Red-beaked gulls get warm wel­come

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By HU YONGQI in Kun­ming huy­ongqi@chi­

Ev­ery win­ter for the past 29 years, red-beaked gulls have mi­grated to Kun­ming, Yun­nan prov­ince, and this year is no ex­cep­tion, de­spite the un­ex­pected snow­fall and low tem­per­a­tures in the prov­ince last week.

The birds fly south each year from Siberia to es­cape the harsh win­ter weather, ar­riv­ing nor­mally in Novem­ber and stay­ing un­til March.

Their stay in the plateau prov­ince in South­west China is aided by help­ful poli­cies from man­agers at the lo­cal wet­lands and parks, who main­tain healthy habi­tats and pro­vide ad­di­tional nour­ish­ment.

In­deed, this year saw a record high of 39,230 red- beaked gulls ar­riv­ing in Kun­ming, most of them set­ting down in the nearby Dianchi Lake and Green Lake Park, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey con­ducted over the week­end by the Of­fice of Kun­ming Wildlife Pro­tec­tion Com­mit­tee and the Kun­ming As­so­ci­a­tion of Birds.

The gulls make use of 30 nat­u­ral habi­tats across Yun­nan, mostly lakes and wet­land re­serves, their pres­ence en­cour­aged by free food pro­vided at the main habi­tats by wildlife au­thor­i­ties. In ad­di­tion, man­age­ment bu­reaus work to keep the gulls’ win­ter­ing grounds clean and free from haz­ards.

“The birds ar­rived 15 days early this win­ter, and we have been giv­ing them 60 kg of food each day,” said Yu Wan­shen, deputy di­rec­tor of the Land­scape Ad­min­is­tra­tion Bu­reau in Wuhua dis­trict, which man­ages Green Lake Park.

Due to the sur­prise snow­fall in Kun­ming last week, Yu’s bu­reau dou­bled the food ra­tion at the park, at a cost of 700 yuan ($112) per day.

The park is cleaned ev­ery week to en­sure a hy­gienic en­vi­ron­ment for both birds and vis­i­tors. The birds’ drop­pings pol­lute the wa­ter at the wet­land site, and so the bu­reau re­places at least 8,000 cu­bic me­ters of wa­ter each day, Yu said.

“Each win­ter, my park spends be­tween 750,000 and 1 mil­lion yuan to baby-sit the birds,” Yu said.

The weather in Siberia is par­tic­u­larly cold this year, and so the birds may end up stay­ing in Yun­nan long than usual, he said.

In the area of Dianchi Lake, the man­age­ment com­mit­tee also pro­vides 90 kg of food per day.

In ad­di­tion, the com­mit­tee em­ploys 10 work­ers to pa­trol the look­out plat­form from which vis­i­tors view the lake and feed the birds.

In the past, some vis­i­tors have de­lib­er­ately harmed the birds, and the au­thor­i­ties now pro­vide vis­i­tors with clear warn­ings against such be­hav­ior, which they mostly re­spect.

Any in­jured gulls are col­lected and taken to the Kun­ming Bu­reau of Forestry’s wildlife pro­tec­tion cen­ter for treat­ment, ac­cord­ing to the com­mit­tee.

“I was as­tounded to see so many birds fly­ing over the wa­ter, and I knew they had a good life in Kun­ming,” said Zhang Chusheng, a 39-yearold ac­coun­tant in Kun­ming.

“Some­times we have to pro­vide them with a re­lax­ing en­vi­ron­ment, and I be­lieve they will con­tinue to visit Kun­ming.” Li Yingqing and Guo An­fei con­trib­uted to this story.

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