Birding China's Yunnan Province


November 7 - 23, 2020
$4,950 | ($500 deposit due upon registration)
10 participants max

You have always dreamed of traveling through China, exploring lush evergreen forests while watching exotic birds fluttering before breathtaking scenery and exhilarating new cultures. Yunnan province is known for its exquisite food, ethnic diversity, and, of course, a wonderful array of birds.

North Branch Nature Center will partner with Alpine Birding to offer this exciting itinerary featuring the avian treasures of southwestern China. Alpine Birding is a leader in fun, educational, and safe birding excursions filled with opportunities to see natural and cultural wonders. China is a huge country, so we’ll concentrate our time in Yunnan, which boasts the richest bird diversity in China. Scimitar Babblers, spiderhunters, laughingthrushes and leafbirds await!

Additional Information

Flow of the Day: The itinerary is designed to maximize our experience with the great diversity of birdlife and ecosystems that Yunnan Province offers. We won’t, however, be rushing from place to place to chase the largest species list possible. Our goal is to spend time appreciating the species we encounter at an enjoyable pace. Birding walks begin in the early morning, and we travel slowly to allow for the best bird and wildlife encounters.

While this is primarily a birding trip, we will also take time to enjoy the culture – the amazing food, intriguing architecture and history.

Afternoon plans typically allow for some afternoon rest time at the lodges, though this is not always feasible when we are transferring between lodges and landscapes.

Climate: The annual average temperature is 63°F in eastern Yunnan and close to 68°F in western Yunnan. Temperatures will be lower at the high elevations. The period of lightest rainfall is in the winter months.

Clothing: Pack light field clothing of neutral colors. Bring several pairs of long pants and comfortable, light, airy shirts. Long-sleeved (relaxed fit) shirts are useful for protection from the sun, as is a light hat or cap. Good rain gear is essential, and a small umbrella is also recommended. Be sure to have a pair of comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots, plus a second pair of tennis shoes or sandals. A sweater or fleece is important for the more mountainous areas. You may want more casual clothing for traveling or dinners. A small washcloth and handkerchiefs will be helpful.

Equipment: Bring a pair of binoculars, a field guide and a camera with extra batteries. The guides will have two spotting scopes. Pack sunglasses and sunscreen, a small flashlight or headlamp, a small alarm clock (a smartphone will work), insect repellent, a small daypack, and a small folding stool if you get tired standing for long periods observing birds and other wildlife. We will also supply a lengthier suggested packing list.

Health ConsiderationsPlease consult your physician before the trip for any recommended immunizations. Mosquitoes can sometimes be a nuisance in China especially in the forested areas. We suggest a stick-type repellent for your face and hands, plus at least one pump-style container of repellent for your clothing. As for foods, all salads, dairy products and meals at the different lodges are perfectly safe to eat. Bottled water is provided while on tours.

Participants should be able to hike on moderate terrain up to 2 miles per day, and be ready to expect conditions that may be hot, cold, dry, wet, or anything in-between.

Transportation: The land transportation is in registered minibuses with A/C, a necessary luxury in the humid lowlands of China.

Our in-country bird guide will be Shay Xie. Shay is among the first group of professional bird guides in China with an academic background of ornithology. He has successfully guided many avid birders from different countries including Norway, Britain, US, Sweden and Thailand.

Our NBNC guide is NBNC Executive Director and expert birder Chip Darmstadt. Chip has guided NBNC excursions to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Spain, Ecuador, as well as stateside locations like Magee Marsh and Monhegan Island for over 20 years.

Alpine Birding is a registered travel company with the China Tourism Administration Bureau. The founders of Alpine Birding are a group of bird enthusiasts, who love birds and hope to share their passion with you. They are among the few outfitters in China who share professional bird knowledge in English to people from different parts of the world.

To be determined, but lodging ranges from nice 4-star hotels in big cities to the best local guesthouses in more rural areas. Tentative accommodations are given in the itinerary. Our lodging philosophy on all of our trips is to utilize clean and comfortable lodges that provide access to the best bird and wildlife viewing in the region. We strive to choose lodging that supports and demonstrates sustainable ecotourism practices.

Meals are typically at local popular restaurants and a highlight of the trip! Western breakfasts are offered whenever possible.

The trip cost includes:

  • Pre-departure orientation gathering at NBNC
  • Expert NBNC guide
  • In-country, English-speaking expert bird guide
  • All accommodations starting and ending in Kunming
  • Entrance fees to parks, including cable cars and shuttle buses
  • Domestic flights between Kunming and Raili (Mangshi)
  • Nice, private transportation throughout the trip, including airport transfers
  • clean drinking water, seasonal fruits and snacks throughout the trip
  • All meals during the trip starting and ending in Kunming. 
  • China domestic travel insurance

The trip cost does not include:

  • Airfare to and from China
  • Transportation to/from airports in the US
  • Cancellation (trip) insurance
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Extra hotel services, such as laundry
  • Snacks and other incidentals
  • Guide gratuities

Ready to go to China?
Email [email protected] to get signed up.


Today begins our journey to China via an overnight, international flight. We will work with each participant in the months leading up to the journey to select flights that ensure a group arrival in Kunming.

After meeting our private bird guide and/or driver at the airport, we’ll drive directly to the hotel. After checking in, we can go birding around the hotel, if time permits. We will have the first chance to savor our Yunnan dishes together, and get to know our fellow adventurers. Overnight: Yongdu Hotel or similar.

