13 Nov 2012

Brown Eared Pheasants in Shanxi Province

The Brown Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon mantchurium is a spectacular Chinese endemic with a limited range to the north and west of Beijing, including the mountains of Shanxi Province.

It used to be considered difficult to find, but in the last couple of years word has got about among birders that Brown Eared Pheasants regularly appear near Xuanzhong Temple, near Jiaocheng, an hours' drive from the Shanxi provincial capital of Taiyuan. 

The Temple, famous as a centre of Zen Buddhism, lies in the dusty foothills of the Luliang Mountains. The pheasants are regular there because the monks and other staff regularly feed them with sweetcorn.

There's a discussion about this site on Birdforum here: -

So for the pheasants, for a "Province Tick" and for a bit of general sightseeing Jemi and I flew from Shenzhen to Taiyuan for a few days from Nov. 2nd.  

Brown Eared Pheasant  (Crossoptilon mantchurium)

To cut a long story short, we visited the temple on two evenings and one morning, and saw the pheasants two times out of three.

Brown Eared Pheasant  (Crossoptilon mantchurium)

On our third visit we found the pheasants approaching the temple from a ridge to the north and managed to get some natural-looking photos.  Later, the same group glided down in front of the temple and were called up to the platform in front of the temple by the guys from the ticket office, who then fed them.

Brown Eared Pheasant  (Crossoptilon mantchurium)

There was a small but distinguished "supporting cast" of birds, including these:-

Red-billed Blue Magpie  (Urocissa erythrorhyncha)

Coal Tit (Parus ater)  race "pekinensis"

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) race "vinaceus"

After about twenty minutes someone came through the temple archway with a small dog at his heels.  The pheasants were unsettled by the dog, and glided back to the hillside opposite, where they remained until we left.

Obviously, we had great views of Brown Eared Pheasants at the temple. But it was not quite the same as looking for our own in the wild hills of Shanxi, so we also visited the National Nature Reserve at Pangquangou.  More about that site later. 


  1. Smart birds. Impressive moustache.

  2. I guess there's just a certain good feeling which I don't know how to describe about observing and photographing completely wild birds. Great images as usual.

  3. Thanks to Andrew, Stu and Mun for the comments. The pheasants made the trip worthwhile, of course. We've now got three out of four of the Crossoptilons..... "Tibetan Eared Pheasant" to go !

  4. Those pheasants are beautiful - great photos too! Would love to do a painting of them one day!

    1. Thanks Jeremy..... they're pretty spectacular, it must be said...

  5. Stunning birds!

    My most wanted bird in China, having dipped twice, whn the people I was with saw them on both occasions.


  6. Thanks Mike !

    You searched for them the manly way, I think, out at Pangquangou Nature Reserve ?

    If you don't mind the Temple surroundings, they are regular, but by no means guaranteed. A site that is just "doable" in a weekend from HK :-)