Tawny-bellied babbler

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Tawny-bellied babbler
Tawny bellied warbler 2 by David Raju (cropped).jpg
D. hyperythra hyperythra from Satpura National Park
Calls recorded in southern India
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Timaliidae
Genus: Dumetia
Blyth, 1852
D. hyperythra
Binomial name
Dumetia hyperythra
(Franklin, 1831)[2]
  • Malacocercus albogularis Blyth. 1847[3]
  • Timalia hyperythra Franklin, 1831

The tawny-bellied babbler (Dumetia hyperythra) also known in older Indian works as the rufous-bellied babbler is a small babbler that forages in groups in low scrub forests. Like other members of the large Old World babbler family they are passerine birds characterised by soft fluffy plumage. Foraging in small groups that skulk inside bushes there are three subspecies within the Indian Subcontinent. The nominate hyperythra found in northern and eastern India is uniformly brown underneath while albogularis of the western Indian peninsula is white throated. The population in Sri Lanka, phillipsi, is also white throated but is paler underneath and has a larger bill.[4][5]


D. h. albogularis which whitish throat from western peninsular India
D. h. phillipsi of Sri Lanka


Rhopocichla atriceps


Timalia pileata

Macronus gularis


Macronus ptilosus

Macronus striaticeps

Stachyris (in part)




Stachyris (in part)

Relationships within the Timaliinae based on a 2012 study.[6]

The tawny-bellied babbler is a small babbler at 13 cm including its long round-tipped tail. The outer tail feathers are about half the length of the central tail feather. It is dark brown above and orange-buff below, with a rufous grey crown. The feathers on the forehead are stiff and the tail has cross rays and is otherwise olive brown. The throat is white in adults of the populations of peninsular India and Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan population however has a larger and heavier beak and paler underparts.[7][8][9]

The population in Mt. Abu is white throated and chestnut feathers on the crown (appearing capped, as opposed to the chestnut being only on the forehead) with pale shafts. It has been proposed as a subspecies abuensis but is more often included in albogularis.[10] Another variant form first described from Khandala Ghats as navarroi is also usually included within the range of albogularis.[11][12]

Taxonomy and systematics[edit]

The species was first described by James Franklin in 1831, placed in the genus Timalia. The genus Dumetia was established by Blyth in 1852 who saw differences between it and other genera. The genus characters were in the distribution of the stiff feathers on the forehead and the shape of the bill. Modern classifications based on DNA sequences note that the species is a sister of Rhopocichla and Timalia pileata. It is part of the subfamily Timaliinae.[13][6]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The babbler is found from north-central India to Sri Lanka. The populations in India are all intergrading and no disjunct distributions exist. Its natural habitat is scrub and tall grassland.[12] In Sri Lanka it is found in the hills up to about 1500 m above sea level.[8][14]


The babbler builds its nest in a low bush, concealed in dense masses of foliage. The nest is a ball of long woven leaves of bamboo or grasses. They breed from May to September mostly during the rains. The normal clutch is three or four eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs.[15] In Sri Lanka they are thought to raise more than one brood. Like most babblers, it is not migratory, and has short rounded wings and a weak flight. A prenuptial moult takes places in January-February in the southern population. It feeds mainly on insects but also takes nectar from flowers of Bombax and Erythrina. The produce cheeping, twittering or harsh chattering notes while foraging in bushes.[16][17] The name Pandi Jitta, literally "pig bird" in Telugu, refers to its habit of foraging under dense shrubbery in the manner of pigs.[18][8]

