Golden-breasted Fulvetta by Francesco Veronesi.
It is possible to see some otherwise shy and beautiful birds really well in Yunnan. For example the superb Red-tailed Laughingthrush, captured with a camera in this case by David Beadle.
Chinese Endemics 72 (+ 6 on Hainan Island) - not all of these occur in Yunnan
(A monal, a tragopan, six pheasants, a ground-jay, five parrotbills and ten laughingthrushes) Sichuan Partridge, Collared (White-necklaced) Partridge, Przevalski’s Partridge, Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Chestnut-throated (Verreaux’s) Partridge, Chinese Monal, Cabot’s Tragopan, Elliot’s Pheasant, Reeves’s Pheasant, Golden Pheasant, White Eared-pheasant, Brown Eared-pheasant, Blue Eared-pheasant, Chinese (Severtzov’s) Grouse, Asian Crested Ibis (being reintroduced to Japan), Sichuan (Pere David’s) Owl, Chinese Barbet, Dark-bodied (Eurasian Three-toed) Woodpecker, Giant (Chinese) Grey Shrike, Sichuan Jay, Xinjiang Ground-jay, Yellow-bellied Tit, White-browed Tit, Rusty-breasted (Pere David’s) Tit, Sichuan Tit, Chinese Cupwing, Sichuan Grasshopper-warbler, Emei Leaf-warbler (winter range unknown, possibly Myanmar), Gansu Leaf-warbler (winter range unknown), Alpine Leaf-warbler, Sooty Tit, Silver-throated Tit, Rufous-tailed Babbler, Tarim Hill-warbler (Babbler), Grey-hooded Fulvetta, Chinese Fulvetta, Spectacled Fulvetta, Three-toed Parrotbill, Spectacled Parrotbill, Yunnan (Brown-winged) Parrotbill, Grey-hooded Parrotbill, Rusty-throated Parrotbill, Grey-sided Scimitar-babbler, Nonggang Babbler, Golden-fronted Fulvetta, Huet’s (Grey-cheeked) Fulvetta, Barred Laughingthrush, White-speckled (Biet’s) Laughingthrush, Giant Laughingthrush, Snowy-cheeked Laughingthrush, Plain (Pere David’s) Laughingthrush, Giant Babax, Tibetan Babax, Buffy Laughingthrush, Blue-crowned (Yellow-throated) Laughingthrush, Brown-cheeked (Prince Henry’s) Laughingthrush, Emei Shan (Grey-faced) Liocichla, Sichuan Treecreeper, Przevalski’s (White-cheeked) Nuthatch, Chinese Thrush, Chinese Shortwing, Ala Shan Redstart, Przevalski’s Rosefinch (Pinktail), Tibetan Snowfinch, Pink-rumped Rosefinch, Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch, Tibetan Rosefinch, Sillem’s Rosefinch, Three-banded Rosefinch (likely to occur in adjacent Indian subcontinent), Chinese White-browed Rosefinch (recorded in India), Tibetan Bunting and Slaty Bunting.
(Blackthroat breeds in north-central China. Its non-breeding grounds are unknown but it has been recorded in northwest Thailand although possibly only as a vagrant)
(Vaurie’s Nightjar is known only from the type specimen from Pishan, southwest Xinjiang, in the west)
Lady Amherst's and Mrs Hume's Pheasants, Grey Peacock-pheasant, Hill, Mountain Bamboo and Rufous-throated Partridges, Black-tailed Crake, Black-necked Crane, Ibisbill, Solitary Snipe, Ward's Trogon, Crested Kingfisher, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, Blue-naped and Rusty-naped Pittas, Slender-billed Oriole, Collared Treepie, Purple Cochoa, Chinese, Dark-sided and Long-tailed Thrushes, Assam, Blue-winged, Grey-sided, Red-tailed and Scaly Laughingthrushes, Scarlet-faced Liocichla, Chinese Babax, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Rusty-capped, Yellow-throated and Yunnan (Grey-cheeked) Fulvettas, Himalayan Cutia, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Coral-billed and Slender-billed Scimitar-babblers, Black-headed and Clicking (Chestnut-fronted) Shrike-babblers, Bar-winged, Cachar and Grey-bellied Wren-babblers, Chevron-breasted Babbler (Cachar Wedge-billed Wren-babbler), Black-headed and Grey Sibias, Spotted Elachura (formerly Wren Babbler, now in a family of its own), Black-throated, Brown-winged and Grey-headed Parrotbills, Black-bibbed and Black-browed Tits, Giant and Yunnan Nuthatches, three tesias, White-bellied Redstart, Upland Pipit, Burmese (Vinous-breasted) and Collared Mynas, Spot-winged Starling, Maroon-backed Accentor, Tibetan Siskin (Serin), and Gold-naped and Scarlet Finches.
