The Elusive Mountain Spirit of the Omei Mountains

Author: Chris Green (Cotswold Wildlife Park, Oxfordshire, UK)

The Emei Shan Liocichla (Liocichla omeiensis) also known as Mt. Omei Babblers are one of five, restricted range, species in the genus which are among the smaller members of the Laughingthrush family.

This species is internationally protected in CITES Appendix II and also locally fully protected in the province of Sichuan. Since 1999, the export of wild birds from China has been banned, but this legislation is difficult to enforce and birds have been seen in bird markets as far away as Sumatra in recent years. This illustrates the very real need to continue working with this species in a sustainable captive breeding program.

In their natural habitat, in the sacred Omei Mountains, they are more often heard than seen. Yet, the open access paper co-authored by Simon Dowell (Chester zoo, UK) describes their nesting behaviour in the wild.

They are smallish and lively birds with a distinctive sexual dimorphism with the male’s colourful undertail-coverts. Their lovely voice is melodic and moving and is frequently heard in an aviary.

Emei Shan Liocichlas do very well in heavily planted aviaries with dense vegetation suitable for nesting. Plants such as bamboo, conifer and laurel are ideal and provide the right structure to allow the birds to build their cup-shaped nests. Nest baskets can be provided for the birds to build their nests in and they will prefer to use coconut fibre and fine grasses as nest material. These birds can be fed on a diet of good quality insectivore mix and a variety of fruit chopped into small cubes so the birds can easily swallow it. During breeding, they require supplement of good quality live food.

We currently have 20 collections holding Emei Shan Liocichlas and the population is growing. However, it is not yet demographically stable. More holders are therefore needed so breeding can continue.

There are no new institutions on this year’s waiting list yet: a perfect opportunity to add this interesting and campaign relevant species to your collection!

Dear fellow aviculturists, if you feel you can house a pair of this enigmatic babbler species please get in touch with me at!