Jerdon's babbler (Chrysomma altirostre)

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Jerdon's babbler fact file

Jerdon's babbler description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyTimaliidae
GenusChrysomma (1)

Due to its unremarkable appearance, Jerdon’s babbler (Chrysomma altirostre) may be tough to spot amongst the tall grasses of its habitat. Jerdon’s babbler has rich brown upperparts and a long brownish-red tail. The underparts are brownish-buff except for the ashy grey chin and throat (2) (3) (4), and the short bill is also greyish (5).

Male and female Jerdon’s babblers are very similar in appearance, but the juveniles have a darker bill, slightly paler upperparts and the underparts are more tinged with red (2).

Jerdon’s babbler can be heard early in the mornings as it sings from the tops of reeds, the most common call being a rather weak repeated ‘chi-chi-chi-chew-chew-chew(2).

Synonyms
Moupinia altirostris.
Size
Length: 17 cm (2)
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Jerdon's babbler biology

Insects, such as grasshoppers, ants and beetles, are the favoured food of Jerdon’s babbler, but it also feeds on small seeds (2). It may perch perpendicularly on vertical stems, and then grasp the base of a leaf and rip downwards forcefully to expose invertebrate prey (2). Remarkably, the sound of the leaf tearing can be heard up to thirty metres away (2). Jerdon’s babbler is usually encountered in pairs or small groups but may form groups of up to 12 in the non-breeding season (2).

Jerdon’s babbler breeds in September in Pakistan and in April and July in India (2). The nest, which is built by both the male and the female, is a deep, cup-shaped structure made from grass, woven around vertical stems in a clump of vegetation (2). Two or three eggs are typically laid at a time, with both the male and female providing food for the young (2).

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Jerdon's babbler range

Jerdon’s babbler is found in three widely separated populations: along the River Indus in Pakistan, in the terai of Nepal, and in north-east India (4). It was once also found in Myanmar and possibly Bangladesh, but there are no recent records of Jerdon’s babbler from either country (4).

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Jerdon's babbler habitat

Tall grasslands on river floodplains are the preferred habitat of Jerdon’s babbler (2). It favours dense, undisturbed stands of grass, which grow to two to four metres high (4).

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Jerdon's babbler status

Jerdon's babbler is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Jerdon's babbler threats

The already relatively small Jerdon’s babbler population is believed to be rapidly declining because of the huge reduction in the area and quality of wet grasslands (4). This is the result of numerous human activities including conversion to farmland and forestry plantations, to make way for settlements, and excessive harvesting (2) (6). The tall grasses are cut to provide fodder for livestock and materials for buildings, woven baskets and papermaking (6).

Excessive burning of the grasslands also poses a threat to Jerdon’s babbler. Occasional burning, which is done to stimulate fresh growth upon which cattle feed, can be beneficial for the habitat, but frequent burning may alter the species composition of the grassland, making it unsuitable for Jerdon’s babbler (6).

The burgeoning human population in the region means that pressure on areas for cultivation or settlement is likely to increase (6).

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Jerdon's babbler conservation

Jerdon’s babbler occurs in several protected areas, including Kaziranga National Park in India and Chitwan National Park in Nepal, but even within some of these areas the grassland habitat continues to be threatened by human activities (6).

Across South Asia, grasslands are declining in area and quality and are currently poorly represented in protected area systems. Education programmes to promote grassland conservation and regeneration, and campaigns to increase the number of protected grasslands, are urgently required to conserve Jerdon’s babbler and the numerous other species dependent on grassland habitats (6).

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Find out more

Find out more about bird conservation:

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Authentication

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

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Invertebrate
An animal with no backbone, such as an insect, worm or spider.
Terai
A belt of marshy grassland, savannah and forest between the foothills of the Himalayas and the plains of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010) 
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. and Christie, D. (2007) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 12: Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Shrestha, T.K. (2001) Birds of Nepal: Field Ecology, Natural History and Conservation. Bimala Shrestha, Kathmandu, Nepal.
  4. BirdLife International (November, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/
  5. Baral, H.S. and Eames, J.C. (1991) Jerdon's babbler Moupinia altirostris: a new species for Nepal. Forktail, 6: 85-87.
  6. BirdLife International (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
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Image credit

Side profile of Jerdon's babbler  
Side profile of Jerdon's babbler

© P. M. Laad

P. M. Laad
parashurammlad@rediffmail.com

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