding tour special?: As well as our comprehensive itinerary, extensive experience of the area (since 1984!) and expert leadership, the Birdquest group size limit is lower than for most other China birding tours to Sichuan (significantly so in some instances). There is a lot of forest birding in Sichuan (and Yunnan) and so a smaller group size limit is a major benefit to participants.

Important: There have been periodic closures of a number of the reserves in Sichuan owing to landslide issues blocking roads and to ‘redevelopment’. Flexibility has been key, and this itinerary represents our preferred route for our Sichuan birding tour but may need to be adjusted according to the situation when we visit.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are mostly of a good standard, occasionally medium standard. Road transport is by minibus and roads are mostly very good.

Walking: The walking effort during our Sichuan, China birding tour is mostly easy or moderate. There are a few optional more demanding walks, on steep trails or off-trail, at moderate to high altitudes.

Climate: Rather variable. At lower altitudes, it is generally warm or hot (and often rather humid), whilst at higher altitudes, temperatures range from cool to decidedly cold. At this season sunny periods alternate with rainy, overcast weather (and it may even snow at high altitudes).

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Sichuan, China birding tour are worthwhile.


  • The rugged eastern terminus of the mighty Himalayas and some of the world’s most stunning scenery
  • Enchanting temperate forests loaded with a myriad of endemic birds
  • Stunning Golden Pheasants
  • The beautiful mixed forest of Tangjiahe, alive with warblers and babblers
  • Watching the incredible Takin traversing the steep slopes
  • Dawn amidst high elevation conifers, in search of Pere David’s Owl, Sichuan Jay and Crested Tit-Warbler
  • A taste of the Tibetan Plateau at Ruoergai
  • Stately Black-necked Cranes in the meadows of Flower Lake, with the big Tibetan Lark in full song overhead
  • A Grey Wolf trotting past the crazy Ground-tit (or Groundpecker)
  • Magnificant Chinese Monals and other pheasants on the slopes of Balangshan
  • A vision of purple-blue Grandalas alighting in the rocky meadows
  • A rich burst of song betraying the presence of a beautiful Firethroat
  • Resplendant male Lady Amherst’s Pheasants right in front of our vehicle
  • Being circled by a tame male Temminck’s Tragopan and high-hopes of Red Panda at Labahe
  • Being investigated by the inquisitive Golden-fronted Fulvetta and Grey-hooded Parrotbill at Wawu Shan


  • Day 1: Evening tour start at Lijiang.
  • Days 2-3: Lijiang region.
  • Day 4: Lijiang region, then fly to Chengdu to rendezvous with main tour group members.
  • Day 1: Evening tour start at Chengdu.
  • Day 2: Drive to Tangjiahe.
  • Day 3: Tangjiahe.
  • Day 4: Tangjiahe, then drive to Jiuzhaigou region.
  • Day 5: Jiuzhaigou region.
  • Day 6: Jiuzhaigou region, then drive to Ruoergai.
  • Days 7-8: Ruoergai region.
  • Day 9: Ruoergai region, then drive to Maerkang.
  • Day 10: Mengbi Shan, then drive via Balang Shan to Wolong.
  • Days 11-12: Wolong and Balang Shan.
  • Day 13: Drive via Balang Shan to Luding.
  • Day 14: Erlang Shan. Overnight at Luding.
  • Day 15: Erlang Shan, then drive to Labahe.
  • Day 16: Labahe.
  • Day 17: Labahe, then drive to Wawu Shan.
  • Days 18-19: Wawu Shan.
  • Day 20: Wawu Shan, then drive to Chengdu airport for afternoon tour end.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.


Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include this flight: Lijiang-Chengdu.

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)

2024: provisional £5350, $6690, €6150, AUD9960. Chengdu/Chengdu.
Northern Yunnan Pre-Tour Extension: £1110, $1390, €1270, AUD2070. Lijiang/Chengdu.
2025: provisional £5510, $6890, €6330, AUD10260. Chengdu/Chengdu.
Northern Yunnan Pre-Tour Extension: £1160, $1450, €1330, AUD2160. Lijiang/Chengdu.

