Each winter thousands of seagulls from Siberia make the long trip of over three thousand kilometers to Kunming to spend the winter in what is known as China's Spring City. The black-headed gulls first arrived in Kunming in 1985, to everyone's surprise. They have since fallen in love with the city, spending most of the winter in Kunming every year for over 35 years now.
Although this is not a new phenomenon, many Kunming residents still enjoy spending their weekends and days off feeding and spotting seagulls in the warm Yunnan sunshine. The migrating birds could hardly imagine a warmer welcome, which could be part of the reason they have been coming back for so many years.
Normally, the first group of seagulls arrives in Kunming in the middle of October, before larger numbers arrive in November. In March of the following year, our feathered friends fly back to Siberia when spring arrives.
There are quite a few good places in Kunming to spot the large groups of seagulls. Feeding and photographing the birds have become so popular that some have made a small business of selling special seagull food at the most popular locations. Haigeng Dam on the edge of Dianchi Lake and Green Lake Park are the two best places with the largest number of birds.
Haigeng Dam on Lake Dian
Haigeng Dam (also called Haigeng Boulevard) is a 2.4 kilometer-long public promenade along the eastern shore of Dianchi Lake, offering some of the best views over the imposing Western Hills (Xishan). It is here that you can observe the largest number of gulls and enjoy a wonderful walk along the like. If you're in search of more excitement, speedboats are available to take you for a ride, and many people also pick the lake-side boulevard for their daily run.
A cable car leaves from the southern end of Haigeng Dam to take you close to the top of Western Hills, ending at the entrance of the Dragon Gate scenic area. The cable car offers great vistas over the whole of Dianchi, as well as much of Kunming City.
Green Lake Park
Green Lake Park is in the heart of Kunming and breathes more traditional local culture. The relatively small body of water radiates local traditional culture and is also a hot spot for the jogging community in Kunming. Around the park there's many of Kunming's more popular and high-end restaurants, while at the center of Green Lake Park one can shop for Yunnan handicrafts at a beautifully designed square.
Green Lake can feel a bit overwhelmed by the number of gulls finding their temporary winter home. Oftentimes, the rooftops of recreational water bikes are covered in our Siberian visitors.
Squirrels are permanent residents in the park, and supposedly the seagull food sold around the park can also be used for feeding the squirrels, if you can get them close enough.
Kunming may be one of the best places for anyone to spend some time during the colder winter months. The subtropical highland climate in what is dubbed as the City of Eternal Spring is mostly sunny during throughout the year and allows for pleasant, moderate temperatures in the day during the coldest months of the year. Kunming is also the gateway to some of the more popular tourism destinations around China, such as Dali and Shangri-La in to the northwest of the province. See you in the Spring City!