Yellow River Delta thrives as bird diversity soars

Migratory birds rest at the Yellow River Delta national nature reserve in Dongying, Shandong province, in December. [Photo by Zhou Guangxue/For China Daily]
Decades of conservation efforts are paying off at the Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve, with bird populations experiencing a remarkable surge in diversity. The latest monitoring data reveals a more than doubling of bird species documented at the reserve, from 187 in the early 1990s to an impressive 373 today.
This positive trend extends to protected birds. The number of species categorized as nationally protected within China has grown significantly. First-class protected species have increased from 5 to 26, while second-class protected species have risen from 27 to 65. This highlights the reserve's commitment to safeguarding vulnerable avian populations.
Conservationists are closely tracking the movements and populations of key bird species. Zhao Yajie, deputy director at the Yellow River Delta Environmental Monitoring Center, emphasizes the monitoring of three critically protected birds: the oriental stork, the black-headed gull, and the red-crowned crane. Banding these birds allows researchers to gather valuable data on their migration patterns, breeding habits, and wintering locations.
The monitoring program has yielded encouraging results. The breeding population of the oriental stork has reached a record high of 202 nests this year. Black-headed gull numbers remain stable at over 10,000, and the red-crowned crane population reached 389 during the most recent wintering season (2022-23).
The reserve boasts an additional 38 waterbird species with populations exceeding 1 percent of their global totals, signifying the critical role the Yellow River Delta plays in global avian conservation.
Established in 1992 and inscribed on the list of wetlands of international importance in 2013, the Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve serves as a model for successful environmental and ecological conservation.