Single Supplement: 2024: £560, $700, €640, AUD1040.
Northern Yunnan Pre-Tour Extension: £90, $120, €110, AUD170.
Single Supplement: 2025: £570, $720, €660, AUD1070.
Northern Yunnan Pre-Tour Extension: £100, $130, €110, AUD190.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour:  Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.


Sichuan, China: Day 1  Our Sichuan, China birding tour begins this evening at our hotel in Chengdu, where we will overnight. Airport transfers will be provided.

Chengdu is situated near the western margin of the fertile plains of the Red Basin, not far from the high mountains that form the outer ramparts of the Tibetan Plateau.

Sichuan, China: Day 2  Today we will drive to Tangjiahe, one of China’s Giant Panda reserves, for a two nights stay.

Our route first takes us across the flat countryside of the Red Basin and through a very Chinese landscape of intensively cultivated patchwork of small fields, little villages of old-style cottages and tall clumps of bamboo. Some things seem little changed, whether it is the Chinese farmers planting the new rice crop or the villagers buying and selling from the market stalls, but as we pass through the rapidly modernizing towns and cities of Sichuan, complete with high-rise buildings and an incredible amount of on-going construction, we will have an inkling of just how much China’s economic boom has spread from the coast deep inland. Even the roads are a surprise to newcomers, with long stretches of expressway! After a time we reach the mountains and our pace of travel slows.

Along the way, we should see a few open country species such as Chinese Pond Heron, Little Egret, Barn Swallow and Long-tailed Shrike. We will break the journey after reaching the foothills. Here amongst a mosaic of woodland patches, bamboo, cultivation and small hamlets we may well encounter the endemic David’s Fulvetta, the breeding-endemic Swinhoe’s Minivet and such near-endemics as Chinese Bulbul, Collared Finchbill, Chinese (or Mandarin) Blackbird, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Chinese Hwamei and the impressive Yellow-billed Grosbeak. More widespread species include Spotted Dove, Red-rumped Swallow, Himalayan Wagtail, the arboreal Forest Wagtail, Oriental Magpie-Robin, White-crowned Forktail, the delightful little Rufous-faced Warbler with its high-pitched, teetering song, Rufous-capped Babbler, White-browed Laughingthrush, Eurasian Jay, Black-throated Bushtit, Eurasian Tree Sparrow and perhaps the smart Tiger Shrike.

Sichuan, China: Day 3  Tangjiahe is a fabulously scenic area. Deep forested gorges with rushing rivers are towered over by imposing mountains. Deciduous forested slopes give way to a carpet of bamboo and alpine meadows and steep coniferous ridges. The quality of the habitat is soon apparent. Large mammals are reasonably common, and we have an excellent chance of finding impressive species such as Takin and Chinese Serow, as well as Reeve’s Muntjac and Chinese Goral.

There are many avian riches to be found in the reserve, including the spectacular endemic Golden Pheasant (quite easy to see at Tangjiahe, unlike most other places in Sichuan or more widely China), the breeding-endemic Zappey’s Flycatcher, Baikal Bush Warbler (with its insect-like song), the breeding-endemic Emei, Claudia’s and Chinese, and breeding near-endemic Kloss’s and Sichuan Leaf Warblers, endemic Three-toed and Spectacled Parrotbills, shy Spotted and endemic Elliot’s Laughingthrushes, the sneaky endemic Black-streaked Scimitar Babbler, spectacular Golden-breasted and endemic Grey-hooded Fulvettas, the near-endemic White-collared Yuhina, the splendidly bold, endemic Chinese Wren-Babbler (a member of the recently created Cupwing family), the endemic Sooty Bushtit, Fire-capped and near-endemic Yellow-bellied Tits, the localized endemic Sichuan Treecreeper (a species of high-altitude conifers), and the skulking endemic Slaty Bunting. This fantastic reserve had been largely ignored by birders until the rare endemic Przevalski’s (or Rusty-throated) Parrotbill was discovered in the reserve. Formerly known from Jiuzhaigou, it disappeared from there in the last great bamboo die-off and had not been seen for some years before being rediscovered at Tangjiahe. Accessing the right habitat requires effort and entry may not be possible, but we will go in search of this special bird if we can.

