The Chinese Hill Babbler (Rhopophilus pekinensis), also known as the Chinese Hill Warbler or White-browed Chinese Warbler, is usually on the list of “most wanted” birds for visiting birders. It has a limited distribution but is quite common in the hills around Beijing. It’s a bird that has a lovely repertoire of vocalisations and is often heard before it is seen.
On my most recent visit to Wild Duck Lake, I came across 4 of these delightful birds, possibly a family party. Although usually a bird of elevation, they descend in winter and are regularly seen at Wild Duck Lake from October to March (an altitude of around 500 metres above sea level). They are occasionally seen at this site in summer, too, and I suspect they bred there this year.
Most field guides call this bird “Chinese Hill Warbler” but it is clearly not a warbler and much more like a babbler, hence the name most local birders prefer to use – Chinese Hill Babbler. They are inquisitive birds and, with a bit of ‘pishing’, they often come quite close to investigate…
And here is a recording of one of the birds from Yeyahu NR… a great sound!
6 thoughts on “Chinese Hill Babbler”
Yes, a very handsome bird, and you’ve gotten a nice recording of it – certainly a cheery sounding bird for chilly autumn. I admit, I’m still waiting to see my first 🙁
Thanks Gretchen… a walk in the hills should produce one or two. Often heard before they are seen, so if you know the song/calls, you stand a good chance of locating one. They use a rich diversity of vocalisations, so do listen to several recordings on Xeno-Canto Asia – see here:
to get a ‘feel’ for them before you try..!
The babbler and I have unfinished business. What would be my chance in January/February in the hills behind the botanical garden in Beijing?
Should be good. Winter is a good time to see them. Chances best along the top of the ridge. Alternatively try the Great Wall or even Wild Duck Lake… let me know when you’ll be here!
FWIW, my 1987 copy of Professor CHENG’s “Synopsis of the Avifauna of China” gives an English name for R. pekinensis as “White-browed Bush Dweller”.
I finally caught up with the “Bush Dweller” in Shanxi last week, so this post seems very timely !
Hi John. Yes, “Bush Dweller” is an appropriate name. However, “White-browed” is a little odd as it doesn’t have a white brow.. it’s grey! 🙂