Several bird species were not observed last year, including endangered ones such as the Marbled Murrelet, according to the China Birdwatching Annual Report 2022.
The bird species with no recorded sightings last year had previously been seen at least once over the past five years, the report said.
The lack of sightings emphasizes the need for greater attention to conservation efforts, especially for marine bird species, it said. Research indicates that marine birds are threatened by plastic waste in oceans, it added. The Marbled Murrelet, a small seabird, usually winters in the Yellow and Bohai seas.
Liu Yang, professor of life sciences at Sun Yat-sen University, said that creating more chances for seabird observations is essential to conservation efforts.
People's bird-watching typically concentrates on mountains and wetlands, which helps provide comprehensive data on some bird species, Liu said. "However, the observation of marine birds deserves more attention. Due to the need for sea excursions for observations, there are fewer records," he said.
The China Birdwatching Association released the report in August. It was supported by the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences and the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. Four domestic foundations and 90 other organizations and institutions also assisted the report.
Despite successful efforts to promote awareness of and combat the illegal hunting of birds, further challenges and threats were posed by extreme weather events linked to global climate change, the report said.
Loss of habitats remains the main threat faced by bird species in China, it added.
"The migration patterns of birds are closely related to the seasonal changes that affect local temperatures and availability of food sources such as insects," Liu said.
"Research has shown that climate change disrupts migration rules for some birds. When they arrive too early or too late, they are not able to seek enough food."
He added that thanks to more people taking part in bird-watching, the report has seen an increase in bird species observed last year, compared with 2021. The number of recorded bird species in 26 provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and special administrative regions increased by 51 to 1,263 last year.
"As birds' natural distribution patterns would not undergo drastic changes within one year, the increase in recorded species showed an improvement in the coverage and level of bird-watching among the Chinese population," Liu said.
The key areas for the distribution of protected bird species are in wetlands, farmlands, grasslands and forests in low-lying, densely populated regions of central, eastern and southern China, the report said. Forests in western Yunnan province and the northern areas of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region are also hot spots for bird species conservation.
Among the provinces and regions, Yunnan has the highest number of "rare, endangered and endemic" bird species, accounting for 53.5 percent of the national total, followed by Sichuan with 40.4 percent, the report said.