Grey-crowned Babbler

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Image:Grey-crowned babbler.JPG

Common Name: Grey-crowned Babbler
Scientific Name: Pomatostomus temporalis

Size: 10 ½ - 11 ½ inches (25-29 cm)

Habitat: Australasia; Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. The Grey-crowned Babbler is found in open forests and woodlands, favoring inland plains with an open shrub layer, little ground cover and plenty of fallen timber and leaf litter. May be seen along roadsides and around farms. In south-east Melbourne, small populations survive on golf courses.

Status: Least Concern to Near threatened. Global population: Unknown. Grey-crowned Babbler populations have declined throughout their range as a result of land-clearing practices that leave habitats fragmented. When groups become isolated, numbers decline to a level where they cannot continue to successfully breed. Habitat degradation is also a factor in declines, with fuel-reduction burning, grazing, weed invasions and removal of timber decreasing leaf litter build-up, which then reduces the amount of invertebrate food available. Eastern populations are near threatened, while they are classified as endangered in Victoria and South Australia. It is locally extinct in the south-eastern region of South Australia. Overall populations have declined by 95% since European settlement.

Diet: Grey-crowned Babblers feed on insects and other invertebrates and sometimes eat seeds. They forage in groups of two to fifteen birds on the ground among leaf litter, around fallen trees and from the bark of shrubs and trees (they tend to use trees more than other babblers).

Nesting: Grey-crowned Babblers live and breed in co-operative territorial groups of two to fifteen birds (usually four to twelve). Groups normally consist of a primary breeding pair along with several non-breeding birds (sometimes groups may contain two breeding pairs or two females that both breed). Most members of the group help to build nests, with the primary female contributing the most effort. Two types of nest are built: roost-nests (usually larger and used by the whole group) and brood-nests (for the breeding females), and often old nest sites are renovated and re-used from year to year. The large domed nests are placed in a tree fork 4 m - 7 m high and are made of thick sticks with projections that make a hood and landing platform for the entrance tunnel. The nest chamber is lined with soft grass, bark, wool and feathers. The brooding female (sometimes more than one) is fed by the other group members and all help to feed the nestlings. Larger groups tend to raise more young, and two broods are usually raised per season. Breeding season is July to February and usually 2-3 eggs are laid.

Cool Facts: The Babbler has several other common names such as the Yahoo, Grey-crowned Chatterer, Dog-bird, Barker, Barking bird and Happy-Jack. The Grey-crowned Babbler lacks the dark crown of other babblers and has a yellow rather than a dark eye.

The old nests of Grey-crowned Babblers are used by a variety of other birds: Blue-faced Honeyeaters sometimes nest on top of the dome. Yellow-rumped Thornbills may nest underneath and are even tolerated in active nests.

Two subspecies are recognized within Australia and New Guinea:

  • Pomatostomus temporalis temporalis - This subspecies occurs within Australia in the states of Victoria, eastern Queensland (including Cape York), New South Wales and south-eastern South Australia It is a vagrant or accidental visitor to the Australian Capital Territory. It is also the subspecies believed to occur within New Guinea
  • Pomoatostomus temporalis rubeculus - This subspecies occurs in Australia within the states of Western Australia, Northern Territory, western Queensland and a small area of northern South Australia.

The breast color is usually used as the distinguishing morphological character between the subspecies, with a creamy white breast grading to mid-grey in P. t. temporalis and a mid to deep rufous brown breast in P. t. rubeculus. Other differences relate to brow coloration, facial bands through the eye, tail length and overall size. A zone of intergradation occurs between the two subspecies in north-central Queensland.


Found in Songbird ReMix Australia Volume I

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