Other more widespread species that we have our first chance to encounter include the shy Koklass Pheasant, the vocal Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Himalayan and Lesser Cuckoos, Asian Koel, Grey-headed, Grey-capped, Great Spotted and Crimson-breasted Woodpeckers, the colourful Long-tailed Minivet, Eurasian Wren, skulking Indian Blue, White-browed and Golden Bush Robins, Plumbeous Water Redstart, White-capped Redstart, Blue Whistling Thrush, Rufous-gorgeted and Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers, Chestnut-headed Tesia, Brown-flanked, Yellow-bellied and Aberrant Bush Warblers, Bianchi’s Warbler (the first of the confusing former Golden-spectacled Warbler complex), Greenish, Large-billed Leaf and Hume’s Leaf Warblers, the secretive Pygmy Cupwing, Yellow-browed, Coal, Grey Crested and Green-backed Tits, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Large-billed Crow, Olive-backed Pipit, Grey Wagtail and Vinaceous Rosefinch. If we are fortunate, we will encounter one or two of the less common species of the area, such as the imposing Tawny Fish Owl or the unobtrusive Ultramarine Flycatcher.

Sichuan, China: Day 4  After some final birding at Tangjiahe we will drive northwestwards to the Jiuzhaigou region for a two nights stay.

Sichuan, China: Day 5  Jiuzhaigou is a scenically magnificent area of high, snow-covered peaks, dense coniferous and mixed forests, often cloud-wreathed hillsides covered in flowering rhododendrons and azaleas, bamboo thickets and a host of alpine flowers. The scenic beauty of the area is famous throughout China.

Endemics we will be concentrating on include the magnificent Blue Eared Pheasant, the splendid Père David’s Owl, the impressive but sometimes elusive endemic Barred Laughingthrush, Spectacled Fulvetta, the attractive Père David’s Tit and Przevalski’s Nuthatch, while other important species are the near-endemic Salim Ali’s Swift, Chinese Nuthatch and Tibetan Serin (or Tibetan Siskin). As we explore the area we should also encounter a number of other species such as Chestnut Thrush, Siberian Rubythroat and Daurian Redstart.

Another prime speciality of Jiuzhaigou used to be the lovely Rufous-headed Robin. This little-known and extremely elusive species was only known (as a breeding species) from the neighbouring province of Shaanxi before we discovered it at Jiuzhaigou in 1984 (the first record from China in the modern era. Sadly the tiny population now appears to have either died out or been reduced to a tiny number, perhaps through habitat change. Unless the situation changes we are unlikely to see this jewel of a bird.

Sichuan, China: Day 6  After some final birding in the Jiuzhaigou region we will continue westwards, climbing over high, spruce- and scrub-clad passes, until we come to the high grasslands of the edge of the Tibetan Plateau itself, a wild landscape where swarthy Tibetan herders still graze their yaks, ponies and sheep, and where the nomadic lifestyle still continues into the 21st century.

Eventually, we will arrive at Ruoergai which will be our base for the next three nights.

Sichuan, China: Days 7-8  From Ruoergai, we are able to explore a mix of habitats ranging from ancient conifer forests to the rolling grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau.

In the former we will be searching for a handful of very special birds including the endemic Severtzov’s (or Chinese) Grouse, the bold endemic Verreaux’s Monal Partridge, the uncommon and unobtrusive Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker (represented here by the dark and distinctive funebris subspecies), the secretive Maroon-backed Accentor, Hodgson’s Treecreeper, the endemic Chinese Thrush, the breeding-endemic Yellow-streaked Warbler, the superb little near-endemic Crested Tit-Warbler, the impressive endemic Giant and Snowy-cheeked (or Sukatschev’s) Laughingthrushes, the endemic Chinese Fulvetta, Rufous-breasted Accentor, the very localized endemic Sichuan Jay, the endemic Chinese White-browed Rosefinch and the impressive, near-endemic Three-banded Rosefinch. We’ll also have another chance to look for the much-wanted Blue-eared Pheasant and the magnificent Père David’s Owl.

