Spiny Babbler Turdoides nipalensis Scientific name definitions

Carol Inskipp and Hem S. Baral
Version: 2.0 — Published May 7, 2022

Demography and Populations

Measures of Breeding Activity

No information.

Life Span and Survivorship

No information.

Disease and Body Parasites

No information.

Causes of Mortality

No information

Population Spatial Metrics

No information.

Population Status


There is very little information about the population of Spiny Babbler. In 2020, Thakuri (31) studied population dynamics near Lwang and Ghalel villages, Kaski district in the Annapurna Conservation Area. Widespread suitable habitat for the species occurs in the study area, which sits at about 1,300–1,550 m, which is within the optimal altitudinal range for the species. Using a point count method, a population of 129 birds was found in 20.23 km2, equating to one bird per 15.68 ha (0.1568 km2) (31). In November 2006, a population survey was conducted on Dhebuwa Lekh, Dhading district, and found a large population of 26 birds (37) within a small area of 4 km2 (Hathan Chaudhary, personal communication). There have been no other population surveys for the species and no estimate has been made of the national population of this endemic species. However, several studies have looked at populations at local scales.


The hillsides surrounding Kathmandu is the only area with enough information over a period of time to make any conclusions on population trends, although even there it is based on qualitative observations. In this area, abundance has been chiefly determined by the extent of suitable habitat within the species’ narrow altitudinal range.

Proud found it "extremely common in the hills surrounding the Kathmandu valley in the 1950s." At that time, secondary scrub covered large areas on the hillsides after the primary forest had been cut down. This cutover scrub was maintained by grazing goats and water buffalos (3). Spiny Babbler was described as the most common babbler in cutover forests of the Kathmandu valley between 1,525 m and 1,830 m during the late 1950s (34). However, a review of records from the valley between 2004 and 2006 found the species uncommon (38); by that time, the extent of suitable habitat had been much reduced (CI, personal observation). However, in recent years, greater observer coverage of the edges of the Kathmandu valley has resulted in records from several localities including Bhim Dhunga, Sankhu Salinadi, Bosan, and Ichangu Narayan (see eBird).

One of the reasons for the large decrease in the species’ habitat in the Kathmandu valley has been the spread of urbanization. The population of Kathmandu city grew from 104,000 in 1950, to 790,000 in 2005 and 1,472,000 in 2021 (39).

Population Regulation

Thakuri (31) found the presence of Spiny Babbler’s preferred habitat was a major factor in determining its population size. The species was found to have the highest population in scrub habitats, especially near a water source and near agricultural land. Its populations were positively related to a good growth of fern species and to a lesser extent to extensive growth of Ageratina adenophora, even though this is a non-native invasive species (31)

Population levels were found to be positively related to the increase of distance from settlements, probably because of disturbance caused by anthropogenic activities. Populations of the babbler also increased with distance from roads, probably because of disturbance caused by vehicle movements (31).

Recommended Citation

Inskipp, C. and H. S. Baral (2022). Spiny Babbler (Turdoides nipalensis), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.spibab1.02