Timaliidae – Babblers

Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ferruginosus ©Craig Brelsford Website

The Timaliidae is a large family with a lot of recent work on DNA sequencing changing orders and leading to several splits. Moreover, it has now spawned several new families [Leiothrichidae (Laughingthrushes) and Pellorneidae (Fulvettas & Ground Babblers)], which are treated separately leaving only the following genera in this family: Dumetia, Macronus, Micromacronus, Pomatorhinus, Rhopocichla, Spelaeornis, Sphenocichla, Stachyridopsis, Stachyris, Timalia & Xiphirhynchus.

The Old World babblers or timaliids are a large family of mostly Old World passerine birds. They are rather diverse in size and coloration, but are characterised by soft fluffy plumage. These are birds of tropical areas, with the greatest variety in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The timaliids are one of two unrelated groups of birds known as babblers, the other being the Australasian babblers of the family Pomatostomidae (also known as pseudo-babblers).

Morphological diversity is rather high; most species resemble ‘warblers’, jays or thrushes. This group is among those Old World bird families with the highest number of species still being discovered.

Timaliids are small to medium birds. They have strong legs, and many are quite terrestrial. They typically have generalised bills, similar to those of a thrush or warbler, except for the scimitar babblers which, as their name implies, have strongly decurved bills. Most have predominantly brown plumage, with minimal difference between the sexes, but many more brightly coloured species also exist.

This group is not strongly migratory, and most species have short rounded wings, and a weak flight. They live in lightly wooded or scrubland environments, ranging from swamp to near-desert. They are primarily insectivorous, although many will also take berries, and the larger species will even eat small lizards and other vertebrates.

Typical babblers live in communities of around a dozen birds, jointly defending a territory. Many even breed communally, with a dominant pair building a nest, and the remainder helping to defend and rear their young. Young males remain with the group, while females move away to find a new group, and thus avoid inbreeding. They make nests from twigs, and hide them in dense vegetation.

Species List

The list of 55 species below was accurate as at December 2016:

Large Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus hypoleucos
Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus erythrogenys
Black-necklaced Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus erythrocnemis
Black-streaked Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus gravivox
Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus mcclellandi
Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus swinhoei
Indian Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus horsfieldii
Sri Lanka Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus melanurus
White-browed Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus schisticeps
Chestnut-backed Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus montanus
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis
Taiwan Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus musicus
Red-billed Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ochraceiceps
Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ferruginosus
Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus superciliaris

Rufous-throated Wren-Babbler Spelaeornis caudatus
Rusty-throated Wren-Babbler Spelaeornis badeigularis
Bar-winged Wren-Babbler Spelaeornis troglodytoides
Naga Wren-Babbler Spelaeornis chocolatinus
Grey-bellied Wren-Babbler Spelaeornis reptatus
Chin Hills Wren-Babbler Spelaeornis oatesi
Pale-throated Wren-Babbler Spelaeornis kinneari
Tawny-breasted Wren-Babbler Spelaeornis longicaudatus

Sikkim Wedge-billed Babbler Sphenocichla humei
Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler Sphenocichla roberti

White-breasted Babbler Stachyris grammiceps
Sooty Babbler Stachyris herberti
Nonggang Babbler Stachyris nonggangensis
Grey-throated Babbler Stachyris nigriceps
Grey-headed Babbler Stachyris poliocephala
Spot-necked Babbler Stachyris strialata
Snowy-throated Babbler Stachyris oglei
Chestnut-rumped Babbler Stachyris maculata
White-necked Babbler Stachyris leucotis
Black-throated Babbler Stachyris nigricollis
White-bibbed Babbler Stachyris thoracica
Chestnut-winged Babbler Stachyris erythroptera
Crescent-chested Babbler Stachyris melanothorax

Deignan’s Babbler Stachyridopsis rodolphei
Rufous-fronted Babbler Stachyridopsis rufifrons
Buff-chested Babbler Stachyridopsis ambigua
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps
Black-chinned Babbler Stachyridopsis pyrrhops
Golden Babbler Stachyridopsis chrysaea

Tawny-bellied Babbler Dumetia hyperythra

Dark-fronted Babbler Rhopocichla atriceps

Pin-striped Tit-Babbler Macronus gularis
Bold-striped Tit-Babbler Macronus bornensis
Grey-cheeked Tit-Babbler Macronus flavicollis
Grey-faced Tit-Babbler Macronus kelleyi
Brown Tit-Babbler Macronus striaticeps
Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler Macronus ptilosus

Visayan Miniature Babbler Micromacronus leytensis
Mindanao Miniature Babbler Micromacronus sordidus

Chestnut-capped Babbler Timalia pileata

Species Links
  • Large Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus hypoleucos

    Species Account
    The large scimitar babbler (Pomatorhinus hypoleucos) is a species of bird in the Timaliidae family. It is found in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.
  • Large Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus hypoleucos

    Species Account
    The large scimitar babbler (Pomatorhinus hypoleucos) is a species of bird in the Timaliidae family. It is found in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • Large Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus hypoleucos

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map
  • Nonggang Babbler Stachyris nonggangensis

    Photos and discussion of recently discovered babbler.
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 323

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