The number of recorded bird species in China has reached over 1,300, while more than 460 of them have been recorded in the Beijing area. Though there are some year-around feathered residents in Beijing such as sparrow and magpie, most of them are seasonal. Spring and autumn are the prime time for spotting migratory birds that make up to 50% of the registered bird species of Beijing. The city’s most rare and sought-after birds are probably IbisbillI, Chinese Nuthatch, Beijing (Chinese Hill) Babbler, Grey-sided Thrush, and Green-backed (Elisae’s) Flycatcher.
There are residents in Beijing that stay only during particular seasons. Summer residents such as herons and egrets breed in spring and summer and leave southward in autumn and winter. Winter residents like bohemian waxwings and long-eared owls occupy their temporary homes during the winter months and leave as soon as the spring settles. Besides the seasonal feathered residents, there are also passing migrant birds. These birds pass through Beijing and the surrounding areas in spring, autumn, and winter on their migratory way northbound or southbound. Bean geese, greater white-fronted geese, and swans are typical ones.
Yeyahu Lake Wetland Natural Reserve (北京延庆野鸭湖湿地) about 100 km (60 mi) northwest of Beijing, occupies 3,939 hectares of wetland, which is the biggest wetland protection area as well as the only wetland birds protection area. There are around 280 species of wetland birds recorded in this protected territory. About a dozen of them are of the national level of China animal protection. Here you can spot Common Pheasant, Common Black-headed Gull, White-eyed Pochard, Common Kestrel, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Black-capped Kingfisher, Eurasian Hobby, Little Egret, Spot-billed Duck, Far-Eastern Curlew, Black Stork, Azure-winged Magpie, and many others. This park can be one of the best places for you to watch birds in proximity to Beijing.
If you prefer to stay in the city, top places for birding in Beijing are Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, and Olympic Forest Park—all these are great choices for you to view various types of birds. These locations are home to about 200 bird species, so the chances of spotting a few are rather high. The most common birds that can be found in central parks and other green areas of Bejing are Eurasian Kestrel, Spotted Dove, Hoopoe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Azure-winged Magpie, Eurasian Magpie, Barn Swallow, and others.
In the early morning, most birds forage, which makes it the best time of the day for bird watching. Morning is also the time for birds to attract mates by singing. Season-wise, the best time for bird watching in Beijing and its surrounding nature sites is early spring and mid- to late autumn when the numbers of migratory birds reach their peak while they are flying north for summer breeding and south for winter residence. In winter months, China welcomes visitors from Mongolia and Russian Siberia. Thus, the best time for birding in Beijing runs roughly from October to April, however, you can enjoy this activity any time of year.