In the more open grasslands of the Tibetan plateau, crossed by meandering rivers, and dotted with marshes, we will look for another set of special birds. We may awake to a crisp early morning, with mist hanging low over the wide grasslands which will gradually clear to reveal the deep blue sky that is typical of remote, high-altitude regions. The star attraction of this fine area is the rare and endangered near-endemic Black-necked Crane, which still breeds in some of the wetlands. The supporting cast is a good one too! Best of all are the delightful little near-endemic Ground Tits (formerly known as Hume’s Groundpecker or Hume’s Ground Jay, these strange birds are now thought to be aberrant tits rather than ground jays) that bound across the steppe-like some kind of bizarre wheatear, stopping every so often to peck furiously at the ground. Other goodies include the impressive Upland Buzzard, the near-endemic Tibetan Lark, the impressive near-endemic Chinese Grey Shrike (here of the large dark Tibetan form), the smart endemic Kessler’s Thrush and the charismatic, near-endemic Tibetan, White-rumped and Rufous-necked Snowfinches.

We shall also search valleys clothed in high altitude scrub for the near-endemic Tibetan Partridge, the lilac-tinged White-browed (or Severtzov’s) Tit-Warbler, the endemic White-browed and Sichuan Tits, Dusky Warbler, the breeding-endemic Alpine Leaf Warbler and the endemic Plain (or Père David’s) Laughingthrush. The most wanted bird in this characteristic habitat is the endemic Przevalski’s Finch (also known as Pink-tailed Finch), an interesting species that is now placed in its own family.

Other more widespread species in this region of China include Common Pheasant (indigenous here), Black Stork, Greylag Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Eurasian Teal, Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Common Merganser (or Goosander), Himalayan (Griffon) Vulture, Black Kite, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Himalayan Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Common Kestrel, Common Redshank, Common Tern, Common Cuckoo, Eurasian Hoopoe, Horned Lark, Oriental Skylark, Rosy and Blyth’s Pipits, the lovely Citrine Wagtail (here of the attractive black-backed race calcarata – Tibetan Wagtail), Asian House Martin, the attractive Himalayan Bluetail, Black Redstart (complete with red belly here), Blue-fronted Redstart, Siberian Stonechat, Long-tailed Thrush, Buff-barred Warbler, Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Eurasian and Asian Azure-winged Magpies, Red-billed Chough, the smart Daurian Jackdaw, the huge Tibetan race of the Northern Raven, Rufous-vented and Japanese Tits, Grey-backed Shrike, Twite (of the interesting interior Asian form, which may represent a distinct species), Himalayan Beautiful and Common Rosefinches, Grey-headed Bullfinch and Godlewski’s Bunting. We may also see one or two of the more uncommon species such as Bar-headed Goose or Eurasian Eagle-Owl.

We should also encounter good numbers of pikas and perhaps a few larger mammals such as Tibetan Fox or Grey Wolf which are attracted to the sometimes abundant prey.

Sichuan, China: Day 9  Today we will have time for some final birding in the Ruoergai area before heading south to Maerkang for an overnight stay.

We will pass through some incredible landscapes, enjoying the unfolding scenic marvels that seem to stretch forever. When we can manage to take our eyes off the snow-covered peaks and rolling grasslands, we will look for any of the Tibetan Plateau specialities that we have not yet found and we will also keep a keen eye out for the increasingly rare Saker Falcon. There is also a chance for Ibisbill along the rivers. We will also likely encounter other species such as Hill Pigeon, Eurasian Crag Martin, Hodgson’s Redstart and Blue Rock Thrush. If we still need to, we will visit an area of coniferous forest that holds Przevalski’s Nuthatch.

Sichuan, China: Day 10  In the early morning we will climb up high into the mountains by road to an area of coniferous forest on Mengbi Shan where we will have another chance to look for some of the specialities of the high altitude spruce forest. We may well also add a few new species such as the huge Black Woodpecker, the smart White-throated Redstart, Greenish Warbler, Goldcrest, the near-endemic Chinese Babax, Carrion Crow, the attractive endemic Pink-rumped (or Stresemann’s) Rosefinch and both White-winged Grosbeak and the even more impressive Collared Grosbeak. With luck, we will also encounter the handsome Rufous-bellied Woodpecker.

We will then make our way to Wolong for a three nights stay. As we head down from the mountains the Tibetan influence gives way to scenery influenced by the Han Chinese.

Towards the end of our journey we will cross the incredible Balang Shan pass for the first time, an area that we will revisit in the coming days. We will have an opportunity to try for the superb Wallcreeper during the journey.

