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Bird migrations

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Wetlands on the plains of the Amur-Heilong River are globally significant for migration of tens of thousands of geese and hundreds of thousands of ducks and waders.  Six species of cranes migrate through the area and four of them also nest here. Endangered species such as Far Eastern curlew (Numenius madagascarensis), swan goose (Anser cygnoides), and Baikal teal (Anas formosa) and many others depend on these stop-over areas.  Each spring and autumn, birds stop here to feed and rest along the East Asian migration routes between nesting areas in the north and wintering grounds in the Yangtze River valley in China and on the Korean Peninsula and the islands of Japan (see Map: Bird migration routes.)

A narrowing of the transcontinental migratory ways of birds occurs in Dauria.  This means the region has global importance for the conservation of a number of migratory and nesting birds.  There are 19 species from among those birds that are on the IUCN Red List (including globally rare or vulnerable), specifically five species of cranes, swan goose, and others.  Several reserves are Wetlands of International Importance (under Ramsar Convention): Daurian International Protected Area (DIPA) was created by Mongolia, China and Russia in 1994 to protect and study biodiversity of the region.  All the three reserves currently comprising original DIPA have Ramsar status (Dalai Lake (Ch), Mongol-Daguur (Mn), Daursky (Rus)).  There is the possibility of presenting this international protected area as a united transboundary wetland. Four more clusters in Daurian ecoregion also merit Ramsar listing : Argun/Eerguna River midflow (China/Russia), Huihe river floodplain, (China); Lake Buirnuur (China-Mongolia); Aginsky lake-steppe complex(Russia).

Further downstream along the main channel are stop-over areas and rare bird habitats that are protected in the Amur-Heilong River valley, including three of the six existing Ramsar sites in the Russian portion of the Amur basin: Zeya-Bureya Plain (Muravievsky game refuge), Arkhara Lowlands (Khingansky Zapovednik), Bolon Lake (Bolonsky Zapovednik).  Sanjiang National Nature Reserve and Honghe National Nature Reserve in China are also Ramsar sites.  Several other prominent reserves have recently been established: Aldikon protected wetland (Amurskaya province), Zabelovsky refuge (Evreiskaya Autonomous region), Bachadao National Nature Reserve, Naolihe National Nature Reserve in Heilongjiang Province.

The Lower Amur is an equally important migration path but only Lake Udyl is designated as a Ramsar site in the eco-region and it is protected as a national (federal) game reserve (zakaznik).  Other lakes are equally important for biodiversity conservation but have not been nominated for Ramsar listing.  There are no protected areas at the Amur Estuary or other important coastal wetlands (Uda River Mouth, Schastya Bay).  Komsomolsky Zapovednik protects a small area of biodiverse wetlands near the Gorin River mouth.  In general, wetlands of Lower Amur eco-region have been minimally protected in nature reserves.  Less than 1% of the lower Amur floodplain is preserved in protected areas.

Bird migrations are well studied at Lake Khanka-Xingkai – a major hub on the Southern Ussuri flyway.  Of the 400 species recorded in the area, 44 species are included in the IUCN Redlist, and more than 80 are recommended for special protection in the Russian Far East.  The International Nature Reserve uniting Lake Khanka National Nature Reserve in China (2,000 km2) and Khankaisky Zapovednik in Russia (450 km2) is the largest protected area in the region.  Another prominent conservation feature is a chain of nature reserves on the west side of the Song’acha and Ussuri River valleys along the international border (including Hutou N.R, Zhenbaodao NNR, Dongfanghong Wetland NNR).

While large tracts of the Amur-Heilong and Ussuri-Wusuli floodplains are protected in China’s nature reserves, Russian reserves generally protect wetlands along smaller tributaries and much smaller areas of the Amur and Ussuri floodplains proper.  China also developed a network of bird banding and protection stations that greatly assist conservation and research on migration. In 2007 there are about 10 stations working on bird banding near the Amur River.  At least 180,000 individuals were banded at this area.  It is more than half of the total of banded birds of China.

Rapid development of riparian ecosystems throughout Northeast China means that the Amur-Heilong valley harbors some of the last remaining habitat for migratory and breeding waterfowl and plays a crucial role in their survival.  Drainage of wetlands, dam construction, human disturbance, grass fires, and sport hunting are the major threats in the East Asian Flyways.  Another area of great concern is the already high and ever increasing mortality of birds on their wintering grounds in Southeast Asia.

Map collections:

Species richness

Distribution of charismatic species



Bird migrations

Detailed hydrography of Amur River basin

Wetlands of Amur

Terrestrial ecoregions

Major protected areas of Amur-Heilong

Upper Ussury –Lake Khanka

Small Hinggan transboundary area

Dauria Steppe Global 200 ecoregion



Birds ready to take off for the northern nesting areas. Hulyetu. Argun River Valley. (Photo by Guo Yumin)

Also look:

Species richness in Amur-Heilong River Basin

Bird migrations

Red-crowned crane

White-naped crane

Oriental White Stork

Swan Goose

Cranes and storks and climate change in Middle Amur

Great Bustard and White-naped Crane response to climate cycles in Dauria


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