Hall's babbler is a small species of bird in the Pomatostomidae family known to be common in dry Acacia scrubland which is iconic of central-eastern Australia. Superficially similar to the white-browed babbler this species was only recognised during the 1960s, which makes it a comparatively recent discovery. The bird is named after the Australian-born philanthropist Major Harold Wesley Hall, who funded a series of expeditions to collect specimens for the British Museum.
Medium in size (19 cm-21 cm), wide white eyebrows, a bib from beak to mid-breast and white tips on the tail feathers are the distinctive markings on the otherwise dark brown body of Hall's babbler. A white V shape forms from the markings on the tail when fanned, and the legs and feet are black. The bill is curved in shape and the iris of the eye is a distinctive dark brown. As with many species of babbler, Hall's babbler can usually be observed in small groups. Both sexes are very similar in appearance while juveniles are identified as duller with a smaller, less curved bill.
There are three other species of Australian babbler which are similar in appearance; The white-browed babbler (Pomatostomus superciliosus), the chestnut-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps) and the grey-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus temporalis). The white-browed babbler (Pomatostomus superciliosus) is considered most similar because of its size; however it can be distinguished by its smaller eyebrows and a comparatively larger bib. The chestnut-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps) has a distinctive chestnut crown, smaller eyebrows, a larger bib as well as white lines in the wings. The grey-crowned babbler's (Pomatostomus temporalis) eyebrows fade into a grey crown and it is larger in size.
Distribution and habitat
Hall's babbler is found in central-eastern Australia preferring tall acacia shrub lands, usually mulga. Occasionally reports are made of sightings in other arid woodlands or arid shrub lands. It has been sighted as far north as Winton and Boulia, as west as McGregor and Grey Ranges, and south to Mootwingee and Brewarrina and east to Longreach-Idalia National Park – Cunnamulla.
During the breeding season flocks can be seen reducing in numbers from groups of 15 individuals to pairs with one or more helpers. One of the pair incubates the eggs throughout their development. Spherical in shape, nests are constructed from twigs and usually include a side entrance. Commonly found in the outer branches of acacias, in the vertical forks of mulgas and Casuarina, or in a horizontal eucalypt branch. Individuals are known to construct several nests, although only one is used for laying eggs. The remaining nests are occasionally used for roost sites overnight.
The Hall's babbler mostly feeds on insects but is known to feed on other invertebrates as well. They spend most of their time on the ground searching in bark and decomposing timber, occasionally turning over stones. Foraging can occur on the branches of trees if food is available. Flocks tend to stay together as they move between feeding grounds and will form a tight unit when searching an area. The name ‘babbler’ may have come from the constant communication between groups as they forage.
The calls consist of constant ‘clucks’ while foraging, and an alarm call which sounds more like a loud buzzing, usually resulting in flocks retreating to the cover of trees.
Status and conservation
- Commonwealth status: not listed 
- State of New South Wales: vulnerable 
- State of Queensland: least concern 
Threats include predation by foxes and cats, clearing which destroys habitat and grazing resulting in unsuitable feeding conditions.
Recovery recommendations include;
- Reduce stock intensity or exclude grazing in some areas to allow vegetation to recover 
- Retention of grasslands, including the full cycle of grass development such as seed set and tussock formation 
- Retention of understory shrubs continuing to complete their life cycle 
- Prevent the clearing of habitat 
- Control foxes, feral cats, rabbits and feral goats 
- The Relationship of Habitat Quality to Group Size in Hall's Babbler 
- Morphology and Development of Nestling Grey-crowned and Hall's Babblers.
- Cryptic differentiation and geographic variation in genetic diversity of Hall's Babbler.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Pomatostomus halli". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Higgins, P., & Peter, J. (2003) Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds (Vol. 6). Melbourne, Australia.: Oxford University Press
- Department of Environment and Heritage, New South Wales
- Birdlife International
- Brown, J. L., & Balda, R. P. (1977). The relationship of Habitat Quality to Group Size in Hall's Babbler (Pomatostomus halli). The Condor, 79(3), 312-320
- Gill, B., & Dow, D. (1983). Morphology and Development of Nestling Grey-crowned and Hall's Babblers. Emu, 83(1), 41-43
- Miura, G. I., & Edwards, S. V. (2001). Cryptic differentiation and geographic variation in genetic diversity of Hall's Babbler (Pomatostomus halli).Journal of Avian Biology, 32(2), 102-110
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