Sichuan, China: Days 11-12  The Wolong Giant Panda Reserve is world-famous as a result of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s research and conservation efforts to save the species from extinction. The pioneering work on pandas by George Schaller was carried out in this beautiful region of forested mountains, bamboo thickets, alpine meadows and jagged, snow-covered peaks. During our stay in this wonderful part of China, we will be able to explore areas from about 2000m right up to the high alpine zone above 4000m. We shall be birding amidst some breathtaking mountain scenery, with the surrounding peaks rising to over 5500m and the even higher peak of Siguniang visible in the distance.

By using a road that climbs over the Balang Shan range by way of a high pass at over 4500m we can drive right up to the habitat of Tibetan Snowcock, Snow Partridge and the amazingly beautiful but endangered endemic Chinese Monal. At the highest altitudes, where patches of snow-free rocks project above the snow, we may well find gorgeous, indigo-coloured Grandalas, Alpine Accentors, Red-breasted Rosefinches and restless flocks of Plain and Brandt’s Mountain Finches feeding on insects in this seemingly inhospitable environment.

Here also we will look for the incomparable endemic White Eared Pheasant, for we should find these magnificent creatures feeding out in the open early in the morning. At dawn, the loud, barking calls of Koklass Pheasants ring out across the forest.

The rare Blackthroat has been found breeding here occasionally in recent years, so we do have a slim chance of seeing this splendid bird, while in the thickets of bamboo amongst the forest the strikingly-plumaged endemic Firethroat can be enticed into view. We will also have our first chance to see the splendid Temminck’s Tragopan, and if we are lucky will come across one of the rarer species such as Crimson-browed Finch. We shall also have a second opportunity to catch up on a number of species we may have missed elsewhere.

Amongst the many other species that we should encounter in this wonderful reserve are Bearded Vulture (or Lammergeier), the handsome Snow Pigeon, White-throated Dipper, the stunning endemic Chinese Rubythroat, Chestnut-crowned Bush Warbler, the breeding-endemic Martens’s Warbler, Alpine Chough and Streaked Rosefinch. If we are in luck we will also encounter Mountain Hawk-Eagle.

Sichuan, Birding: Day 13  After some final birding at Wolong, we will drive to the town of Luding for a two nights stay, admiring more spectacular scenery as we go.

Sichuan, China: Day 14  From Luding we shall explore the seldom-visited reserve at Erlang Shan, which is home to a number of interesting species. Here, we have our first chance of encountering the superb near-endemic Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, one of the most beautiful but most secretive of China’s pheasants. We will also be looking for Grey Nightjar, Grey-crowned Warbler, the endemic Rufous-tailed Babbler (or Rufous-tailed Moupinia) and the uncommon, near-endemic Sharpe’s Rosefinch. The stunning Firethroat is particularly easy to see here. This area also offers our best chances for both the near-endemic Black-browed Bushtit and the rare and elusive, near-endemic Streaked Barwing.

Other species we may well see in this fine area include Bay Woodpecker, the secretive White-tailed Robin, Grey Bushchat, Ashy-throated Warbler, Dark-sided Flycatcher, White-browed Fulvetta, Stripe-throated Yuhina, the beautiful Gould’s Sunbird, Japanese and Chestnut-flanked White-eyes, and Hair-crested Drongo.

Sichuan, China: Day 15  After some final birding at Erlang Shan we will make our way to Labahe for a two nights stay.

Sichuan, China: Day 16  At higher levels at Labahe the areas of evergreen broadleaf woodland give way to deciduous woodland and ultimately open scrubby, grassy or bamboo-covered areas and stands of mixed coniferous-rhododendron forest (some of the latter will still be in flower at this season). While enjoying Labahe, some superb vistas can be had across a seemingly endless series of mountain ridges.

At Labahe we have a very good chance of encountering the incredible Temminck’s Tragopan. We will also be searching the bamboo for Great and Brown Parrotbills, and the uncommon Fulvous Parrotbill, while more widespread birds we may well encounter here include Himalayan Swiftlet, Brown Dipper, White-browed Shortwing, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Black-chinned Yuhina, Spotted Nutcracker, Russet Sparrow and Dark-breasted Rosefinch.

Labahe is a superb area and we will also have chances to catch up with other species we may not have seen so far, such as Lady Amherst’s Pheasant and Streaked Barwing.

There is even a real chance of encountering the lovely Red Panda.

