Hunan 湖南

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birding southeast china



For the pioneering birder Hunan is potentially the most exciting province in south-east China. Until only a few years ago the provincial bird list numbered a mere 178 species, which indicated only that the province is badly in need of more extensive ornithological surveying. This has increased considerably recently but few birders have visited reserves in this province, and even fewer have been beyond Dong Ting Hu. Even an excellent site such as Ba Da Gong Shan has a published bird list of only 64, so small that a birder visiting the site for a few days at any season would record more species than this.


Key Species

Key species for the province include Oriental Stork, Black Stork, Lesser White-fronted Goose and several crane species that congregate around Dong Ting Hu in the north. A group of 200 Chinese Merganser has also recently been recorded in Nan Ting Hu to the south of the reserve. Pheasants and tragopans are well-represented in Hunan – Temminck’s and Cabot’s Tragopans occur as do Elliot’s, Reeves’ and Lady Amherst’s Pheasants. ‘Chinese’ Barbet has recently been found in the south-west of the province.
The province is also at the eastern edge of the breeding range of a number of passerines including Vinaceous Rosefinch, Godlewksi’s and Yellow-throated Bunting.



There are a total of 41 reserves, mostly found around the perimeter of the province. The best forest areas are Ba Da Gong Shan and Huping in the north, Qian Jia Dong and Mang Shan in the south. Dong Ting Hu is one of China’s largest lakes, which though partially drained, still holds some excellent habitat for cranes and geese in particular.


Geography of the Province

The province topography is that of a basin surrounded on all sides by mountains reaching up between 1500 and 2000m. Only in the north around Dong Ting is there a border with a neighbouring province which bisects lowlands (and not always following the Yangtze). The highest peaks are Hu Ping Shan (2099m) in the far north and Ba Mian Shan (2042m), Xue Feng Shan (2012m) and Jiucai Ling (2009m), all of which are in the south of the province.


Habitat and Vegetation

Situated just to the north of the sub-tropical area the forests of the southern reserves are characterised by Castanopsis, Lauraceae and Theacae sp. In the north poplars Salix sp.and oaks Quercus sp. are more dominant.


There are two major airports - at Changsha and Zhangjiajie. There are four flights a week from Hong Kong to Changsha, as well as from most other major cities in China. Changsha is also the connecting airport for flights elsewhere in the province. Zhangjiajie is also served by four flights a week from Hong Kong and the times are convenient for a long weekend. In addition, Zhangjiajie has connections to Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Changsha and Guilin as well as other Chinese cities.
The other principal route of access is via the main railway heading north from Guangdong up through the eastern side of the province to Changsha to Yue Yang, which adjoins Dong Ting Hu. Many reserves are most easily reached by taking the overnight train up from Shenzhen, disembarking at one of the intermediate stations south of Changsha and then connecting to a bus heading east or west on one of the transverse road links.



The provincial Forestry Department is located in Changsha at 338 Ziyuan Road, Changsha 410007. The section to contact is the Wildlife and Plant Protection Division, fax +86 (731) 550 0210. email Lei Gong ( works at WWF China in the Hunan office.



Maps of the province are readily available.