Following his studies at the École Royale in Lyon, Olphe-Galliard planned to study medicine, but following the Revolution of 1848 he abandoned this plan and took refuge in Switzerland with his family. Here he was devoted entirely to ornithology and publishing his first work in " Naumannia" and the Journal für Ornithologie of Jean Cabanis. In 1856 he took part in the second congress of Deutsche Ornithologen-Gesellschaft at Gothen in Germany, where he met Prince Lucien Bonaparte, and other scientists. In 1864 he returned to Lyon. In 1870 he left this city again and went to live in Bulle. He returned to France in 1876, lived for a time at Angoulême and then after 1880 in Hendaye. He died on February 2, 1893, after a long illness, bequeathing his collections and his manuscripts to the town of Gap.
Olphe-Galliard was a member of Academy of Lyon, of the Société Linnéenne and of the Société Helvétique. He published thirty-six papers on the ornithological fauna of Western Europe between 1884 and 1890, and in 1891, Catalogue of the birds around Lyon. This gives descriptions, synonyms and the bibliography of all the species of the south-west of Europe as well as of species which, although not living in this area, could be confused with the local species. His tendency not to comply with the principle of priority formulated in 1842 earned some reproaches from American ornithologists, but they noted his knowledge of foreign languages rare among French ornithologists.
Olphe-Galliard described Moussier's redstart in 1852.
- Julius Victor Carus, Deutsche Zoologische Gesellschaft 1894 "Brehm, Ohr. Ludw., Ornithologische Briefe von Leon Olphe-Gaillard. Sep.-Abdr". In: Ornith. Jahrb. Vol. 3, 1892, pp. 127—162.
- Bibliotheca zoologica Vol. 5 Julius Victor Carus, Wilhelm Engelmann, Otto Taschenburg – 1899 " Olphe-Galliard, Léon, Excursions ornithologiques en Suisse. Questions sur la rareté des oiseaux dans diverses contrées, ..."
- Nature Vol.47 Sir Norman Lockyer, 1893 "M. Olphe-Galliard (whose name few writers, even Frenchmen, spell correctly) was remarkable among his countrymen for his knowledge of other languages than his own, and his recognition of the works of foreign ornithologists stands out in "
- The Ibis Vol.6 1893 "LEON OLPHE-GALLIARD, a French ornithologist devoted to the study of the birds of his native country, died at Hendaye, Basses Pyrénées, on the 2nd of February last, at the age of 68 years. M. Olphe-Galliard is principally ..."
- L.S. (1887). "Olphe-Galliard's Ornithology of Western Europe". The Auk. 4 (4): 336–337. doi:10.2307/4067198.
- Ronsil. Bibliographie ornithologique française. Paris, 1948, n° 2215, pp. 371–372.