08 May, 2008

General musings - why are there no birds in China?

Strange but true. It took me a day or two to put my finger on what I thought was missing in China then it dawned on me.

It's not fair to say there are NO wild birds, but there are very, very few. I saw maybe one or two a day of some variety of black and white long tailed bird. There are also plenty of domestic fowl (chickens and ducks) and birds in cages.

Having travelled in many countries I am quite puzzled by this and my only explanation is that for the Chinese to feed their huge population, they cannot afford to have wild birds eating the seeds of crops, and as a result they have all been systematically exterminated.

It's the same with insects too. You rarely see a fly, or a wild bee, or a cockroach or any other insect which could be considered a pest. Unlike other countries where the visor on your helmet quickly becomes opaque from the constant splats of dead butterflies and grasshoppers it happens exceedingly rarely here.

Update 13/5/08. I'm now in Erenhot and lo and behold I am actually seeing some birds. Erenhot is a frontier town in Inner Mongolia (China) right on the border of Mongolia (Outer Mongolia). I went to visit the dinosaur monument (Erenhot is famous for dinosaur bone discoveries) in the desert to try and clear my head today after my frustrations of not being able to take the Haobon out of China and into Mongolia. It looks like because the land is only desert the birds are safe because there are no crops for them to eat. In any case, these birds looked like some form of desert sparrow (think sparrow with a slightly longer tail and a yellow brownish body) and flew around in small flocks of 3-5 birds. They had a pleasant chirp and looked happy living with the lizards (hundreds of small frill necked lizards) .

ANOTHER THING I HAVE NOTICED - why are there no cinemas in China?

Yes, I've looked and not found one cinema in any city or town. I have two possible explanations:
1. They are outlawed by the government for political and cultural reaons; or
2. There is a limited audience for cinema as most homes have cable (actually satellite) TV and a DVD player. Pirate DVDs are ubiquitous and readily available.


Anonymous said...

I have seen 2 large cinemas, but only in Shanghai.

Kazem Edmond said...

My father observed the same things about China 10 years ago. He said that he saw people using pesticides everywhere to kill off insects and birds. He said that the Chinese had been doing it for years to prevent the spread of disease. As a result, my father woke up later than usual each morning since he was used to waking up to the sounds of birds. Scary, right?

Anonymous said...

It's even worse than scary - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Pests_Campaign

They killed them by making so much noise as to exhaust them. By killing all the birds, they got tons of other pests, so they started heavily using pesticides. Which in turn killed bees as well, so now they have trouble growing fruit etc.

What human stupidity can achieve, always amazes me.

Anonymous said...

They use a lot of DDT, even though they say it is illegal.

Anonymous said...

We just returned from a trip to China and kept asking ourselves the same question---where are the birds? Did see lots of birds, mostly fowl, on the Lhasa River in Tibet, but that was the exception. In the country saw a number of what we called mocking birds with large nests in trees, but virtually nothing in the cities. Not a pleasant experience after enjoying so many birds here at home.

Anonymous said...

We just returned from a trip through eastern China, and noticed that indeed, few birds exist in the China we visited. We saw 4 pelicans on the Yangtze River west of Wuhan, and a few white egret-type birds in the shallows, along with a white crane in a Beijing park pool. Other than that no birds whatever. Even at the Yellow Mountains we saw no birds whatever. We began to notice the lack of bird sounds a few days into the trip and then started keeping track.

Kazem Edmond said...

Thanks for posting! However, that's sad news. I hope you enjoyed your trip. :-)