Babblers are arboreal and terrestrial birds belonging to the large and heterogeneous subfamily Timaliinae, a component of the complex Flycatcher family Muscicapidae which, besides this, includes the true flycatchers (Muscicapinae), the warblers (Sylviinae) and the thrushes (Turdinae). The subfamily Timaliinae includes also the laughing thrushes, scimitar babblers, wren-babblers, parrot bills, and a mixed assortment of other groups of diverse appearance, habits and habitats. They range in size from Myna to less than Sparrow, and in coloration from drab earthly brown (e.g. Jungle babbler) to the resplendent multihued leiothrix, known to fanciers as 'Pekin Robin'. Some live in open savanna country and scrub jungle while some are confined to dense evergreen forest.
Several species of Babblers are largely insectivorous, while the food of others consists principally of vegetable matter. The best known genus of the subfamily is Turdoides which contains such familiar species as the Jungle Babbler (T.striatus) and the Large Grey (T.malcolmi). They are both about Myna size and earthly brown or greyish brown; the former is normally found in wooded country, the latter around semi-desert cultivation. The characteristic habit of Babblers to invariably keep in flocks or 'sisterhoods', of half-a-dozen or more has earned them the name of Sat bhai in Hindi ('Seven Sisters' in English).
They feed on the ground hopping about in amicable company, searching under fallen leaves and mulch for insects etc. They build open cup-shaped nests in moderate-sized leafy trees and are well known as 'corporate nesters' which means that more birds than the breeding pair assist in all the nesting chores. The eggs, three to four, are turquoise blue, and the nests are commonly brood-parasitized by the Pied Crested and Hawk-Cuckoos. Perhaps equally well known is the Common Babbler (T.caudatus) which is similar but somewhat smaller and slimmer, with a longer and pointed tail. Its earthy brown plumage is dark-streaked. It also lives in 'sisterhoods' but chiefly in semi-desert country, scuttling about under thickets like a rat.
(Last Updated on : 07-06-2013)