When it comes to a trip to the DPRK you may be thinking about political and historical sights, factories and collective farms, the border with South Korea at the DMZ. You may even be thinking about a trip to the beach at Wonsan or a hike in the Kumgang mountains.
But one question we do get asked is…can I go birding in
The simple answer is yes! Korea has a wealth of birdlife for
the adventurous ornithologist or intrepid twitcher looking for a birding
holiday like no other.
Where can you go birding?
You may not see much more than black-billed or azure magpies
in Pyongyang itself, but there are surprisingly many relatively unspoilt
natural environments around the country.
The rarely-visited Chilbo mountains in the northeast contain
mixed broadleaf and coniferous forest, similar to the smaller Kuwol mountains
in the southwest. The Kumgang mountains in the southeast are home to the
protected red-crowned cranes and along with the more central Myohyang mountains
these areas are all national parks of significant birding potential. Lake Bujon
is an important area because of a significant population of vulnerable great
There are 318
bird species in the DPRK and the national bird is the northern
What kinds of birds
can you see?
Two red-crowned cranes caper like nutters.
The red-crowned and white-naped cranes may be a big draw,
but there are also many species including sea eagles, herons, egrets,
woodpeckers, swallows, mergansers and, of course, the mandarin duck.
In the DPRK there are of course a lot of shorebirds,
although mostly in locations only accessible with special permits. Shorebirds
you may see include terek sandpipers, whimbrel, dunlin, far eastern curlew, far
eastern oystercatcher, a range of plovers, godwits and redshank and the rare
red knot and great knot.
Birding on the
A sea eagle catches his lunch.
It’s also possible to take your binoculars out to the
borders of the DPRK. Visiting border cities such as Dandong and Tumen in China
you can find great spots to spot greenshank and other waders, peregrine falcon,
Siberian blue robins, Siberian thrushes and a variety of woodland birds and in
the wider region even white tailed eagles in Dalian bay.
On the southern border, ironically, the political and
military tensions on the Korean peninsula may have produced a relatively safe
environment for birds. In the DMZ in particular, the overgrown
section separating North and South Korea has become an untouched paradise for
many species already extinct or endangered elsewhere. As well as the cranes,
the DMZ is also home to the rare Amur goral, Asiatic black bear, musk deer and
spotted seal, and with occasional reports of tigers even. This part of the
country is of course completely off limits to visitors however.
Young Pioneer Tours can organise birdwatching private tours or organise bird survey tours to various parts of the DPRK – send us an email to set it up!
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