Banded bay cuckoos have been known to lay their eggs in the nests of tawny-bellied babblers.[19] Unidentified haematozoa placed in the genus Leucocytozoon have been recorded from the blood of the species.[20] A specimen that died in captivity was found to have microfilariae in addition to haematozoa.[21]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Dumetia hyperythra". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Franklin, James (1831). "Catalogue of Birds". Proceedings of the Committee of Science and Correspondence of the Zoological Society: 114–125.
  3. ^ Blyth, E (1847). "Notices and descriptions of various new or little known species of birds". Jour. Asiatic Soc. Bengal. 16: 428–476.
  4. ^ Edward Blyth (1819). "Catalogue of the Birds in the Museum Asiatic Society". Calcutta : J. Thomas: 140.
  5. ^ Ernst Mayr; Raymond A. Paynter Jr., eds. (1964). "Check-list of Birds of the World Volume X". A Continuation of the work of James L. Peters. p. 317. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Moyle, Robert G.; Andersen, Michael J.; Oliveros, Carl H.; Steinheimer, Frank D.; Reddy, Sushma (2012). "Phylogeny and Biogeography of the Core Babblers (Aves: Timaliidae)". Systematic Biology. 61 (4): 631–651. doi:10.1093/sysbio/sys027. PMID 22328569.
  7. ^ Whistler, Hugh (1949). Popular Handbook of Indian Birds (4th ed.). London: Gurney and Jackson. pp. 50–51.
  8. ^ a b c Ali, Salim; Ripley, S. Dillon (1996). Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan. Volume 6. Cuckoo-Shrikes to Babaxes (2 ed.). Delhi: Oxford University Press. pp. 178–182.
  9. ^ Whistler, Hugh (1941). "Recognition of new subspecies of birds in Ceylon". Ibis. 83 (2): 319–320. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1941.tb00626.x.
  10. ^ Harington, H.H. (1914). "Notes on the Indian Timeliides and their allies (laughing thrushes, babblers, &c.) Part III. Family — Timeliidae". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 23: 417–453.
  11. ^ Abdulali, H. (1959). "A new white-throated race of the babbler Dumetia hyperythra". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 56: 333–335.
  12. ^ a b Baker, E.C. Stuart (1922). Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Birds. Volume I. (2 ed.). London: Taylor and Francis. pp. 228–230.
  13. ^ Gelang, M.; Cibois, A.; Pasquet, E.; Olsson, U.; Alström, P.; Ericson, P. G. P. (2009). "Phylogeny of babblers (Aves, Passeriformes): major lineages, family limits and classification" (PDF). Zoologica Scripta. 38 (3): 225–236. doi:10.1111/j.1463-6409.2008.00374.x.
  14. ^ Vyas, Rakesh; Nair, Anil (1999). "Range extension of Rufousbellied Babbler Dumetia hyperythra hyperythra (Franklin)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 96 (1): 143–144.
  15. ^ Vyas, R. (2008). "Breeding notes on the Rufous-bellied Babbler Dumetia hyperythra" (PDF). Indian Birds. 4 (3): 114–115.
  16. ^ Pamela C. Rasmussen (22 Nov 2011). "Dumetia hyperythra albogularis". Avian Vocalisations Center, Michigan State University. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  17. ^ Deepal Warakagoda (22 Mar 2003). "Dumetia hyperythra phillipsi". Avian Vocalisations Center, Michigan State University. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  18. ^ Horsfield, T.; Moore, F. (1854). A catalogue of the birds in the Museum of the Hon. East-India Company. Volume I. London: W.H. Allen and Co. pp. 403–404.
  19. ^ Baker, E. C. Stuart (2008). "The Evolution of Adaptation in Parasitic Cuckoos' Eggs". Ibis. 55 (3): 384–398. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1913.tb06559.x.
  20. ^ Nandi, N.C.; Das, A.K. (2010). Synoptic list of protozoa from India and their assessment of taxonomic diversity. Part 1: Parasitic protozoa. Records of the Zoological Survey of India. Occasional Paper Number 319. Zoological Survey of India. p. 191.
  21. ^ Hamerton, A.E (1930). "Report on the deaths occurring in the Society's Gardens during the year 1929". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 100 (2): 357–380. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.1930.tb00982.x.