Also an outside chance of Sclater's Monal, Blyth's Tragopan, Asian Emerald Cuckoo, White-gorgeted Flycatcher, Gould’s Shortwing, Rufous-chinned and Spot-breasted Laughingthrushes, Spot-breasted Parrotbill and Pale-footed Bush-warbler.
Bar-headed Goose, Falcated Duck, Himalayan Griffon, Black Eagle, Common Crane, River Lapwing, Small Pratincole, Himalayan Swiftlet, Red-headed Trogon, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Blue-throated, Golden-throated and Great Barbets, Greater Yellownape, Long-tailed and Silver-breasted Broadbills, Rosy Minivet, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Large Niltava, flycatchers, forktails, White-tailed Robin, Golden Bush-robin, Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush, Black-breasted Thrush, White-crested Laughingthrush, Red-billed Leiothrix, Silver-eared Mesia, Chestnut-tailed and Red-tailed Minlas, Beautiful Sibia, scimitar-babblers, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, yuhinas, parrotbills, bulbuls, lots of warblers, Golden-fronted and Orange-bellied Leafbirds, Fire-tailed and Gould's Sunbirds, and Black-headed Greenfinch.
A chance of Western Black-crested and Eastern Hoolock Gibbons, Phayre’s Leaf Monkey (Langur), Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey, Indian, Chinese Giant, Red Giant and Spotted Giant Flying Squirrels, and Giant Black Squirrel. Also an outside chance of Red Panda (at Xia Geza, about 50 km from Shangri La, for example, and in Bingzhongluo NP in the far northwest).
There are over fifteen thousand species of plants in Yunnan, including 1400 species of higher plant in the Gaoligongshan mountain range alone, a paradise for plant hunters, as famous Victorian ones like George Forrest, Frank Kingdon-Ward and Ernest Wilson found out a long time ago. Many familiar garden plants originate from this region where rhododendrons especially cover many slopes.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountains
Thirteen peaks, many with permanent snow, reminiscent of a dragon’s back, rising to 5596 m (18,360 ft) at Shanzidou.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
This scenic canyon, which may be the world’s deepest at about 2000m (6600 ft), is about 17 km (10 miles) long and just 25-30 m (80-100 ft) wide at its narrowest point, where, local legend has it a Tiger was once seen leaping across. Carved by the Jinsha (Golden) River it has some of the roughest rapids on Earth.
Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey by Coke & Som Smith.
The best time for birds in Yunnan is during the northern winter, especially December-January, when migrant species from further north are present, and late April-early May for many forest species. Because of the wide range of altitudes weather conditions during the winter are very variable, from cold and damp, including snow, to hot and sunny. High up, gloves and warm clothes are essential. Also during this time it is best not to travel during the Chinese New Year holidays which usually last two weeks at the end of January and/or beginning of February. The best time for the widest variety of flowering plants is late May through June.
Birds of South-East Asia by C Robson. Helm, 2014 (Second Edition).
Birds of South-East Asia Concise Edition by C Robson. Helm, 2015.
A Field Guide to the Birds of China by J MacKinnon and K Phillipps. OUP, 2000.
Mammals of China (Pocket Edition) edited by A Smith and Y Xie. PUP, 2013.
A Guide to the Mammals of China by A Smith, Y Xie et al. PUP, 2008.
The Mammals of China by Sheng Helin et al. China Forestry Publishing House, 1999.
A Field Guide to the Mammals of South-East Asia by C M Francis. New Holland Publishers, 2008.
Where to watch birds in Asia by N Wheatley. Helm, 1996.
Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Asia? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.
Many trip reports, some for Yunnan, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Yunnan. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Yunnan' below.
The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.
There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.
While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.
Tour companies who are running organized tours to Yunnan in the next couple of years include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.