Flame-templed babbler (Dasycrotapha speciosa)

Synonyms: Stachyris speciosa
GenusDasycrotapha (1)
SizeLength: 16 cm (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

A striking mosaic of yellow, black, orange and white patterns the head of the flame-templed babbler, but it is specifically the fiery-orange tufts above the eye, plainly visible during courtship, that account for its name. It is a small, attractive bird with a bright yellow beak, barely distinguishable in colour from the yellow feathers surrounding the eyes, parts of the neck, base of the beak, and front of the crown (2) (3) (4). The mostly black ear coverts have conspicuous fine, white streaks, but the rest of the neck and top of the crown are black. The upperparts, rump, upperwing and tail are mostly olive-green to grey with white streaks, and the throat and breast are dull yellow with large black spots (2) (4). In common with most babblers, the sexes are similar in appearance and the juveniles lack a distinct plumage (4) (5) (6).

The flame-templed babbler is endemic to the islands of Negros and Panay in the Philippines (2) (3). Formerly widespread and common, it now occupies a small and highly fragmented range limited by available habitat (4) (7).

Inhabits the dense undergrowth and understorey of lowland forests, normally below 1,000 metres (2) (4).

Belonging to a typically gregarious family of birds, the flame-templed babbler frequently moves around in multi-species flocks, foraging for insects close to the ground or amongst the understorey (2) (4) (6). Sometimes methodical in its approach to foraging, this bird has been observed moving slowly amongst clumps of leaves (4) (7). While relatively inconspicuous amongst the dense undergrowth, it is most easily detected by its distinct and musical song comprised of short warbled phrases (2) (4).

In general, babblers are non-migratory, and the flame-templed babbler, with its short, rounded wings, is no exception (3) (7). The timing of the breeding season appears, from the few available records, to be highly variable, with some birds found to be in breeding condition in December and others from April through to August (7).

Occupying one of the most degraded ecosystems in the whole of the Philippines, relentless deforestation presents the most significant threat to the flame-templed babbler (2) (7) (8). In 1988, approximately four percent of Negros and eight percent of Panay remained forested and in the last 20 years the forest composition of both islands has almost certainly declined further. Given that only ten percent of the remaining forest occurs at a suitable altitude for this lowland bird, it is no surprise that the flame-templed babbler is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List (2). While it is considered relatively tolerant of secondary growth, the rate of clearance is so rapid that its ability to survive in degraded forests is more and more limited (2) (4).

While the flame-templed babbler occurs within existing and proposed national parks on both Negros and Panay, there are no specific conservation measures in place for this species (2) (7). Further surveys and studies are required to establish the location of important sites and the capacity of the species to survive in degraded habitats. This will provide decision makers with information on where to position additional protected areas and how forests can be managed to halt the species’ population decline (2).

For further information on the flame-templed babbler see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)