In relation to the limited size of the reserve, the presence of about 170 bird species represents an extraordinarily high diversity. In addition, this number is only preliminary, as observations were concentrated in the forests of the reserve. This richness is due to the great number of migrating birds that cross the mountains here, attracted by the green forests, and to the diversity of habitats in the area, including clear creeks, small wetlands or bogs, dense thornbushes, cool coniferous forests, subalpine meadows rich in flowers, and steep rocky slopes topped by vertical towers and walls of rocks. The different forms of land use also contribute to the high habitat diversity in the area.
When birdwatching, it pays to leave for the field at dawn because of the impressive morning chorus of forest birds in early summer. First the Siberian Rubythroat starts its melodic warbling song in the dim twilight, followed by the buzzing, hammering, and fluting notes of numerous warblers. The mechanical flight call of the Crossbill meets the nasal-squeeking contact call of the White-browed Rosefinch and the tiny whistling of the chickadees (tits) joins with the solid song of the colorful Chestnut Thrush. Then the rumbling wing beats and trumpet-like calls of a disturbed Blue Eared Pheasant may be heard from the opposite slope, and some shrill screams of the curious Blood Pheasants sound from the understory. But the weak vocalizations and the biphasic drumming sounds produced by the wings of flutter-jumping Chinese Grouse are only recognized by experienced birders.
Due to the relatively hard winter conditions with deep snow, only about 40 of the 170 bird species are resident all year. Some of these resident birds are rare or highly endangered species, such as the woodpeckers, the large raptors and owls, the pheasants and grouse, and several songbirds, including the tits, finches, jays, and the dipper. Some very colorful birds overwinter in the area, such as the White-crested Tit-warbler, an inhabitant of the spruce-fir forests, the Gray-headed Bullfinch, and the Collared Grosbeak. The resident birds also include the corvids (crow-like birds), such as the Nutcracker, Raven and Large-billed Crow.
Most of songbirds are migrants and dominate during the breeding season with 110 species, in contrast to only 20 species that are not songbirds. But the most endangered occur among these 20 species, such as the Chinese Grouse, Blood pheasant, Blue Eared Pheasant, Chestnut-throated Partridge, Lammergeier or Golden Eagle, just to name a few.
In the lanky crowns of coniferous trees one may detect up to 10 species of tits, in addition to the Goldcrest, Crossbill, Jay and Nutcracker. On exposed branches one can see the Ferroginous Flycatcher and Scarlet Minivet perching and searching for prey during the daytime. In the same sites, the Sichuan Wood Owl and Boreal Owl watch for small mammals in the darkness. At least tree species of woodpeckers can be seen foraging on tree trunks, with the Black Woodpecker as the largest one. Also on the tree trucks are three species of nuthatches and one treecreeper.
The highest diversity of songbirds is found in the dense brush and bushes in small clearings in the forest; up to five species of laughingthrush, 10 warblers, two long-tailed tits, the fantastically colorful niltava, with red and blue colors, or the white-tailed robin, the loud-voiced rubythroat, and the five species of splendid rosefinches. In the winter even the Chinese Grouse will be found in the willow bushes. In the lowest layers of vegetation and on the bare forest soil, one can see one species of wren, two dunnocks, the glaringly colored Blood Pheasant, and the timid Chinese Grouse. On wet meadows and beside small creeks, two species of wagtails and three of pipits can be observed. Goshawks and sparrow hawks are effective avian predators in the conifer forests and in the shrub vegetation. We have often found remains of their activity: the feathers of killed birds, including the Chinese Grouse and Blood Pheasant.
The thickets of thornbushes on dry, relatively open slopes are the home for seven species of redstarts and three shrikes, and sometimes the Azure-winged Magpie and the Large-billed Crow will be seen, in addition to the Blue Eared Pheasant and the Ring-necked Pheasant. At timberline, scattered groups of trees are used as song perches by five species of thrushes. Higher up, above the treeless meadows, Red-billed Choughs chase each other in air currents. Above 3,400 m, hidden in the dwarf scrub with juniper and rhododendron, one might be lucky enough to see the nearly unknown Chestnut-throated Partridge. In the rocky cliffs of the high alpine zone, one might see the large eagles, the Himalayan Griffon, and the Lammergeier circling in the blue sky. The common Kestrel and Peregrine falconnest here, and the Wallcreeper flies like a butterfly from rock to rock searching for food. On a good day during the migration, hundreds of raptors can be observed, including buzzards, the Black Kite, the hen harrier and others. The reserve is certainly a hot spot for bird life and, as we shall see later, for intensive research on birds.