Are you ready to discover the amazing world of avian life in China? From the vibrant blue magpie to the regal Chinese bulbul, this country is home to a dazzling array of feathered friends. In this blog post, we will introduce you to some of the most common backyard birds in China and give you tips on how to attract them to your own backyard.
So grab your binoculars and join us on a journey through the beautiful world of Chinese birds.
1. Chinese Blackbird
Scientific name: Turdus mandarinus
Length: 27-29 centimeters (10-11 inches)
Body mass: 85-122 grams
Although Chinese Blackbirds were once considered a subspecies of the Common Blackbirds (Turdus merula), these thrushes are now recognized as an independent species, with two subspecies of their own!
They’re endemic to the eastern and south-eastern regions of Asia, with an abundant population scattered throughout China. They have a sooty black head and upper parts, while the underparts are slightly paler, almost dark brown.
Although both sexes are strikingly similar, upon a closer glance, you can tell them apart by their subtle differences.
The females are overall browner, and their yellow eye-rings also lack the brightness of that of the males. Lastly, the males have bright yellow bills while females’ bills have a dark touch towards the tip.
Of the two subspecies of Chinese Blackbirds, the nominate ones are distributed throughout eastern and central China, while the Sowerby’s Blackbirds (T. m. sowerbyi) inhabit the southwestern regions. They’re especially popular in the provinces of Guizhou and Sichuan.
2. Spotted Dove
Scientific name: Spilopelia chinensis
Length: 28-32 centimeters (11-12 inches)
Body mass: 160 grams
Lifespan: 13-16 years
The Spotted Doves are an Asian dove species that are found in many parts of the world as an introduced species. Although they were once placed in the genus of turtle-doves, it was recently found that they differ from them on several grounds and are, thus, placed in the Spilopelia genus.
They’re known by several names, including Lace-necked Dove, Mountain Dove, and Pearl-necked Dove.
Spotted Doves have a slender body with a long tail and namesake spots on their hind neck. Their head is white, while the underparts are buff-colored with a rosy wash over them. Their wings and tail appear dark brown, while white spots cover the black feather patch on their hind neck.
They have greyish bills and red eye-rings, legs, and feet. Both sexes of the species are identical in size and plumage.
Spotted Doves have five recognized subspecies, out of which two are found in China. The nominate ones can be spotted in the central and eastern parts of China, while S. c. hainana are endemic to the Hainan province in south-eastern China.
3. Black Woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryocopus martius
Length: 45-55 centimeters (18-22 inches)
Body mass: 250-410 grams
Wingspan: 64-84 centimeters (25-33 inches)
Lifespan: 10 years
Closely related to the Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) of North America, the Black Woodpeckers are large woodpecker species found in Europe and Asia. Ranked among the largest woodpeckers in the world, they’re the largest woodpeckers within their range.
True to their name, the plumage of these woodpeckers is overall black, including their wings and tail, except for a red crown atop their head. Their irises are yellow, and their bills are bone-colored.
Both sexes of this species possess identical plumages and can be distinguished by their face. The crown of the males is entirely red, right from the bills all the way to the back of their head. On the other hand, only the back of their head has a small red patch.
Black Woodpeckers have two subspecies, with the nominate ones found between western Europe and Japan, the D. m. khamensis inhabiting south-eastern China and Tibet.
4. Chinese Grosbeak
Scientific name: Eophona migratoria
Length: 15-18 centimeters (5-7 grams)
Body mass: 40-57 grams
Also referred to as Yellow-billed Grosbeak, the Chinese Grosbeaks are an Asian finch species that inhabits the temperate forests of Russia and south-eastern Asia. These migratory birds breed in the Russian Far East, Korea, Manchuria, and northern China and travel to southern parts of China, Taiwan, and Japan.
The adult Chinese Grosbeaks are sexually dimorphic in their plumage. The males have a black head and face, with a grey mantle and wings, with black secondary feathers and a white border. Their tail has a white base, but the rest of it is black.
On the other hand, the females have a pale grey head and back with a buff wash, black and white wing edges, and a greyish tail.
The undersides of both sexes are white, with pale rufous flanks on the side of their lower belly. They have red irises, reddish legs and feet, and yellow bills with a grey tip.