Sichuan, China: Day 17  After another morning at Labahe we will continue our journey to Wawu Shan for a three nights stay.

Sichuan, China: Days 18-19  The redeveloped and reopened reserve at Wawu Shan was pioneered by Birdquest way back in the 1980s! We will explore different habitats from attractive mixed forest all the way up to the bamboo zone at the top.

Here, in the bamboo, we will seek out our prime target, the little known Grey-hooded Parrotbill, which is usually not too difficult to find. Emei Liocichla is another localized endemic, and this is also an excellent place to see the recently-described endemic Sichuan Thrush and the endemic Sichuan Bush Warbler.

Other specialities here include the restricted-range Chinese Bamboo Partridge, the attractive, near-endemic Red-winged and endemic Buffy Laughingthrushes, the near-endemic Ashy-throated and Golden Parrotbills, near-endemic Golden Parrotbillthe rare and elusive endemic Golden-fronted Fulvetta, the endemic Dusky Fulvetta, the sweet-singing, breeding-endemic Chinese Blue Flycatcher, and the restricted-range Chestnut-vented Nuthatch.

More widespread species include Crested (or Oriental) Honey Buzzard, Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo, White-throated Needletail, White-backed and Darjeeling Woodpeckers, the sneaky Speckled Piculet, Red-billed Leiothrix, Red-tailed Minla, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Rufous-capped Babbler, Verditer, Ferruginous and Brown-breasted Flycatchers, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, the skulking White-bellied Redstart, and the skulking Spotted and Brown Bush Warblers.

Wawu Shan is a very birdy location, and as well as the new species we will also have another chance for many other goodies such as Temminck’s Tragopan, Emei Leaf Warbler, Three-toed and Brown Parrotbills, Sichuan Treecreeper and Fire-capped Tit.

Sichuan, China: Day 20  After some early morning birding at Wawu Shan we will return to Chengdu airport, where our Sichuan birding tour through this incomparable part of China end this afternoon.



Yunnan, China Extension: Day 1  Our tour starts in the evening at our hotel in the town of Lijiang, situated in northern Yunnan province in southwest China, where we will stay for three nights. Airport transfers will be provided.

Yunnan, China Extension: Days 2-3  Lijiang is the principal settlement of the Naxi people, a matriarchal society with some fascinating social customs and the old town, dating back to the 12th century, is well worth seeing. At this point the mighty Yangtze river makes a long loop to the north before resuming its flow towards the China Sea, forming a natural boundary to the spectacular, snow-capped peaks of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountains, rising to over 5500m (18000ft), that tower above the town. This ornithologically little known area offers a feast of dramatically beautiful scenery, with deep valleys clothed in deciduous and coniferous woodland giving way at higher altitudes to alpine meadows and icy peaks.

Some special birds can be found in the Lijiang area and in particular, we will be wanting to see the rare and localized endemic White-speckled (or Biet’s) Laughingthrush (though depressingly this species is becoming increasingly difficult to find due to trapping), the inquisitive near-endemic Rufous-tailed Babbler (or Rufous-tailed Moupinia), the smart Black-headed Sibia, the secretive Rusty-capped Fulvetta, the smart Black-breasted Thrush, the little-known, near-endemic Brown-winged Parrotbill, the near-endemic Black-bibbed and Black-browed Tits, the near-endemic Yunnan Nuthatch and Black-headed Greenfinch.

Other more widespread species that we may encounter include Asian Barred Owlet, Brown-breasted and Himalayan Black Bulbuls, Grey-winged Blackbird, Black-faced, Davison’s Leaf and Buff-throated Warblers, the localized Rosy Minivet, Blyth’s Shrike-Babbler, Green Shrike-Babbler, the endemic Spectacled Fulvetta (a different-looking subspecies compared to those we’ll see in Sichuan), Chestnut-tailed Minla, Buff-bellied Flowerpecker and Black Drongo. We will also have our first encounter with a number of species that will become very familiar in Sichuan.

Yunnan, China Extension: Day 4  We will spend much of the day birding around Lijiang. Afterwards, we will take a short flight to Chengdu in Sichuan province where we will join up with those arriving for the main tour.


View Report


View Report


View Report


View Report

Other China and region birding tours by Birdquest include: