You probably won’t spot any rare birds in the CBD, but there are plenty of feathered creatures that live in the capital and in the nature areas near Beijing.
Several city parks are actually bird-watching hot spots, and since they’re just a subway ride away, you can pat yourself on the back for appreciating nature while maintaining a minimal carbon footprint. Try the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Beihai Park, Yuanmingyuan, Lama Temple, Confucius Temple, the Summer Palace, or the Beijing Botanical Garden. In these locations, you may catch sight of waterfowl, which are quite friendly (and easily captured on camera). Keep an eye out in these parks for common woodland birds such as the swallow, pied harrier, mandarin duck, turtledove, woodpeckers, long-eared owl and crows. Several wetland and reservoirs around Beijing are also bird-friendly. Try Yeyahu Lake (Wild Duck Lake) near the Guanting Reservoir in Yanqing County, Shahe Reservoir in Changping District, and Bahe Wetland Park in Chaoyang District.
If you head up into the mountains, especially at 1,000 meters elevation or higher, you can have a successful birding venture. If you are lucky, you may meet hawks and even falcons. Add these mountains to your list of hot spots: Wuling Mountain, Songshan Mountain, Baihuashan Mountain, and Baiwangshan Mountain.
Identifiable by their distinctive tapping sound, woodpeckers are abundant in Beijing. If you hear that telltale noise, look up!
These beige birds with eponymous color patterns are usually seen in flocks.
Azure-winged magpie, crow, and Eurasian tree sparrow. Having dealt well with the city’s rapid expansion, these birds call parks their home but have also adapted to life on the street.
Magpie (红嘴蓝鹊 hóngzuǐ lánquè)
Often found in flocks, these birds with their distinctive long, blue tails can be seen gliding elegantly through wooded areas.
Swallow (燕子 yànzi) The common and red-rumped swallows are two of the commonest migratory birds in Beijing and tend to nest in old buildings. With the city’s rapid modernization, they are becoming much harder to find.
Spotted Dove (珠颈斑鸠 zhūjìng bānjiū) This bird looks much like the common turtle dove, but has a spotted patch on the back of the neck.