White-cheeked Starling nesting in Beijing, China

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“I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Beijing with family on a short holiday. I had been keen for my wife to explore her Chinese roots and so the primary purpose of the trip was historical and cultural rather than bird watching. But I often had 2-3 hours each day to do some casual bird watching. What struck me, although partially prepared by my reading, was the small volume of birds and species in the city (despite visiting many parks).

“Our hotel was located in the centre of the city and there was a Government office courtyard 200 meters away. The guards were very strict about letting me even stand at the entrance to watch birds. But one of the officers was kind enough to allow me a few meters in. The light was still low in the courtyard.

“I saw what I think are a small flock (7-10) of White-cheeked (Ashy) Starlings (Poliopsar cineraceus). Did consider Asian Pied Starlings but did not really fit. Appreciate any opinions on ID. [Above right image that of a male.]

“Some were nesting high up a tree (10-12 meters) in what looked like an old woodpecker hole (above). Nesting in holes is a recognised behaviour. One bird was definitely feeding juveniles although the breeding season is noted as lasting from March to July.

“Could have got better images but access remained limited even on the next day.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh City, Perak, Malaysia
11th October 2012

Location: Beijing City, China
Habitat: Government office courtyard, heart of urban Beijing
Conditions: A chilly early morning, 8.05am
Date: 11th October 2012

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