Winter Bluetail

With clear skies and little wind it was a good day to be outside, so we packed a picnic and visited the Botanical Gardens in north-west Beijing.  There was a surprising lack of thrushes around (normally this is a good site for wintering Naumann’s, Dusky, Red-throated and Black-throated Thrushes) but the usual residents – Red-billed Blue Magpie, Chinese (Light-vented) Bulbul, Chinese Grosbeak etc were around in small numbers.  Despite a short search of their favoured habitat, I failed to see any Chinese Nuthatches.

On the boardwalk that runs along the stream to the west of the gardens, I heard a Red-flanked Bluetail and, as we rounded a corner, there were 4 or 5 bird photographers staked out by the frozen stream.  I joined them for 5 minutes and in that time the Bluetail and a Winter Wren came down to drink from a small puddle and took advantage of the worms that the photographers had strategically placed on a prominent branch.  The Bluetail and the Wren showed extremely well, clearly used to the attention.  The Wren even indulged in a few bouts of song, no doubt encouraged by the relatively warm, almost Spring-like conditions.

A Red-flanked Bluetail braving the Beijing winter. A handful of these birds winter around the capital in most years.


Red-flanked Bluetail, Beijing Botanical Gardens


This Red-flanked Bluetail was very confiding, clearly used to the attention of Beijing's growing band of bird photographers.


Winter Wren. According to Brazil's "The Birds of East Asia" there are 40 subspecies of Wren. I believe this one is Troglodytes troglodytes idius.


Winter Wren, Beijing Botanical Gardens


Nice undertail coverts!

7 thoughts on “Winter Bluetail”

  1. Today I paid a visit to the botanical garden and the Red-flanked Bluetail and Winter Wren were still enjoying the attention of photographers. It took me quite a while until I managed to find a single Red-billed Blue Magpie (at the start of the stream), are they always so difficult to find?

    1. Hi Ben. Great that you saw both birds. They are clearly in a routine. Red-billed Blue Magpies, despite being common, are pretty shy and can be difficult to see. They usually give themselves away by their flutey calls but I have never seen one very close.

      1. Thanks for the info Terry! Could you tell me something about the status of Collared Finchbill, Yellow-bellied Tit, Chinese Hill Warbler, Japanese Grosbeak and Tristram’s Bunting in the garden? I saw them mentioned as possible on the internet but did not manage to find them. There were little thrushes around but I saw three Naumann’s, great birds.

  2. Hi Ben, Collared Finchbill and Japanese Grosbeak are unlikely in the Botanical Gardens (I haven’t seen either). But I know they do occur occasionally. Chinese Hill Warbler breeds in the hills behind the botanical gardens (usually around the top of the hills) and is resident, so can be seen all year round. Seeing them in the garden itself is unusual but you have a chance in winter. Yellow-bellied Tit is a regular migrant through the botanical gardens in spring and autumn (occasional winter visitor). Again, the best area for these is in the pine woods on the hills behind the gardens but you could find them in the garden, too. Tristram’s Bunting is also a migrant and occasional winter visitor to the Botanical Gardens. About the thrushes – sometimes it’s possible to see Naumann’s, Dusky, Red- and Black-throated Thrushes in one visit in winter. This year numbers seem to be a little down but, with patience, all four should be possible.
    Hope that helps! Terry

  3. Thanks for the into Terry! I will keep an eye on your blog, especially for the birder’s guide to Beijing, as I will be back to Beijing.

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