GZ vs. Jozi Birds!

Friday 6 March 2020,

I have not spent nearly as much time birding our adopted home of Guangzhou (GZ for short) as I would like. Do I need to say it?…. So many birds, so little time!

I have heard that there are some really good spots in Guangdong Province: I have only recently learnt of a spot to find the Silver Oriole, a bird that I did not know existed; and I understand that the world famous (amongst birders), and critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and Siberian Crane can both be found in the province…I better connect with these species soon!
There is also the well-known Mai Po Marshes “just down-the-road” in Hong Kong. But getting to these spots requires, time, and energy…lots of both. Getting to Mai-Po for example will probably take me 2-3 hours, one-way, as it does mean getting through customs. But I digress..

What I have managed to do with the limited time, is observe a similarity between a host of very common birds here in Panyu (suburb of Guangzhou, Guangdong province) and the very familiar common birds that can be found in the gardens of Johannesburg (affectionately called Jozi by some).

While some of the birds will appear different in terms of colour and outward appearance (e.g. the Oriental Magpie-Robin and the Cape Robin-Chat), and some are remarkably similar (e.g. Warbling White-eye and Cape White-eye), they all occupy very similar habitats within a garden; demonstrate similar behaviours, similar jizz, and have calls that can obviously be recognized as being from the same family. Makes sense as the similar birds are probably all in the same or similar scientific families (…something I need to go and read up about!).

It has been interesting, coming from the dry Highveld/Bushveld garden environment of Johannesburg, sitting at 1,750 m.a.m.l (5,750 feet!), to the extremely hot and humid, Pearl River Delta (at sea level, duh!), to find birds with similar habits and behaviours.

Here is a list of common Panyu birds, and their Johannesburg counterpart, based on my extensive hours of scientific observation…read: “casual birding with kids”.

Panyu BirdJohannesburg Bird
1Light-vented BulbulDark-capped Bulbul
2Oriental Magpie RobinCape Robin-chat
3Warbling White-EyeCape White-Eye
4Chinese BlackbirdKaroo Thrush
5Spotted DoveLaughing Dove
6Plaintive Cuckoo (summer)Red-Chested Cuckoo (summer)
7Red-Rumped Swallow (summer)Greater Striped Swallow (summer)
8Fork-tailed SunbirdWhite-Bellied Sunbird
9Long-tailed Shrike*Common Fiscal*
10Yellow-bellied Prinia**Tawny-flanked Prinia**
11Mallard***Mallard***
*Probably stretching the commonality between these two species
**Tawny-flanked Prinia should not really be described as a common bird in Johannesburg gardens. But it does occur at places like Delta Park and elsewhere in Joburg
***I am really trying to stretch this list out as much as possible: Mallard is NOT a garden species! It is an introduced species in both Guangzhou, and Johannesburg. Basically feral, domestic, pond ducks – not good for South Africa’s indigenous population of Yellow-billed Ducks! If the Mallard duck is included in this list I should also add Feral Rock Pigeon, and Common Myna! But it starts to get silly then

Below is a selection of some of the very common birds, that can easily be found in Johannesburg gardens, that I have managed to photograph over the years. I hope to add photos of common Panyu birds soon (just need to find those photos), otherwise you can check them out on Wikipedia!

One of the first things I did before moving to China was look up where the best spots to go birding are.
Here are a couple of useful links I looked up, and still look up, when dreaming about going birding for a morning on a weekend:

Unfortunately I have not been to any of these spots yet, except Baiyun Mountain, that we visited as a family in December 2017.
The only bird I did manage to connect with at Baiyun, was my first decent sighting of the very common, Common Tailorbird (for which I can not think of a Johannesburg equivalent).

We also spent a fair bit of time inside the exotic bird enclosures at the top of the cable car ride, about half-way up the mountain. The kids had a great time feeding the variety of parrots on display.

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