In the early morning, we will drive to the Kunming Botanical Garden where diverse plants provide good habitats for different wintering and resident birds including Red-tailed Minla, Black-breasted Thrush, Blue Whistling Thrush and Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler. We then drive to the airport to catch our flight to Mangshi, then we will drive another 1.5hrs to Ruili. Overnight: Weijing Garden Boutique Hotel or similar.

We will focus our birding time in Ruili on two places, the Nanjingli and the Moli Tropical Forest where we will search for Streaked Wren Babbler, Red-billed Scimitar Babblers, White-hooded Babblers, Wire-tailed Swallow, Himalayan Swiftlet, Black-throated Laughingthrush, Black-crested Bulbul, Red-headed Trogon, Scarlet-faced Liocichla, Silver-eared Leiothrix, Jerdon’s Baza, Rufous-backed Sibia, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Spotted Forktail, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, and both Pale-billed and Rufous-headed Parrotbills, and more. Overnight: Weijing Garden Boutique Hotel or similar.

We spend the morning of Day 5 in Ruili looking for birds and other wildlife, then drive on to Yingjiang for the next couple of days. In recent years, Yingjiang has become an important spot to look for hornbills. It is also a great place to look for pheasants and other forest birds, including Silver Pheasant, Kalij Pheasant, Red Junglefowl (ancestor of our domestic chicken), Grey Peacock-Pheasant, White-cheeked Partridge, White-throated Bulbul, Grey-backed Shrike, Grey Treepie, White-crested Laughingthrush, Silver-eared Mesia, etc. We will spend two full days exploring Yingjiang. Overnight: Guanghe Hotel or similar.

Before we get to Nabang. We will have a stop at Tongbiguan which is another important spot for forest birds, where we can expect birds like Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl, Blue-throated Barbet, Speckled Piculet, Blyth's Shrike Babbler, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Davison's Leaf Warbler, Red-billed Scimitar Babbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Golden- fronted Leafbird, etc. After that, we head on to Nabang, a small border town between Burma and China. We will spend the following two nights in a local guesthouse. Overnight: Nabang Bianchui Guesthouse or similar.

We will spend the whole day searching for low elevation birds around Nabang. On the way to King of Old Banyan tree, we will search for small forest birds while along the river which serve as the border between China and Mymar, we will look for Black-tailed Crake, Grey- headed Parakeet, Blue-throated Bee-eater and River Lapwing. In the forest, along a deserted road, we will search for Long-tailed Broadbill, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Collared Myna, Vinous-breasted Starling, Mountain Imperial-Pigeon, Sapphire and Hill Blue Flycatcher. Overnight: Nabang Bianchui Guesthouse or similar.

In the morning, we drive to Laifengshan Park of Tengchong. We will look for birds like Tibetan Serin, Black-breasted Thrush, Mountain Bamboo Partridge, Brown-winged Parrotbill, Slender-billed Oriole, Darjeeling Woodpecker, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker. Followed lunch in Tengchong, we drive to Gaoligong Mountain.

Located in the western side of Yunnan Province, Gaoligong belongs to the south end of Hengduan Mountain Ranges, which has been listed by Conservation International as one of 26 hot spots for biodiversity due to abundance of bio-resources. The elevation of the reserve rise from 900 meters to 4000 meters above the sea level. Because of its 7 complete vegetation types have been formed in the reserve, so far about 525 bird species have been recorded in the reserve, accounting for 43.3% of the total in Yunnan province, including 40 endangered bird species under national protection. We will spend two days in the core area of Gaoligong Nature Reserve. In the early morning we drive to the highest place we can and start our hike upward to the place where we will search for Broad-billed Warbler, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Silver Pheasant, Red-tailed Laughingthrush and Wedge-billed Wren Babbler. Then we will search for Scarlet Finch, Spot-breasted Parrotbill and Scarlet Minivet in lower

We’ll spend some time at lower elevations in Gaoligong, then drive to Dali, famous for its huge lake named Erhai, and the grand mountain standing by the side of the lake. We will visit Erhai to see some water birds like Purple Swamphen this afternoon. After checking in our Bai-styled hotel located inside the ancient town, we can explore the old town together. Overnight: Landscape Hotel or similar.

For birders, Cangshan is very attractive due to rich bird resources. According to statistics, over 300 bird species have been recorded here. In the early morning, we drive along a paved mountain road up to the higher part of the mountain and start our morning search for the star bird, Lady Amherst's Pheasant. Then we slowly walk down the winding road to search for birds such as Yunnan Fulvetta, Chinese Thrush, Elliot’s Laughingthrush, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler and Crimson-browed Finch. In the afternoon, we drive on to Zixishan to stay the night. Overnight: Songyue Guesthouse or similar.

Covering about 16,000 hectares in land size, Zixishan Nature Reserve is dominated by evergreen forest and Yunnan pine forest, the forest coverage in the reserve is as high as 90%. Over 100 bird species have been recorded here including Mrs. Hume's Pheasant, Giant Nuthatch and Yunnan Nuthatch. We will spend most of the day in the forest searching for the star birds Giant Nuthatch and Yunnan Nuthatch, and other forest birds. Before driving back to Kunming, we will visit Yi People’s Ancient Town in the afternoon to learn the unique culture and architecture. Overnight: Caiyunke Hotel or similar.

After breakfast at the hotel, we drive to the airport to catch our flights back to the United States from Kunming.

North Branch Nature Center

713 Elm Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
(802) 229-6206

Hours: Center Open Monday-Friday 9-4
Trails Open 24/7