Amur Falcons are back!

The journey of the AMUR FALCON is one of the most remarkable in the avian world, migrating from the Amur region in NE China and SE Russia across China, India and, eventually, to East Africa.  An incredible journey fuelled by an even more amazing migration – of dragonflies – across the Indian Ocean.

Many of these beautiful falcons pass through Beijing each spring and autumn and a few even breed in the capital.  Whenever I encounter them for the first time each spring, I feel in awe of the almost unbelievable journeys these birds take and I feel reassured that, despite all the pressures on our wildlife, the Amur Falcons are back!

On Saturday, in the company of Paul Holt and David Mansfield, I visited Huairou and Miyun Reservoirs and, at the latter site, we enjoyed a mixed flock of AMUR FALCONS and LESSER KESTRELS giving a magnificent display as they hunted over some freshly ploughed fields…  simply stunning.

AMUR FALCON (female), Miyun Reservoir, 3 May 2014

AMUR FALCON (female), Miyun Reservoir, 3 May 2014

One of the adult male LESSER KESTRELS at Miyun, 3 May 2014

One of the adult male LESSER KESTRELS at Miyun, 3 May 2014

LESSER KESTREL, adult male, Miyun 3 May 2014.  Beautiful.

LESSER KESTREL, adult male, Miyun 3 May 2014. Beautiful.

Adult male LESSER KESTREL.  Note the pale, almost unmarked underwing.

Adult male LESSER KESTREL. Note the pale, almost unmarked underwing.

Here is a short video compilation of a few of the Amur Falcons.


For a time, in the afternoon, it was very windy… and dark clouds gathered over Miyun.  Just as the weather was its most threatening, in dropped a DALMATIAN PELICAN..!  As it battled against the wind, I was able to capture it on video….

This is the 7th DALMATIAN PELICAN in Beijing this spring and my personal first this year.  Always a delight to see.

We ended the day on 104 species – a pretty good total but missing some usually easy to see birds such as Spotted Dove.  In Beijing in May, it should be possible to see 120-130 species in a day with a bit of effort and luck!

A day that will live long in the memory!

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About Terry Townshend

I am a British birder living and birding in Beijing from August 2010 until 2015. Through this blog I hope I can convey a sense of what it is like to live in this thriving, confident and contrasting city and the birdlife that can be found in its environs. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it! Terry Townshend, Beijing September 2010
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9 Responses to Amur Falcons are back!

  1. Great post Terry, looks like your Spring is hotting up. Great video work as well. Best regards Mark

  2. I saw thousands of them wintering in eastern South Africa in January. In places, every fencepost had one sat on it! Numbers are well down however, because of the large numbers which were caught in India on migration. This practice seems to have been halted however, so lets hope that they make a comeback as they are very much welcomed in South Africa because of the number of crop-damaging grasshoppers they consume.

  3. Thanks Vaughan… great to know they are so liked in southern Africa! Hopefully the successful conservation effort in India will mean we see more of these stunning birds in China. I can’t get enough of them..!

  4. Brenda Scott says:

    Amazing, I have a roost close to my house in South Africa, they left very late this year, well into April the last ones left. We had early cold and rain at the beginning of March, and a lot flew in the migratory direction as they do when the migration starts. This confirms my theory they started to leave early March, clearly when the weather warmed some hung around.

  5. Ken Tucker says:

    What fantastic little falcons – must have been a wonderful sight together with the Lesser Kestrels. And their journey across oceans and continents, like that of North American Wheatears and Alaskan Bar-tailed Godwits, is truly awe-inspiring. Wow!

    • Thanks Ken..! Yes, a wonderful sight indeed. Migratory birds constantly amaze me with their resilience and incredible ability to travel long distances with pinpoint accuracy and without any maps or GPS.. brilliant!

  6. John Holmes says:

    Great to see the Dalmatian Pelican and Amur Falcons; – and could you send one of those Lesser Kestrels down to us, please ?

  7. Is Lesser Kestrel rare in HK? It would be interesting to satellite tag them, as scientists have done with Amur Falcons.. I suspect they share part of their migratory journey as mixed flocks are regular (but uncommon) in spring.

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