Azure-winged MagpieCyanopica cyanus is a common and familiar denizen of city parks over much of central, eastern, and northeast China. Ssp. yanus resident in Lesser Khingan Range in Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang; stegmanni in Greater Khingan Range of Inner Mongolia and Changbai Mountains in Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning; interposita Ningxia and eastern Gansu east to Shandong; kansuensis northeast Qinghai, western Gansu, and northwest Sichuan; and swinhoei northern and central Sichuan east to Zhejiang. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Locally common in coniferous and broadleaved forests (but not dense forests), also around fields and farms, in towns, and in cities, where flocks often wander far outside the large parks. Flocks commonly move from tree to tree, then, finding a suitable area, disperse, with some members staying in trees and others descending to ground. City birds show little fear of man. Highly varied diet, from insects and spiders, wild fruits, and acorns in more natural habitats to scraps at garbage dumps. Nests in colonies, a single nest in each tree, rarely more than a few meters above the ground. ID Unmistakable; no other bird in China has combination of black cap, grey mantle and rump, mainly blue wings (black on primaries; white panel), and long, blue tail with broad white tip. Black cap, which extends below eye, contrasts with white collar separating cap from mantle and white malar area and throat. Rest of underparts buffish-white. Juvenile has a browner hood. Races vary slightly in size and color; interposita and swinhoei are greyer forms. BARE PARTS Bill, feet black. VOICE Noisy; grating, single-syllable call contrasts greatly with softer rising contact call. — Craig Brelsford
Xuanzhong Temple in Shanxi is the best-known place in the world to view Brown Eared PheasantCrossoptilon mantchuricum. A recent visit by British birder Mark Havenhand (see comment below) stimulated me to update my report about my trip to Xuanzhong. Have you been to Xuanzhong? Help birders by leaving a comment below. — Craig Brelsford
I went to Xuanzhong Temple in December and January to photograph Brown Eared PheasantCrossoptilon mantchuricum.
The temple in central Shanxi, China sits in a gorge at an elevation of 1000 m (3,280 ft.). The hills are covered with trees that the locals call baishu (cypress). The setting is picturesque.
The air was bitterly cold; as low as -20°C (-4°F). Bright sunshine made the days cheerful. The temple flock of Brown Eared Pheasant appeared every day.
Elaine Du and I caught an 8 a.m. flight from Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai to Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi. From Taiyuan Airport, we drove our rental car west about an hour through Jiaocheng to Xuanzhong Temple (37.563877, 112.078460).
In the following days I noted other taxa representative of north-central China: Chinese NuthatchSitta villosa villosa, Eurasian NuthatchS. europaea sinensis, Songar TitPoecile montanus stoetzneri, Coal TitPeriparus ater pekinensis, and Beijing BabblerRhopophilus pekinensis.
Many birders balk at ticking semi-wild birds, but if you want an easy tick of Brown Eared Pheasant, then Xuanzhong Temple is the place to go. Note that both Mark Havenhand and I had wild Brown Eared Pheasant far from the temple on the road between Xuanzhong and Jiaocheng.
MAP AND PHOTOS
BirdLife International 2016. Crossoptilon mantchuricum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22679299A92809690. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22679299A92809690.en. (Accessed: 13 Sept. 2023)