5. White-cheeked Starling
Scientific name: Spodiopsar cineraceus
Length: 22-24 centimeters (8-9 inches)
Body mass: 58-101 grams
Wingspan: 31-44 centimeters (12-17 inches)
Also referred to as the Grey Starling, the White-cheeked Starlings are an Asian starling species that inhabit the woodlands, farm fields, and other semi-open areas of eastern Asia.
A migratory species, these starlings breed in Japan, Korea, and south-eastern Siberia and migrate to South Korea, northern Vietnam, and Taiwan. In China, they’re found in the central and northern regions in summer and travel south to the southeastern regions during winter.
The plumage of these starlings is mainly grey in color with an overall brownish wash, except for the white cheek patches that lend them their name. Their head is darker than the rest of their body, with dark wing edges and tail and a white rump. They have black irises, orange bills, legs, and feet.
While both sexes have similar plumages, they can be distinguished by their heads. The females have a pale grey head with white markings on their chin which are absent in the males.
6. Red-breasted Parakeet
Scientific name: Psittacula alexandri
Length: 33-38 centimeters (12-14 inches)
Body mass: 133-168 grams
Lifespan: 15-22 years
Alternatively called the Mustached Parakeet, the Red-breasted Parakeets are a near-threatened Asian parakeet species. These parakeets are fairly common within their range and have eight subspecies, out of which only one – P. a. fasciata – inhabits southern China. All the other subspecies are island-dwellers.
Red-breasted Parakeets have a grey face with a black line passing between their eyes and a black chin patch extending from their bills. Their irises are yellow, and the throat and breast are covered in a buff-rosy shade, lending them their name.
Their lower belly and rump are green, and so is their back, with a touch of yellow in the middle of their wings. The color of their tail is green at the base and bluish at the tip.
The adult sexes of this species are identical and can only be told apart by the color of their bills. Males possess reddish bills with a yellow tip, while that of the females are greyish black.
7. Japanese Tit
Scientific name: Parus minor
Length: 12.5-15 centimeters (4-5 inches)
Body mass: 11-22 grams
Lifespan: 2-3 years
Also known as Oriental Tit, the Japanese Tits are a small tit species that inhabit the open habitats of eastern Asia. These birds were once considered conspecific with the Great Tits (Parus major) but are now treated as a separate species.
While their nativity lies in Japan, as their name indicates, these tits are also pretty common in the eastern half of China, the Russian Far East, and the Kuril Islands.
In appearance, they closely resemble the latter, with a black head and semi-circular cheek patches. Their chin is black as well, and extends into a black line that ends on their upper belly. The rest of their underparts are off-white and unmarked.
Their mantle is greenish-grey, with dark edges on their wings and tail. Both sexes of the adults appear identical, displaying monomorphism in their plumage and size.
8. Collared Crow
Scientific name: Corvus torquatus
Length: 52-55 centimeters (20-21 inches)
Body mass: 340-512 grams
Lifespan: 7.5-9 years
Also referred to as the Ring-necked Crow, the Collared Crows are a vulnerable crow species endemic to China. Some smaller populations of these corvids also dwell north of Korea but aren’t well-studied yet.
The body structure of Collared Crows is similar to that of Carrion Crows (Corvus corone), but they’re slightly larger and possess longer wings than the latter. Their plumage is overall iridescent black, except for the white collar that begins from their hind neck and extends all the way to their lower chest.
Like most corvids, the Collared Crows are also sexually monomorphic, with no visible difference between the appearance of the adult sexes. They’re often spotted flying lazily with their feet hanging low from their bodies.
9. Crested Myna
Scientific name: Acridotheres cristatellus
Length: 23 centimeters (9 inches)
Body mass: 102-120 grams
Wingspan: 46 centimeters (18 inches)
Lifespan: 9-11 years
Also referred to as the Chinese Starling, the Crested Mynas are a highly adaptive Asian starling species found all over Indochina and the southeastern regions of China. These starlings occur in a wide variety of open habitats and are commonly spotted around agricultural lands and urban and suburban areas.
Because they alleviate the threat of insects from farms without destroying the crops, the Chinese Starlings are well-liked by the native farmers.
True to their name, these birds have a tuft of crest-like feathers originating from their bills and extending all the way to their nostrils. Their overall plumage, including this crest, is black with a greenish iridescence washed over it.
Their bills are bone-colored, while the irises, feet, and legs are all yellow. They also have white patches on their underwings that are only visible in flight. The adults lack sexual dimorphism, with both sexes appearing identical.
