Yunnan mountains

Country/Territory China (mainland); Myanmar
Area 190,000 km2
Altitude 1500 - 4000 m
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 Red List category
(Suthora brunnea) NR
White-speckled Laughingthrush (Ianthocincla bieti) VU
Yunnan Nuthatch (Sitta yunnanensis) NT

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

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://datazone.birdlife.org/eba/factsheet/135 on 05/12/2023.