Yunnan mountains

Country/Territory China (mainland),Myanmar
Area 190,000 km2
Altitude 1500 - 4000m
Priority high
Habitat loss major
Knowledge incomplete

General characteristics

This EBA is centred around the Hengduan Shan (mountains) of northern Yunnan province in south-central China, but the ranges of some of the restricted-range birds extend into south-west Sichuan and western Guizhou provinces, south-east Tibet autonomous region and north-east Myanmar. Several large rivers cut through the EBA, producing a pattern of high mountain ridges separated by deep valleys. The restricted-range birds are patchily distributed on the ridges and valley slopes in a variety of habitats including coniferous forest and bamboo thickets. There is minor geographical overlap between the Yunnan mountains EBA and the Eastern Himalayas (EBA 130) in extreme western Yunnan, north-east Myanmar and south-east Tibet. This EBA is also adjacent to the Central Sichuan mountains (EBA 137) and West Sichuan mountains (EBA 138), but probably does not overlap geographically with either of them.

Restricted-range species

The three restricted-range species vary in their habitat requirements and distributions. Sitta yunnanensis breeds in pine forest above 2,440 m; it is relatively widely distributed within the EBA and is the only one of the species to have been recorded from western Guizhou and south-east Tibet. Paradoxornis brunneus has a relatively wide altitudinal range and occurs in a variety of habitats; it is also widely distributed within the EBA and is the only species recorded from north-east Myanmar. Garrulax bieti is associated with bamboo in forested areas at altitudes above 3,050 m, and is known from only a few localities in the border region between Yunnan and Sichuan.

Species IUCN Category
(Suthora brunnea) NR
White-speckled Laughingthrush (Ianthocincla bieti) VU
Yunnan Nuthatch (Sitta yunnanensis) NT

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
CN222 Muli (Ma'an Shan) China (mainland)
CN233 Baima Xueshan Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN236 Yulong Xueshan Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN241 Cang Shan Er Hai Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN243 Yunlong Tianchi Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN243 Yunlong Tianchi Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN244 Gaoligong Shan Nature Reserve (southern section) China (mainland)
CN249 Zixishan Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN250 Zhangmuqing Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN251 Wuliangshan China (mainland)
CN252 Konglonghe Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN253 Ailaoshan China (mainland)
CN263 Longpeng Forest Farm China (mainland)
CN269 Fangshan Nature Reserve China (mainland)

Threat and conservation

The forests of Yunnan are part of China's second most important region for forestry. However, loss of forest land here appears to be by far the worst in China, and forest cover in the province is estimated to have declined from c.55% in the early 1950s to c.30% in 1975, with annual consumption of wood being approximately double its growth rate (Smil 1984). Garrulax bieti is listed as threatened because of habitat loss within its highly restricted range, and Sitta yunnanensis because it is confined to pine forest, although it does appear able to adapt to degraded and secondary forest (M. Beaman in litt. 1993). More widespread threatened species which occur in the EBA are Giant Nuthatch Sitta magna (classified as Vulnerable; another pine forest specialist but with a relatively wide altitudinal range of 1,200-3,400 m) and White Eared-pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon (Vulnerable; found at slightly higher altitudes than the restricted-range species).

There are 14 or so protected areas in this EBA (IUCN 1992d, IUCN 1993), at least eight of which may contain suitable habitat for the restricted-range bird species. However, there appears to be little published information on the occurrence of birds in these protected areas, and it is unclear whether Garrulax bieti occurs in any protected area. The Baima Snow Mountain and Haba Mountain Nature Reserves were established to conserve the threatened Yunnan snub-nosed monkey Rhinopithecus bieti (Li Wenhua and Zhao Xian-jing 1989, Long and Kirkpatrick 1991) which has a similar range and habitat requirements to the birds of the EBA, so these reserves are likely to be important for their conservation as well.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Yunnan mountains. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/02/2023.