10. Oriental Magpie
Scientific name: Pica serica
Length: 46-50 centimeters (18-19 inches)
Body mass: 185-260 grams
Lifespan: 3-4 years
Alternatively known by the names of Asian Magpie and Korean Magpie, the Oriental Magpies are an Asian magpie species with a wide habitat range. They’re found from Myanmar and south-eastern Russia to Korea, Japan, Taiwan, northern Indochina, and eastern China.
An important symbol in Korea, these birds are declared the official bird of several South Korean provinces and cities. They also hold cultural importance in China and were regarded as the bird of joy in the Manchu Dynasty.
These magpies closely resemble the Eurasian Magpies (Pica pica) in their plumage colors, but have a stockier body with longer wings and a shorter tail. The black shade of their head extends to their mantle and breast, with the rest of their underparts being stark white.
Their wings are mainly dark blue in color, with two bold white shoulder bars, one on each wing. Their tail is blue as well, while the eyes, bills, legs, and feet are all black.
11. White Wagtail
Scientific name: Motacilla alba
Length: 16.5-19 centimeters (6-7 inches)
Body mass: 25-32 grams
Lifespan: 11-12 years
Belonging to the family of the Longclaws and Pipits, the White Wagtails are a wagtail species that inhabit Eurasia and some parts of North America. A small population of vagrants is also found breeding in the mountains of western Alaska.
White Wagtails have over ten subspecies, out of which only one – Amur Wagtails (M. a. leucopsis) – is widespread throughout China.
They’re slender-bodied birds with a long, wagging tail that lends them their name. Their plumage is colored in grey and white, with a black cap and bib extending to their throat. The rest of their face is white, and so are their undersides, save for grey flanks.
Their mantle is slate-grey, with darker touches on their wings and tail. The females are similar to the males; only their head cap is greyer, and they possess grey throat spots absent in the males.
12. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Scientific name: Passer montanus
Length: 12.5-14 centimeters (4-5 inches)
Body mass: 22-24 grams
Wingspan: 21 centimeters (8.3 inches)
Lifespan: 3-4 years
Belonging to the family of the Old World Sparrows, the Eurasian Tree Sparrows are sparrow species that breed throughout temperate regions of Europe and Southeast Asia. They’re simply referred to as Tree Sparrows in their native range but are known by their full name in places where they live as an introduced species.
These sparrows have over eight recognized subspecies, out of which two – Tibetan Tree Sparrows (P. m. tibetanus) and Afghan Tree Sparrows (P. m. dilutus) – inhabit China. They’re found in almost every city of the country and commonly dwell around urban and suburban areas.
Eurasian Tree Sparrows are the only members of their genus that display no dimorphism between the sexes. The adults have a rich chestnut-colored head with white cheeks and black ear patches on each side.
Their undersides are pale brownish, with darker flanks, brown wings, and tail. You’ll also notice white bars on their wings. Their eyes are bills are dark, while the legs and feed are orangish.
13. Light-vented Bulbul
Scientific name: Pycnonotus sinensis
Length: 19 centimeters (7.4 inches)
Body mass: 30-46 grams
Lifespan: 11 years
Also referred to as the Chinese Bulbul, the Light-vented Bulbuls are an Asian songbird species found in southern Japan, Taiwan, northern Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macao, and central and southern China.
A rare vagrant in South Korea, the Light-vented Bulbuls primarily inhabit lightly wooded forests but can also be spotted in towns, parks, and suburbs. These bulbuls have four recognized subspecies, out of which the nominate ones densely populate China.
While they do possess a white vent as their name indicates, a more striking feature of these birds is the white, ring-like patch that extends from their eyes and covers the back of their head. Their forehead is black, with a white chin and two off-white patches located near their ears.
A buff-rufous shade spreads on their throat, but grows lighter around their chest, finally turning white. Their upper parts are olive-green, including the wings and tail. Their eyes, bills, and legs are all black. The adults of this species are sexually monomorphic.
Scientific name: Fringilla montifringilla
Length: 16 centimeters (6.2 inches)
Body mass: 23-29 grams
Wingspan: 25-26 centimeters (9-10 inches)
Lifespan: 2-3 years
Belonging to the family of True Finches, the Bramblings are a migratory finch species that are known for the remarkably large flocks that they’re always seen in. Other names they’re popularly known by include Mountain Finch and Cock o’ the North.
These finches breed in Europe and east of the Palearctic, and migrate to North Africa, northern India and Pakistan, Japan, and China during winters. Some vagrants are also found straying into North America occasionally.
