Determining how mountain communities in conservation priority areas can benefit from rich local biodiversity through sustainable development has been a challenge to governments throughout the world. The village of Hanlong in western Yunnan China has been developing bird photography tourism to capitalize on the extremely rich avifaunal diversity of the area. In this study, we analyzed the impact of the emerging tourism on local communities' livelihoods and identified the key areas of improvements for wider dissemination of the experiences. Bird photography tourism in Hanlong has contributed significantly to the sustainable livelihoods of local communities by providing a major new source of income, creating local employment opportunities, and reducing local people's dependence on the extractive use of forest resources. In the process, local communities have acquired new knowledge, skills, and social networks. They have also developed new institutions and governance mechanisms, which enable them to better adapt to the changing socioeconomic environment. Bird photography tourism offers new opportunities and hope for sustaining local livelihoods and biodiversity in conservation priority areas. Experiences in Hanlong offer an excellent heuristic example for sustainable community development, adaptation, and transformational change in conservation priority areas. They also contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals and Aichi targets and thus have value for wider upscaling. Geographical location, local leadership, and external support are all important for the success of bird photography in Hanlong. We recommend that a landscape (including transboundary landscape) approach be adopted to integrate farming practices, other economic activities, and photography tourism. Farming practices and land uses that sustain bird diversity should be encouraged.