Chinese NuthatchSitta villosa is a small nuthatch with a prominent white supercilium and a patchy black eye-stripe. All three subspecies in China: bangsi in Qinghai east to central Gansu (eastern Qilian Mountains) and western Ningxia (Helan Mountains) south to the Minshan in southern Gansu and northern Sichuan; nominate in northern Hebei, Beijing, and western Shanxi; and corea in south Jilin and south Liaoning. HABITAT In coniferous forests in hills, but also in low country; regularly recorded in Beijing. ID & COMPARISON Resembles a smaller, duller Eurasian NuthatchS. europaea. Distinguished by broad, long white supercilium (reaching sides of nape) and less distinct eye-stripe (black in male, grey and even less well-defined in female). Crown black in male, grey in female. Cheeks, chin, and throat white. Male upperparts blue-grey, duller in female. Underparts tawny (villosa, corea) or orange-cinnamon (bangsi). Yunnan Nuthatch S. yunnanensis has much broader and more distinct black eye-stripe and lacks dark crown. White-cheeked Nuthatch S. leucopsis lacks eye-stripe. BARE PARTS Bill, feet black. VOICE Harsh “schraa” call reminiscent of Eurasian Jay; also piping and squeaky one-note calls emitted in sequences of varying length and speed (bubbling when fast), nasal quir calls, and flat, unmusical rattles. — Craig Brelsford
Xuanzhong Temple in Shanxi is the best-known place in the world to view Brown Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon 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).
We found the Brown Eared Pheasant immediately. They were on a little bridge spanning a frozen stream at the bottom of the gorge. Also around the bridge were north China species Plain LaughingthrushPterorhinus davidi, Long-tailed RosefinchCarpodacus sibiricus ussuriensis, and Red-billed Blue MagpieUrocissa erythroryncha brevivexilla.
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: 30 Aug 2020)