In China, they’re the winter residents occurring in open birch woodlands and other coniferous forests where they can easily find food.
Although both sexes of these finches appear quite similar outside of their breeding season, the males have quite a distinct breeding plumage. Their head and mantle are jet black, with an orangish-rufous chin and upper breast, and whitish belly and rump.
On the other hand, the non-breeding males and females are brownish, with black markings around their eyes. Their brown mantle is covered in black streaks, while the undersides have less rufous and more white.
Both sexes have similar brown wings streaked with black and a forked black tail. The sides of their lower belly contain several black spots, and their yellow bills are tipped with grey.
15. Common Emerald Dove
Scientific name: Chalcophaps indica
Length: 23-27 centimeters (9-10 inches)
Body mass: 90-170 grams
Lifespan: 10-15 years
Also referred to as Grey-capped Emerald Doves, the Common Emerald Doves are a small emerald dove species endemic to the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia and Indian subcontinent. They’re the official state bird of Tamil Nadu in India and are colloquially called Green-winged Pigeons there.
Common Emerald Doves have six subspecies, out of which the nominate ones are permanent residents in southern China.
These doves have a stocky body with rounded wings and a short tail. The grey cap that lends them their alternate name is only present in the males, which marks the only visual distinction between the sexes.
Their head, mantle, and chest are covered in buff brown with a rosy wash around the throat. The lower parts of their underbody turn pale greyish, while the wings are vibrant green. Their tail is brown, with black eyes, orange bills, and reddish legs.
Scientific name: Corvus frugilegus
Length: 44-46 centimeters (17-18 inches)
Body mass: 280-340 grams
Wingspan: 81-99 centimeters (32-39 inches)
Lifespan: 6 years
Rooks are a large, gregarious corvid species endemic to the Palearctic, western Siberia, and eastern Europe. They have two recognized subspecies, out of which the nominate ones (Western Rook) dwell in the north-western regions of China, southern Russia, and western Europe.
Rooks are quite similar to crows in appearance with their overall black plumage. Only their heads are smaller, bills more pointed, and bellies low hung. The bill color varies as well; while most crows are black-billed, the bills of Rooks are pale greyish. Furthermore, a bare white skin patch surrounds their bill, lending them an even larger impression than they actually are.
Both sexes of the Rooks are identical in appearance, displaying no dimorphism in plumage or size.
17. Olive-backed Pipit
Scientific name: Anthus hodgsoni
Length: 15 centimeters (5.9 inches)
Body mass: 22-38 grams
Also referred to as Hodgson’s Pipit, the Olive-backed Pipits are a Eurasian pipit species that breed in north-eastern European Russia and central and eastern Asia. These long-distance migrants travel to southeast Asia during winter. In China, they’re a common winter resident.
Olive-backed Pipits closely resemble the Tree Pipits (Anthus trivialis); only their back has lesser streaks than the latter, and is covered in olive green. Their undersides are buff-colored and have heavy brown streaks. Both sexes of this species look identical, much like most other pipits.
18. Black Drongo
Scientific name: Dicrurus macrocercus
Length: 28 centimeters (11 inches)
Body mass: 40-68 grams
Popular for their highly aggressive behavior towards larger birds, the Black Drongos are a small but territorial drongo species endemic to Asia. They breed throughout the tropical regions of southern Asia, including China, where they’re a common resident.
As you can gather from their name, the plumage of Black Drongos is entirely black, including the eyes, bills, legs, and feet. An iridescent wash covers their body, lending them a purplish or bluish sheen in the sunlight.
Their tail is considerably longer in comparison to the rest of their body, and ends in a deep fork. Both sexes of the drongo are indistinguishable, displaying no dimorphism.
19. Marsh Tit
Scientific name: Poecile palustris
Length: 11.5-12 centimeters (4 inches)
Body mass: 12 grams
Wingspan: 19 centimeters (7.5 inches)
Lifespan: 5 years
The Marsh Tits are a small passerine bird species endemic to the temperate regions of Europe and northern Asia. In China, they’re widespread in the northern and eastern regions.
The appearance of Marsh Tits is strikingly similar to that of the Willow Tits (Poecile montanus); only their undersides are not dark as the latter. Their head is covered in a black cap, with similarly colored eyes and bills. A black spot is present below their beak, while the rest of their face is pale whitish.
