This page includes some of the natural sounds of Beijing. Although China’s capital is noisy, with traffic (both automobiles and aircraft), perhaps 20 million humans and almost continuous construction work, it is possible to find quiet spots where nature takes over. Here is a selection of some of the most impressive natural sounds of Beijing. For a more comprehensive set of sound recordings, please see the Birding Beijing page on Soundcloud.
The Dawn Chorus
The dawn chorus is an impressive spectacle around the world. Below are some recordings of the dawn chorus from Beijing. The first is a 30-minute compilation of recordings from Lingshan, Beijing’s highest mountain. Recorded at various elevations from 1100m asl to 1550m asl on the morning of 31 May 2021, the recording starts with the haunting whistle of a White’s Thrush at 0200am, after which it moves to the beginning of the dawn chorus proper from 0415am at 1100m elevation, slowly moving higher to the final recording at 1550m elevation. The cast includes corvids, cuckoos, flycatchers, nuthatches, thrushes, tits and warblers, to name a few.
The second recording of the dawn chorus is from urban Beijing, recorded along the Wenyu River in Shunyi District on 17 June 2020 at 0427am. It features the squawky calls of the Azure-winged Magpie, the familiar “one more bottle” four-note song of the Indian Cuckoo and the fluty song of the Light-vented Bulbul.
The third recording is from LuoMa Lake in Shunyi District, recorded on 4 June 2022. The atmosphere is dominated by the Oriental Reed Warblers and both Common and Indian Cuckoos. But there is a mix of other species, including Coot, Moorhen, Light-vented Bulbul, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler and more!
The fourth recording takes us back to Lingshan and was recorded on 17 June 2022 at elevations from 1300-1900m. It begins with the song of a White-bellied Redstart and includes Chinese Leaf, Claudia’s Leaf and Hume’s Warblers, Siberian Blue Robin, Zappey’s Flycatcher and Chinese Song Thrush to name a few.
The fifth recording is from winter – not a season one usually associates with the dawn chorus. It features a mixture of resident and wintering species, including the talented vocalist – the Beijing Babbler – as well as singing Godlewski’s Bunting, calling Red-throated Thrushes and more.
Beijing’s traditional buildings such as Temple of Heaven and Yonghegong host large breeding colonies of the “Beijing Swift” (Apus apus pekinensis). On summer evenings huge numbers gather at dusk around the breeding sites, surely one of Beijing’s most spectacular wild experiences. This recording is from Zhengyangmen, at the southern end of Tiananmen Square, on 5 July 2019.
A Beijing wetland at dusk
Beijing’s wetlands come alive on summer evenings. The reedbeds are seemingly full of Oriental Reed Warblers, each proclaiming its territory. The scratchy song of the reed warbler combines with the local frogs to form a cacophony of sound. This recording is from Yeyahu on 3 June 2018.
The most common amphibian in Beijing is the Dark-spotted Frog. It is found in most wetlands and, on summer evenings, their calls can reach fever-pitch. This recording is from the Olympic Forest Park on 6 June 2018.
A Beijing meadow
The mountains to the west of Beijing can reach over 2,000m in elevation and, in some places, host alpine meadows. These meadows come alive with flowers and insects in summer, providing a magnificent soundscape to any visit. This recording, from an alpine meadow at Lingshan, includes bees, grasshoppers, flies and a few birds, and was recorded in June 2018.
Large Hawk Cuckoo
The “brain fever bird”, also known as the Large Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx sparverioides 鹰鹃 Yīng juān) is a common sound in the mountains around Beijing from late April to July, often singing at night as well as during the day. This recording is from Lingshan on 10 May 2023. The photo below is by the Singapore Birds Project.
This recording is of a family of Wild Boar (野猪 Yě zhū) crunching on nuts just a few metres below me as I stood on a wild section of the Great Wall in Huairou District on 11 August 2022.
Header image: The BBC’s Andrew Luck-Baker recording a singing Yellow-browed Warbler at the Wenyu River in Beijing during a visit in 2016.