Melodious babbler (Malacopteron palawanense)

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Melodious babbler
IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened NEAR
THREATENED

Top facts

  • The melodious babbler is a poorly known bird found only on Palawan and Balabac, in the Philippines.
  • With its shy nature but loud song, the melodious babbler is more likely to be heard than seen.
  • The song of the melodious babbler has been described as sounding like a mocking ‘I can see you there’.
  • The melodious babbler inhabits both primary and secondary forest and is thought to feed mainly on insects.
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Melodious babbler fact file

Melodious babbler description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyTimaliidae
GenusMalacopteron (1)

The melodious babbler (Malacopteron palawanense) is more likely to be heard than seen, with the noisy and distinctive call of this bird making up for its dull olive brown colouring (2). The forehead and tail of this medium-sized babbler are a rusty brown, while the throat is a silky white streaked with pale grey (3), darkening to a greyish-buff sprinkled with cinnamon on the breast and flanks (2). Ash-coloured feathers surround the yellow-white eye. The legs of the melodious babbler are a pale slate blue (3).

As in most species of the Timaliidae family, male and female melodious babblers are likely to be similar in appearance, and the juveniles do not possess a distinct plumage (4).

The song of the melodious babbler is a series of loud, rhythmic, five-note whistles, described as ‘dee too dee too daar’, with alternating high and low notes. It has been likened to a mocking ‘I can see you there’ (2).

Also known as
Palawan babbler, red-headed tree-babbler.
Size
Length: c. 20 cm (2)
Weight
28 - 37 g (3)
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Melodious babbler biology

Relatively little is known about the biology of the melodious babbler, due to its shy nature and its tendency to stay well hidden in the tangles of the vines in which it lives (2).

However, despite a lack of specific information on its diet (3), it can be assumed that, like other species of the Timaliidae family, the melodious babbler probably feeds on small invertebrates (4) and some vegetable matter (3). This species has been observed foraging either singly or in small groups, dislodging prey items by agitating bunches of leaves trapped in the bamboo canopy (3).

No information is currently available on the breeding behaviour of the melodious babbler.

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Melodious babbler range

The melodious babbler is endemic to the islands of Palawan and Balabac in the Philippines (3) (5).

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Melodious babbler habitat

The melodious babbler inhabits the dense tangles of vines in the middle storey or canopy of low trees in lowland primary or old secondary evergreen forest (2) (3), at elevations up to 100 metres (3).

It has been suggested that the distribution of the melodious babbler may be affected by an as-yet-unidentified habitat specialisation, given its absence from apparently suitable sites in St Paul’s Subterranean River National Park (5).

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Melodious babbler status

The melodious babbler is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened

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Melodious babbler threats

Habitat destruction remains the greatest threat to biodiversity, including the melodious babbler, on Palawan (5) (6). Deforestation of lowland forest has been extensive, with the government granting logging and mining concessions for almost all the remaining forests on the island. What little forest remains in the south of the island is under threat from illegal logging, which is thought to continue even today (5). The forest at Iwahig Penal Colony, a key site for the melodious babbler, could also be vulnerable, as there are plans to mine chromite at the site (5).

The melodious babbler is still fairly common in suitable habitats, and is thought to be relatively tolerant of habitat disturbance. However, more information is needed on its habitat requirements before the impacts of habitat destruction on this species can be properly assessed (5).

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Melodious babbler conservation

There are currently no known specific measures in place to conserve the melodious babbler. However, various conservation organisations are working to preserve biodiversity on Palawan (6) (7). Iwahig Penal Colony, about 30 kilometres from the capital city of Puerto Princesa, currently appears to offer the best protection for this species (5).

As not much is known about the current population status of the melodious babbler, the recommended conservation efforts for this species focus on conducting surveys to assess its distribution and abundance throughout its range and to improve understanding of its precise habitat requirements. The remaining areas of lowland forest on Palawan also need to be protected (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

Find out more about the melodious babbler and its conservation:

Find out more about conservation in Palawan:

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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

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Evergreen forest
Forest consisting mainly of evergreen trees, which retain leaves all year round. This is in contrast to deciduous trees, which completely lose their leaves for part of the year.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Primary forest
Forest that has remained undisturbed for a long time and has reached a mature condition.
Secondary forest
Forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2012)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Kennedy, R.S., Gonzales, P.C., Dickinson, E.C., Miranda Jr, H.C. and Fisher, T.H. (2000) A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. (2007) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 12: Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  4. Cibois, A., Kalyakin, M.V., Lian-Xian, H. and Pasquet, E. (2002) Molecular phylogenetics of babblers (Timaliidae): revaluation of the genera Yuhina and Stachyris. Journal of Avian Biology, 33: 380-390.
  5. BirdLife International - Melodious babbler (November, 2012)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=7854
  6. WWF Ecoregions - Philippines: Islands of Palawan, Balabac, Ursula, and the Calamain Group (November, 2012)
    http://worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/im0143
  7. Conservation International - Palawan biodiversity corridor (November, 2012)
    http://www.conservation.org/global/philippines/where/palawan/Pages/palawan_biodiversity_corridor.aspx
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Image credit

Melodious babbler  
Melodious babbler

© James Eaton / Birdtour Asia

James Eaton
jameseaton@birdtourasia.com
http://www.birdtourasia.com

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