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An Avian Retreat


Of all of China’s coastal cities, Rongcheng is the first to catch rays of the morning sun. However, its reputation as the home of whooper swans is even more notable. It’s a city where man and nature demonstrate coexistence with a sustainable balance.

Every year in November, nearly ten thousand whooper swans fly thousands of miles from Mongolia and Russia to spend winter in Rongcheng, and leave in March the following year. Rongcheng has been dubbed the world’s largest winter habitat for whooper swans and became a rare place where humans can enjoy close contact with the graceful birds.

Swan Coast

Three species of swans live in China: mute swans and tundra swans along with the whooper, which remains Rongcheng’s majority. Both in China and beyond, the whooper swan has become a symbol of grace, beauty, royalty, and dignity. It’s not so easy to put a finger on the exact reasons why so many whooper swans choose Rongcheng specifically for their winter home, especially with their numbers increasing with each passing year. The most influential factors, however, are related to geography and climate conditions.

At the easternmost tip of the Shandong Peninsula, Rongcheng features a 500-kilometer-long coastline hosting plentiful aquatic creatures such as fish, shrimp, shellfish, and algae. It is considered one of China’s richest cities in terms of marine resources. Rongcheng’s warm, humid temperate monsoon climate keeps the average temperature at 12 degrees Celsius. Also, it has some of the best air and seawater quality in China, with its offshore water at and above state class II standards. Its pleasant climate, abundant food, crystal waters, and picturesque landscapes are all attractive not only to humans, but more so to whooper swans.

In winter, flocks of swans fly from the remote north to Rongcheng’s coast. Typically, the transients stop at Moon Lake for a few days of rest before dispersing to bays, lakes, and reservoirs around Rongcheng, including Madao River, Songgou Bay, Bahe Reservoir, Ludao Lake, and Shibao Bay. Each of these places is known as “Swan Lake” to their respective locals, and Moon Lake is the largest. The lake has a surface area of five square kilometers on the edge of the ocean, separated from the sea by a crescent-shaped sandy embankment. Its clear water is accented by the surrounding trees and reeds, and the overgrown algae provides abundant food for swans staying there. On the mirror-esque surface, flocks of swans playfully chase each other and dance gracefully. When they take off, swan songs echoing through the hills add a dreamlike aura to the area.

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