One group that will be high on any birders wish list when they visit China are the pheasants. The elaborately plumaged pheasants are truly a sight to behold but of course many are secretive and difficult to see. Southern China and the Himalayan region are the epicenter of the pheasant radiation – the place where pheasants started down the evolutionary road to today’s remarkable diversity and colour. So, if you want to see pheasants, China is a great place to be. In fact, I saw 15 species in a short trip to Yunnan and Sichuan. I didn’t manage good photos of them all (most like Golden Pheasants, Lady Amherst Pheasant’s, Chinese Monal, Koklass Pheasant, Blood Pheasant, White-eared Pheasant and others offered either too brief views or were too far away to photograph) but here is a smattering of the family. We start with the sensational Temminck’s Tragopan. This male was feeding on a type of white fungus on the trail in the rain and was so intent on his meal that I was able to sneak up on him. I think the raindrops accentuated his rich colour.
And here is a female. In this group, it is most commonly the males who have become gaudy whilst the females have remained very cryptic and well camouflaged. Sometimes it can be very difficult to identify one female pheasant from another.
Next, the big and beautiful Chestnut-throated Partridge. This species is endemic to the forested slopes of the Tibetan Plateau and neighbouring areas and one of only two species in the unique Asian genus Tetraophasis, sometimes referred to as “Monal-Partridges”.
The Chinese Grouse is closely related to Hazel Grouse and endemic to the central Chinese mountains. This is a female (male has black throat).
Since I don’t have good photos of other pheasants, I’ll include of other photos of birds that spend a lot of their time on the ground. Let’s start with one of the highlights of my trip up to the Tibetan Plateau – the Black-necked Crane. Before this trip, this was the only northern hemisphere species of crane I had not seen so I was very keen to get out in the high altitude grasslands to look for them. Scanning the grasslands and wetlands between tents and yaks I soon spotted a family – can you see the three cranes in this photo?
Moving closer, here is an adult feeding
And a youngster (already quite big) with parent.
Also up here breeding were Ruddy Shelducks.
And I found a few shorebirds too such as this Wood Sandpiper.
Also on the ground were several lark species, the most common of which was the Oriental Skylark. This is a juvenile.
And a lark that will be familiar to a lot of northern hemisphere folks – the Horned Lark (Shore Lark) also breeds up in these grasslands.
And why not leave the ground and take off – flying gracefully above the grasslands, the beautiful Black Kite or Black-eared Kite (depending on whether you split the species into 2 or not). These two images give you a further sense of the habitat up on the Tibetan Plateau.