Wu Yuan 婺源

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An endemic taxon of Yellow-throated Laughingthrush occurs in the county of Wu Yuan in north-east Jiangxi. The birds were seen in the wild by ornithologists in 2000 for the first time since Courtois discovered them in 1910-11. However, recent visits have shown that this site also supports a number of other species that are difficult to find in the region such as Mandarin Duck, Scaly-sided Merganser, Pied Falconet (not known from elsewhere in south-east China), Elliot’s Pheasant and Grey-headed Lapwing (no other spring sites known in south-east China). In addition, Wu Yuan is currently the only known breeding site for Swinhoe’s Minivet in south-east China. Barred Cuckoo Dove was also recently recorded here, a first record for Jiangxi.


Key Species

Black Bittern, Scaly-sided Merganser, Mandarin Duck, Pied Falconet, Elliot’s Pheasant, Swinhoe’s Minivet, Moustached Laughingthrush, Yellow-throated Laughingthrush, Spotted Wren Babbler.


Other Species

Black Baza, Black Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Chinese Goshawk, Besra, Northern Goshawk, Bonelli’s Eagle, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Common Pheasant, Grey-headed Lapwing, Long-billed Plover, Collared Owlet, Barred Cuckoo Dove, White-throated Needletail, Crested Kingfisher, Dollarbird, Grey-capped Woodpecker, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike, Oriental Turtle Dove, Collared Finchbill, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Black Bulbul, Japanese Waxwing, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, White-browed Laughingthrush, Grey-headed Parrotbill, Dusky Fulvetta, Striated Prinia, Grey-capped Greenfinch, Russet Sparrow, Red-billed Starling.


Other Wildlife




In 2000 three small breeding colonies of Yellow-throated Laughingthrushes were discovered in scattered locations in south and central Wuyuan county. Hong Y.H. et al (2003) gives a good overview of the recent studies of the species in Wuyuan. Datangwu reservoir has become famous as a wintering ground for Mandarin Ducks since the late 1980s, and it is said to hold the largest population in China. Hides have been set up around the reservoir and boats can be hired to see the birds. Scaly-sided Merganser occurs in winter on the Le’an He 乐安河 south of Wu Yuan town. For example, one flock of 25 birds was found below the large dam at 29°9’48’’N, 117°50’29’’E. However, anywhere along this stretch of river would be worth checking.


Habitat and Vegetation

The county is characterised by low thickly wooded hills in the remoter areas and paddyfields in the more accessible plains. The low hills are covered with almost impenetrable shrub. The county is well-wooded with broadleaf forest that has been partially logged. Relatively low population levels and less developed farming techniques have kept the area attractive for birds. The area is particularly interesting since in most parts of south-east China hills at 100-300m would have been logged in the 1950s and replanted with conifers.


Getting there

Wu Yuan 婺源 is a pleasant market town situated on a clean river and surrounded by low hills. To get there from Nanchang 南昌 take a bus or train to Jingdezhen 景德镇 and then a bus the last 67km to Wu Yuan which is at km34 on the main east-west road. There are also two flights a week from Guangzhou (on Mondays and Fridays) and four from Xiamen to Jingdezhen. There are two reasonable hotels, both charging around Rmb100 per night. The Liangyou hotel is on the main shopping street next to tea and ink stone artisan shops. The Forestry department is nearly opposite the smaller bus station on the east side of town. Hong Yuan Hua, who works there, is very helpful and knowledgeable about the laughingthrush. Wu Yuan county also has two other larger reserves (as well as almost 200 small protected areas). The nearest to the town is Wen Gong Shan Gu Shan 文公山古杉, the turn-off to which is on the left at km51 heading west out of town. There is a crumbling dragon-embellished archway here so it is difficult to miss. The reserve is about 5km along the dirt track heading south. Black Bitterns breed in the paddyfields around here and Striated Prinia also occurs. The other reserve is Ling Yan Dong 灵岩洞forest park, located about 50km to the north-west of Wu Yuan. Take a bus to Qinghua 清华. The 30 square kilometre reserve is a further 30km to the north-west and is best known for the Ling Yan cave. The forest is apparently good. In addition, it may be worth seeking out the village of Guan Keng, upriver on the Luan Ho from Wu Yuan. Ben King visited this place in 1986 and heard Elliot’s Pheasant as well as seeing Silver Pheasant and Moustached Laughingthrush. Datangwu 大塘坞reservoir is mid-way between Wuyuan and Jingdezhen, about 40km to the west of the former. Alight at Fuchun and the reservoir is just to the west.


General Information

County:   Wu Yuan                 Area: n/a Altitude: 100-300m                Location: 29°15’N, 117°55’E Disturbance: population relatively low, no evidence of hunting though villagers claim to have caught the laughingthrush.