China, Fuzhou - 2nd - 3rd May 2009

Published by Charles Davies (daviesc1973 AT

Participants: Charles Davies, Lin Chen


Chinese Crested Tern has to be one of the leading candidates for the most threatened bird in the world. With a global population of perhaps 10-50 birds, it breeds in pockets of one of the most heavily developed shorelines in the world, at serious risk from egg collectors (which sell the eggs for food); its wintering range is poorly known (see BirdLife species factsheet and various other Internet reports).

In 2000, after the species was thought to be extinct, a population of Chinese Crested Terns was discovered in the Matsu islands--access is through Taiwan, but the islands are only kilometres off Fujian province on the Chinese mainland. Another was later discovered breeding on some islands off the Chinese mainland further to the north.

In the past, most birdwatchers have gone to Matsu to look for these birds, but in the past few years a fairly reliable spot has also been found on mainland China. These birds now appear to be the same individuals that can be seen around Matsu—a bird last year that impaled a plastic junk on its beak (and was found dead about a month later) was seen both places on a daily basis.

The Fujian Birdwatching Society will guide tourists to this site (thanks to John and Jemi Holmes for posting information on this, and to Shirley Lam for forwarding me the information). Fuzhou gives you opportunity to combine seabird watching with a number of interesting landlubber sites in an area that I imagine has an interesting and constantly changing selection of migrant birds. I spent a very enjoyable weekend visiting a few different areas around Fuzhou with a guide named Forest—a number of his friends joined us at different points. You can contact him by email at ( or by phone at +86-13799370893.

The trip cost 700 Yuan per day for the guiding fee, 400 Yuan for the boat/permission to enter the Tern site, and 400 Yuan for the hotel (I stayed at the Fuzhou Military Hotel—peaceful and spotless).


After picking me up at the airport, we started off at this site. I’m not sure what it stands for (possibly something in Chinese); like CCT, Fuzhou birders know it better by its acronym. This is an area of sand dunes planted with rows of small eucalypts, small lakes and marshes along a canal/river, which ends at a dam and some mudflats with waders and Little Tern. Like the CCT site, it is quite close to the airport, which is about an hour’s drive from Fuzhou city itself. A Black-capped Kingfisher was Forest’s first at this site. Waders included migrating Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and an unusually late Northern Lapwing. Oriental Skylarks are abundant on the dunes, and we bumped into a (apparently late) Chestnut-eared Bunting on the way out. In the paddyfields on the way to town for lunch, we found an Eastern Yellow Wagtail (in a flock of Western), and two White-cheeked Starlings.

Min Jiang Estuary (MJE)

This is the site for the Chinese Crested Tern. They turn up most reliably in the late afternoon, in flocks of Greater Crested Tern resting on sand bars (and are easy to pick out with their pale silvery upperparts as compared with the slaty grey Greater CTs). Ours came between 4:45pm and 5:30pm, and had first showed up this year about two weeks before my visit. You have to take a boat to get to the estuary then walk onto the mudflats. Depending on where the terns land, you may have to wade out into the mud, (Wellingtons will not help, since the mud is too deep, according to Forest). We were lucky in avoiding this, and also with two Chinese Egrets showing up in a group of Little Egrets (a 1% chance according to Forest). Large flocks of shorebirds included both species of Knot in breeding plumage.

Fuzhou Forest Park (FFP)

We spent Sunday morning in this popular but large park (quiet early on in the morning). It is at the top end of town at the base of forested hills, and according to Forest, different stuff shows up every time you go. Bulbuls (Chestnut, Mountain, Black, Light-vented and Collared Finchbill) and minivets (Scarlet and Grey-chinned) inhabit the park. It is a supposed to be a good place for Fork-tailed Sunbird, but you can only get good views if there are suitable low bushes in flower. Some migrants coming through included Gray-streaked Flycatcher and the first Dollarbirds of the year. Big thanks to Forest’s friend, a judge!, who turned up with a thermos of coffee and a porcelain cup. Meanwhile, Forest and I were stuffing ourselves on dumplings and a gigantic square bowl of noodle soup (“Fujian Noodles”) with vegetables and tiny clams (good chopstick practice). I managed to dismay Forest with my polite table manners, which did not show sufficient appreciation to the cook.

