Natural Environment

Since most of the upper course of Kam Tin River is within country parks, it is well conserved and supports a rich biota. However, the middle course has been severely damaged by channelization, and the entire natural river and its ecology have vanished. At the lower course, there are some artificially made wetlands and a new river channel. Together with the fishponds at the estuary and the mudflats of Deep Bay, these wetlands nourish valuable biodiversity.

Upper Course

The water in the upper course of Kam Tin River is of high quality. Abundant aquatic animals can be found there, including Flat-headed Loach (Oreonectes platycephalus), Freshwater Minnow (Zacco platypus), Hong Kong Freshwater Crab (Nanhaipotamon hongkongense), Small Long-armed Shrimp (Macrobrachium hainanense) and Lesser Spiny Frog (Paa exilispinosa). By the stream, common stream plants such as Acorus tatarinowii, Caudate Pentasachme (Pentasachme caudatum), Pilea aquarum subsp. acutidentata and Climber Floscopa (Floscopa scandens) can be found. If you are lucky, you may also spot the rare Hong Kong Balsam (Impatiens hongkongensis).

Beside pools in more open areas, you will find several dragonflies, such as Crimson Dropwing (Trithemis aurora), Indigo Dropwing (Trithemis festiva), Green Skimmer (Orthetrum sabina) and Common Red Skimmer (Orthetrum pruinosum). Small streams tucked away in the woods are home to damselflies, such as Chinese Mountain Damsel (Calicnemia sinensis), Chinese Yellowface (Agriomorpha fusca) and Black-banded Gossamerwing (Euphaea decorata). In addition, aquatic insects including water skaters, stoneflies and mayflies can be found in the upper river course.

Flat-headed Loach (Oreonectes platycephalus)

Hong Kong Freshwater Crab (Nanhaipotamon hongkongense)

Hong Kong Balsam (Impatiens hongkongensis)

Black-banded Gossamerwing (Euphaea decorata)

Climber Floscopa (Floscopa scandens)

Middle Course

Almost all sections of the middle course of Kam Tin River have been channelized. But you can still find some birds in the bushes and trees on both side of the river, as well as along the river channel, such as White Wagtail (Motacilla alba), White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) and Yellow-bellied Prinia (Prinia flaviventris).

Even the sections of the middle course that have not been channelized are all polluted. Only river organisms with high tolerance to pollution, such as Gunther's Frog (Rana guentheri), Mozambique Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) and Apple Snail (Pomacea canaliculata), can flourish in this kind of environment. As the polluted river water is rich in organic pollutants, floating plants such as Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) are abundant in the river channels. The plant has been trapped in the tributaries because of the slow river flow, in turn leading to increased river pollution.

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
© Henry Lui

Yellow-bellied Prinia (Prinia flaviventris) © Henry Lui

Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiotes)

Gunther's Frog (Rana guentheri)

Apple Snail (Pomacea canaliculata)

Lower Course

The new river channel at the lower course of Kam Tin River was artificially excavated, yet it was built with ecological conservation measures. On the river banks, you can find artificially cultivated Kandelia obovata, Aegiceras corniculatum and mangrove associate Spiny Bears Breech (Acanthus ilicifolius). There are also invasive mangrove species, mostly Sonneratia caseolaris and a few Sonneratia apetala.

At the confluence of Kam Tin River and Shan Pui River, hundreds of waterbirds, such as Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata), visit the channel as the tide ebbs, in late autumn through to early spring. On the riverbed mudflats, you can see abundant Bluespotted Mudskippers (Boleophthalmus pectinirostris) and bright orange Fiddler Crabs (Uca sp.). There are vivid wildlife scenes here.


Kandelia obovata

Aegiceras corniculatum

Sonneratia caseolaris

Bluespotted Mudskippers (Boleophthalmus pectinirostris)

Fiddler Crabs (Uca sp.)


The Town Planning Board set down in the planning guidelines that the Kam Tin River estuary and nearby fish ponds belong to a wetland conservation region, so the relatively natural landscape can be protected. Many waterbirds such as Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avocetta), several duck species and Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) gather in the estuary to feed during the winter.

The Deep Bay Ramsar site located at the estuary of Kam Tin River is an importance place where waterfowls feed on and take shelter. The place shelters over 20,000 waterbirds each year; including a substantial proportion of the world population of Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor). The site has high ecological value and is Hong Kong's premier ecological treasure trove.

© Henry Lui

Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avocetta)

Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor)
© Henry Lui

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