Birds of Beijing

Beijing’s old quarters, the area 19th century foreigners dubbed the Tartar City, is made up of hutong alleyways snaking between court­yard houses that were once the residences of Manchu bannermen.

Overhead can often be heard the “chirpy cheep cheep” (accord­ing to the pocket book Birds of China, by John MacKinnon) of the Eurasian tree sparrow.

“This is a common bird in lightly wooded areas, villages and farmland over much of China and can become a pest of grain crops,” writes MacKinnon. “It replaces the house sparrow as the ‘city’ sparrow in the east of the country.”

Walking through the Temple of the Earth, visitors may catch sight of a great spotted woodpecker, which “drum loudly and have a loud explosive call”. Beyond the Marco Polo Bridge, wildlife photographers snap away at great white egrets “with characteristic kink in S-shaped neck” fishing in the shallows of the Yongding River. Ball games in Grand Canal Park may be accompanied by the song of the grey-capped greenfinch, whose “flight call is a twittering dzidzi-i-dzi-i”.

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