Their upper parts, including the wings and tail, are greyish brown, while the undersides are pale buff with rufous touches near their throat and flanks. Being monomorphic, both sexes of the tits resemble each other.
20. Black-naped Oriole
Scientific name: Oriolus chinensis
Length: 27 centimeters (10.6 inches)
Body mass: 83 grams
Lifespan: 4-6 years
The Black-naped Orioles are an Asian oriole species that are widespread throughout their range, having over twenty recognized subspecies. In China, they densely populate the northeastern regions during the breeding months, nesting in forests, plantations, and gardens.
The appearance of Black-naped Orioles is often compared to that of the Indian Golden Orioles (Oriolus kundoo), and indeed the two share the same plumage color: golden-yellow. However, the eye masks of the latter are shorter, and so are their bills.
Black-naped Orioles are yellow in their face, undersides, and upper parts. A bold black stripe runs around their face, covering their red irises. Their secondary feathers and uppertail are also black, while the primary feathers and undertail coverts remain yellow.
Their bills are large, bulbous, and colored pale pink. Both sexes of these orioles are closely identical; only the females have an olive tone on their mantle, which is absent in the males.
21. Common Flameback
Scientific name: Dinopium javanense
Length: 28-30 centimeters (11 inches)
Body mass: 79-100 grams
Lifespan: 4-12 years
Also referred to as Common Goldenback, the Common Flamebacks are a three-toed woodpecker species endemic to southern and southeastern Asia.
These birds are among the smaller members of their genus and have six recognized subspecies. Out of these six, the ones that are found in southern China are the largest: Dinopium javanense intermedium.
Common Flamebacks have a white face with black lines running across them. Being crested woodpeckers, the males of this species have a red crest sitting atop their head, while the crest of the females is black and white. This distinction is the only dimorphism between the sexes, often used to differentiate the two.
Their back and wings are golden-colored, with a touch of orange in the middle. Their undersides are white and have heavy black markings, while the tail is black.
22. Chestnut-eared Bunting
Scientific name: Emberiza fucata
Length: 15-16 centimeters (5 inches)
Body mass: 20-32 grams
Also referred to as the Grey-headed Bunting, the Chestnut-eared Buntings are an Asian bunting species that are commonly spotted in grasslands, scrubs, and fields.
These buntings have three recognized subspecies. And while the nominate ones are absent from China, the other two can be found here. E. f. arcuata dwell in the central parts of the country, while E. f. kuatunensis inhabit the southeastern areas.
The plumage of Chestnut-eared Buntings is predominantly brown, including the namesake ear patch that decorates their face.
The males differ from females in possessing a grey crown and nape, both of which are pale brownish in the latter. Their undersides are pale whitish, with brown spots bordering them on the sides.
23. Spotted Forktail
Scientific name: Enicurus maculatus
Length: 25 centimeters (9.8 inches)
Body mass: 34-48 grams
Belonging to the family of the Old World Flycatchers, the Spotted Forktails are a small passerine species known for their remarkably long, forked tail.
An Asian forktail species, these birds dwell in the mountains of northeast India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. In China, they’re restricted to the southern regions and are common residents throughout the province of Yunnan.
The plumage of Spotted Forktails is colored in black and white, with their head and upper parts being black, while the rump and belly are stark white in contrast.
A white forehead patch decorates their otherwise black face, with an unmarked black throat and chest. On the other hand, their mantle is heavily spotted with white. Although their wings are mostly brown, the tail has four white streaks and ends in a white tip. No dimorphism is seen among the adult sexes.
24. Derbyan Parakeet
Scientific name: Psittacula derbiana
Length: 45-50 centimeters (18-20 inches)
Body mass: 311-330 grams
Lifespan: 22-30 years
Also referred to as Lord Derby’s Parakeet in honor of the thirteenth earl of Derby (Lord Edward Stanley), the Derbyan Parakeets are a near-threatened parakeet species with a restricted habitat range.
These parrots are known to inhabit small pockets of the mountain forests of India, Tibet, and China. In China, these parakeets are limited to the provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan.
Derbyan Parakeets have a bluish-grey face with a black line joining their eyes and a black bib. Their undersides are greyish as well, with an occasional touch of lavender in the middle. Their upper parts, right from the back of their head to their long tail, are all green, with yellow touches on the wing.
While both sexes of the adults possess identical plumages, they can be told apart using their bills. The males have a red upper mandible and a black lower one, while in females, both mandibles are black.