Slender-billed babbler (Turdoides longirostris)

Slender-billed babbler, side view
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Slender-billed babbler fact file

Slender-billed babbler description

GenusTurdoides (1)

The slender-billed babbler (Turdoides longirostris) is an elusive species native to India and Nepal with rich chestnut upperparts and slightly paler underparts (2). It has bluish-white eyes, with pale narrow ‘eyebrow’ stripes and pale lores (3). The long tail is faintly cross-barred (2) and the bill is dark, slender and curves slightly downwards (3).

Juvenile slender-billed babblers differ slightly from the adults, having more reddish-brown on the upperparts and a pale lower bill (3) (4).

With a number of different distinctive songs (3), the voice of the slender-billed babbler distinguishes it more than any physical feature (4)

Length: 22 - 23 cm (2)
35 g (2)

Slender-billed babbler biology

A gregarious species, the slender-billed babbler forages in noisy groups, searching leaf litter for insects, worms and caterpillars (4) (5) (6). Although a sociable, restless bird, it rarely shows itself and is reportedly hard to spot as it moves through the dense grass, except for during the breeding season when it is more conspicuous, largely due to its loud singing (5).

The breeding season of the slender-billed babbler falls between May to June in north-east India and between March and May in Nepal (5). Its nest is a deep, cup-shaped structure made from grass and leaves, placed in a bush surrounded by grass (6). It lays three to five pale blue eggs (6).


Slender-billed babbler range

The slender-billed babbler is endemic to India and Nepal (3). Although once described as common, this bird is today only found at three locations, one in central Nepal and two in north-east India (3).  


Slender-billed babbler habitat

The slender-billed babbler inhabits tall grassland, in lowlands and the foothills of the Himalayas, as well as grassy plateaus between elevations of 900 and 1,200 metres. It is usually found near water (5).


Slender-billed babbler status

The slender-billed babbler is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Slender-billed babbler threats

Extensive habitat loss has put the slender-billed babbler under considerable threat. Large areas of tall grassland and marshland once inhabited by this babbler have been cleared for the cultivation of crops, such as rice and sugarcane, and have also been degraded by over-grazing by livestock and over-harvesting of grass for thatch production (3) (5). The remaining grasslands continue to be subject to intense pressure from these activities, making grasslands perhaps the most threatened habitat in the Indian subcontinent (5)


Slender-billed babbler conservation

Although the slender-billed babbler occurs in significant numbers in both Chitwan National Park and Kaziranga National Park (3), there are currently no specific measures in place to conserve this threatened bird.

The grasslands of the Indian subcontinent, and thus the numerous species that inhabit them, currently receive relatively little protection (5). Further action is needed to ensure the protection of these important habitats, such as controlling livestock-grazing (5) and sustainable management initiatives, which allow local people to harvest grass for thatch whilst ensuring there is sufficient habitat for threatened grassland birds (3).


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


A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Region between the eye and bill.


  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2001) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 12: Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. BirdLife International (November, 2010)
  4. Podulka, S., Rohrbaugh, Jr., R.W. and Bonney, R. (2004) Handbook of Bird Biology. Second Edition. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.
  5. BirdLife International (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
  6. Shrestha, T.K. (2001) Birds of Nepal: Field Ecology, Natural History and Conservation. Bimala Shrestha, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Image credit

Slender-billed babbler, side view  
Slender-billed babbler, side view

© Hem Sagar Baral

Hem Sagar Baral
Himalayan Nature,
PO Box 10198,
Tel: 009771 4439042


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