African hill babbler

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African hill babbler
African Hill Babbler - Kenya S4E9067 (19493757201).jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Sylviidae
Genus: Pseudoalcippe
Bannerman, 1923
Species: P. abyssinica
Binomial name
Pseudoalcippe abyssinica
(Rüppell, 1840)[2]
  • Alcippe abyssinica
  • Illadopsis abyssinica
  • Illadopsis stierlingi
  • Sylvia abyssinica

The African hill babbler (Pseudoalcippe abyssinica) is a species of bird in the family Sylviidae and it has been suggested that it be placed in the genus Sylvia with such familiar European species as the Eurasian blackcap and common whitethroat.


The African hill babbler is an arboreal robin-like forest bird with a thin bill, bright reddish brown back and a contrasting grey head and nape. The grey underparts are faintly marked with white streaks and the belly is paler than the breast. There is a yellowish tinge to the feathers on the flanks and the thighs The brown eyes turn red, probably when the birds are breeding. The bill has a black upper mandible, a paler lower mandible and the legs are greyish blue.[4] The African hill babbler weighs 14-25g and their length is 13–15 cm.[5]


The song of the African hill babbler is a rich, melodious warble and resembles the songs of thrushes and orioles and is composed of separated whistled phrase with frequent pitch changes, may have some scratch notes and lower pitched whistles too.[4]


The African hill babbler has a disjointed distribution in the highland regions of western and central Africa from south eastern Nigeria east to central Ethiopia and south to northwestern Mozambique.[5]


The natural habitats of the African hill babbler are montane forest and adjacent secondary forest, in dense undergrowth at forest edge and in clearings.[6] Also in gallery forest.[4]


The African hill babbler lives in pairs which forage with 2m of the ground, gleaning insects from leaves and picking fruit. It will also feed in the canopy and will join mixed species foraging flocks.[6] Usually keeps concealed among creepers and vines and is most often detected by voice.[7]


There are currently six recognised subspecies of African hill babbler,[2] they are listed below with their distributions from the north west to the south east:[5]

  • Pseudoalcippe abyssinica monachus (Reichenow, 1892): Mount Cameroon.
  • Pseudoalcippe abyssinica atriceps Sharpe, 1902: south eastern Nigeria, west and central Cameroon (except for Mount Cameroon), north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, south-western Uganda and Rwanda.
  • Pseudoalcippe abyssinica. claudei (Alexander, 1903): Bioko Island (formerly Fernando Póo).
  • Pseudoalcippe abyssinica abyssinica (Rüppell, 1840): Central Ethiopia, eastern South Sudan, eastern Uganda, western and southern Kenya and north eastern Tanzania.
  • Pseudoalcippe abyssinica ansorgei (Rothschild, 1918): west-central Angola, south-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and western Tanzania.
  • Pseudoalcippe abyssinica. stierlingi (Reichenow, 1898): eastern and south-western Tanzania, the Nyika Plateau in north eastern Zambia and northern Malawi and north western Mozambique.

The distinctive black-headed subspecies of African hill babbler is sometimes split as the Ruwenzori hill babbler, Pseudoalcippe atriceps, but Fry et al. (2000) state it has the same vocalizations and behaviour as other races, and do not give it the status of a separate species.[5][6] This species has recently been proposed to be a member of the genus Sylvia, a mostly Palearctic group, if that proposal was generally accepted the name would be Sylvia abyssinica.[3]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Pseudoalcippe abyssinica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Pseudoalcippe abyssinica (Rüppell, 1840)". Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) ( Retrieved 2016-11-07. 
  3. ^ a b "African hill babbler Sylvia abyssinica (Rüppell, 1840)". Avibase. Denis Lepage. Retrieved 2016-11-07. 
  4. ^ a b c Zimmerman, Dale A.; Turner, Donald A.; Pearson, David J. (1996). Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania. Helm. p. 530. ISBN 0-7136-3968-7. 
  5. ^ a b c d "African Hill Babbler (Pseudoalcippe abyssinica)". Handbook of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 2016-11-07. 
  6. ^ a b c Borrow, Nik; Demey, Ron (2001). Birds of Western Africa. A & C Black. p. 679. ISBN 0-7136-3959-8. 
  7. ^ Sinclair, Ian; Ryan, Peter (2003). Birds of Africa south of the Sahara. Struik. p. 408. ISBN 1-86872-857-9. 
  • Collar, N. J. & Robson, C. 2007. Family Timaliidae (Babblers) pp. 70 – 291 in; del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Christie, D.A. eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 12. Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  • Fry, C. H., S. Keith, and E. K. Urban. 1988. The Birds of Africa. Vol. 3. Academic Press, London.

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