Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 155, Issue 2, pp 347–356 | Cite as

Rediscovery of an enigmatic Chinese passerine, the Blackthroat Calliope obscura: plumage, vocalizations, distribution, habitat choice, nesting and conservation

  • Gang Song
  • Per AlströmEmail author
  • Yongwen Zhang
  • Xuebin Gao
  • Huisheng Gong
  • Paul I. Holt
  • Qing Quan
  • Zuohua Yin
  • Fumin LeiEmail author
Original Article


The Blackthroat (or Blackthroated Blue Robin) Calliope obscura (previously Luscinia obscura) is one of the world’s rarest “robins”. It is extremely poorly known, with only a handful of records since it was firstly described in the 1890s. In 2011–2012, a series of field investigations were carried out in nature reserves in the Qinling Mountains, Shaanxi Province, China. During these surveys, a total of 14 males were found in 2011 and 24 males and 2 females in 2012 in the national nature reserves of Foping and Changqing. Based on these observations, we here describe the Blackthroat’s vocalizations and habitat choice and review its distribution and conservation status. We also provide some notes on the plumage, especially of the female, and the nesting behaviour of this species. The present report confirms that the Blackthroat breeds on the southern slope of the Qinling Mountains in large, dense expanses of dwarf bamboo with scattered coniferous and broadleaved trees above 2,100 m. Our observations suggest that it is more numerous than previously believed, although it appears to be highly localized. The locally dense populations found in 2011 and 2012 and the vast expanses of suitable habitat suggest that the breeding population might be healthy.


Blackthroat Breeding habitat Conservation Qinling Mountains 


Wiederentdeckung eines rätselhaften chinesischen Sperlingsvogels, der Schwarzkehlnachtigall Calliope obscura : Gefieder, Lautäußerungen, Verbreitung, Habitatwahl, Nisten und Schutz

Die Schwarzkehlnachtigall Calliope obscura (ehemals Luscinia obscura) ist einer der weltweit seltensten Schnäpperverwandten. Über diese Art ist sehr wenig bekannt, und es gibt nur eine Handvoll Berichte seit der Erstbeschreibung in den 1890ern. In 2011–2012 wurde eine Reihe von Felduntersuchungen in Naturschutzgebieten im Qinling-Gebirge in der chinesischen Shaanxi-Provinz durchgeführt. Während dieser Untersuchungen wurden in den nationalen Naturschutzgebieten Foping und Changqing 2011 insgesamt 14 Männchen gefunden und 2012 24 Männchen und zwei Weibchen. Auf der Grundlage dieser Beobachtungen beschreiben wir hier Lautäußerungen und Habitatwahl der Schwarzkehlnachtigall, prüfen ihre Verbreitung und ihren Schutzstatus und machen einige Anmerkungen zum Gefieder, insbesondere bei den Weibchen, und zum Nistverhalten. Der vorliegende Bericht bestätigt, dass die Schwarzkehlnachtigall auf dem Südhang des Qinling-Gebirges in großen, dichten Zwergbambusflächen mit vereinzelten Nadel- und Laubbäumen oberhalb von 2,100 m brütet. Unsere Beobachtungen lassen darauf schließen, dass sie häufiger ist als bislang angenommen, obwohl ihr Auftreten anscheinend örtlich stark begrenzt ist. Die lokal dichten Populationen, die 2011 und 2012 gefunden wurden, und die großen Flächen geeigneten Habitats deuten darauf hin, dass die Brutpopulation gesund sein könnte.



We are indebted to Xiangzu Ma, Naxun Zhao and Ruiqian Sun at the Changqin National Nature Reserve Management Bureau and Gaodi Dang at the Foping National Nature Reserve Management Bureau for their kind help and support facilitating our field work. We also thank Ning Han at the Shaanxi Institute of Zoology for his subsequent fieldwork in Foping 2012. We are grateful to Nigel Collar, James Eaton, Vladimir Loskot, Phil Round and Yang Liu for providing various information, and Jon Fjeldså and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments. The study was funded by the Jornvall Foundation and a Chinese Academy of Sciences Visiting Professorship for Senior International Scientists (No. 2011T2S04) to PA, a Young Scientists Fund (31101630) to GS, and a Major International (Regional) Joint Research Project (No. 31010103901) to FML and PA.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gang Song
    • 1
  • Per Alström
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Yongwen Zhang
    • 3
  • Xuebin Gao
    • 4
  • Huisheng Gong
    • 5
  • Paul I. Holt
    • 6
  • Qing Quan
    • 1
    • 7
  • Zuohua Yin
    • 1
  • Fumin Lei
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Zoological Systematics and EvolutionInstitute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Swedish Species Information CentreSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  3. 3.Shaanxi Changqing National Nature ReserveYangxianChina
  4. 4.Shaanxi Institute of ZoologyXi’anChina
  5. 5.Shaanxi Foping National Nature ReserveFopingChina
  6. 6.Bracken DeanClitheroeUK
  7. 7.University of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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