Fujian Normal University (FNU)

Apparently “Normal” means a teacher-training university. FNU is about 30 minutes drive outside town, a different direction from the airport, with impressive modern buildings. The university is in a valley ringed with low mountains. Around the university area are dusty fields crossed with creeks (shaded by trees and bamboo) and scattered with villages. We walked around in this area for a few hours. The best sighting was a pair of Little Curlew, which merited a phone call and a “twitch” by a couple of Forest’s friends, who produced some beautiful photos. Other highlights included Narcissus Flycatcher and several Yellow-billed Grosbeak.

Species Lists

Eastern Spot-billed Duck – about 25 (WWS)
Chinese Bamboo-Partridge – heard (FFP)
Ring-necked Pheasant – 3
Little Grebe – 2 (WWS)
Gray Heron – 1 (MJE)
Intermediate Egret – 2 (WWS)
Little Egret – about 40
Chinese Egret – 2 (MJE)
Black-crowned Night-Heron – 1 (FFP)
Black-shouldered Kite – 1 (FNU)
Accipiter sp. – 1 (FFP)
White-breasted Waterhen – about 10
Common Moorhen – 4
Northern Lapwing – 1 (WWS)
Little Ringed Plover – 3 (FNU)
Snowy Plover – about 10
Greater Sandplover – about 20
Snipe sp. – 1 (FNU)
Little Curlew – 2 (FNU)
Common Sandpiper – about 15
Common Greenshank – about 25
Marsh Sandpiper – about 20
Wood Sandpiper – about 40
Common Redshank – about 40 (MJE)
Great Knot – 1 (MJE)
Red Knot – 2 (MJE)
Sanderling – about 250
Red-necked Stint – about 250
Temminck’s Stint – 1 (WWS)
Long-toed Stint – 4 (WWS)
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper – about 25
Dunlin – about 30 (MJE)
Little Tern – about 40
Gull-billed Tern – about 15 (MJE)
Great Crested Tern – about 15 (MJE)
Chinese Crested Tern – 2 (MJE)
Oriental Turtle-Dove – about 8 (FNU)
Spotted Dove – about 20
Plaintive Cuckoo – 1 (FNU)
Greater Coucal – 2 (FNU)
Common Kingfisher – 7
Black-capped Kingfisher – 1 (WWS)
Pied Kingfisher – 2 (WWS)
Dollarbird – 2 (FFP)
Oriental Skylark – about 25
Barn Swallow – about 250
Richard’s Pipit – about 15
Olive-backed Pipit – 3 (FNU)
White Wagtail – 4
Western Yellow Wagtail – about 40
Eastern Yellow Wagtail – 1 (near WWS)
Scarlet Minivet – 3 (FFP)
Gray-chinned Minivet – 6 (FFP)
Collared Finchbill – 4 (FFP)
Light-vented Bulbul – about 60
Sooty-headed Bulbul – 2 (FNU)
Mountain Bulbul – about 10 (FFP)
Chestnut Bulbul – 1 and frequently heard (FFP)
Black Bulbul – 2 (FFP)
Orange-bellied Leafbird – 1 (FFP)
Eurasian Blackbird – about 15
Zitting Cisticola – 1 (WWS)
Yellow-bellied Prinia – about 7
Plain Prinia – 4
Common Tailorbird – 3 (FNU)
Gray-streaked Flycatcher – 3 (FFP)
Asian Brown Flycatcher – 2 (FFP)
Narcissus Flycatcher – 1 (FNU)
Oriental Magpie-Robin – about 25
Masked Laughingthrush – 3 (near FFP)
Black-throated Tit – 3+ (FFP)
Great Tit – about 15
Fork-tailed Sunbird – 1 (FFP)
Japanese White-eye – 2
Brown Shrike – about 10 (FNU)
Long-tailed Shrike – about 10
Hair-crested Drongo – 3 (FFP)
Azure-winged Magpie – 3 (FNU)
Blue Magpie – about 8
Eurasian Magpie – 5
Crested Myna – about 25
Black-collared Starling – about 30 (mostly FNU)
White-cheeked Starling – 2 (near WWS)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow – about 50
Nutmeg Mannikin – 2 (FFP)
Oriental Greenfinch – 4 (near WWS)
Yellow-billed Grosbeak – about 10 (FNU)
Chestnut-eared Bunting – 1 (WWS)