Spiny Babbler Turdoides nipalensis Scientific name definitions

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



Spiny Babbler is endemic to Nepal, where it is locally distributed primarily in the mid-hills in dense scrub with some isolated trees, or thick secondary growth, and mainly in the subtropical zone. Its main distribution lies between west-central and east-central Nepal. It also occurs locally just south of the mid-hills; there is a significant population in the Gadhi-Siraichuli Important Bird Area, Chitwan district, in the Mahabharat range (18). There are also recent records south of the mid-hills in western Nepal in the Chure range at Bardia (19) and in the Kailali district (20).

It frequents a limited altitudinal range, and the breeding range and nonbreeding range are very similar; it moves short distances up and down the slope, according to the season. It breeds mainly between 1,500 m and 1,830 m, sometimes up to 1,980 m, and is rarely recorded up to 2,135 m. During the nonbreeding season, it may descend to between 915 m and 1,600 m (3, 8, 21, 22). It has also regularly been recorded as low as 500 m during winter in the deep valleys of the mid-hills, e.g., at Malekhu in Dhading district (HSB, personal observation). Another regular wintering site is by the Trishuli Khola, central Nepal at 375 m (Suchit Basnet, personal communication).

The westernmost record is a specimen collected from the Baitadi district close to the Indian border prior to 1982 (Nepali, unpublished data); no other details of locality or date could be located. The species has been recorded from nearby Kailali district east through the following districts in western, west-central, and east-central Nepal: Bardia, Achham, Bajura, Surkhet, Gulmi, Syangja, Baglung, Myagdi, Palpa, Kaski, Lamjung, Tanahun, Chitwan, Dhading, Makawanpur, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Sindhupalchok, Kabhrepalanchok. In far eastern Nepal, it has been recorded from Sankhuwasabha, Dhankuta, Taplejung, and Ilam districts. The gap in records between east-central and far eastern Nepal may be because of a lack of observer coverage. Within its favored habitat and limited altitudinal distribution, it is locally fairly common to common. Known areas where it is fairly common are: the Pokhara valley and Sarangkhot, Kaski district; Lwang-Ghale village area, Kaski district; Dheuba Lekh and Nalang, Dhading district; Uperdang Gadhi, Gadhi-Siraichuli Important Bird Area, Chitwan district and Bosan village area, Kathmandu valley. Most records of the species are located between west-central to east-central Nepal.

The species is uncommon in the far west with only six records in the last 40 years: Baitadi district pre-1982 (Nepali, unpublished data); two sightings on the crest of the Siwalik hills separating Bardia National Park and Surkhet district – three birds on 14 November and two birds on 15 November 1985 (23); Badimalika region, Achham district in 1998 (24); Khaptad National Park, Achham district (25 ), and three photographed at Sukarmala between the boundary of Bardia National Park and Surkhet district on 7 February 2020 (Dinesh Gri, personal communication). Bird surveys were carried out further west in the Dadeldhura and Baitadi districts in May and June 2010 (Baral, Basnet, and Chaudhary, unpublished data), the Baitadi district in 2014 (Hari Basnet, personal communication), and the Api Nampa Conservation Area, Darchula district in 2012 (26), but did not record the species in 2016 (27).

Spiny Babbler is also uncommon in the far east, despite fairly good observer coverage. There have been ten records in the last 30 years: a frequent resident in Makalu-Barun National Park, Sankhuwasaba district (28); recorded in the park’s buffer zone, Sankhuwasabha district (29); single birds recorded in the Khandbari-Num Important Bird Area, Sankhuwasabha district in October 2014 and February 2015, (Thakuri, unpublished data); two records from Yamphudin, Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, Taplejung district on 11 November 1995 (30) and in April 1997 (White and White, unpublished data); Khewang, Taplejung district in December 1991 (Nielsen, unpublished data); Dobhan, Taplejung district in April 1997 (White and White, unpublished data); Bhedetar, Dhankuta district (Badri Chaudhary and Hathan Chaudhary, NTNC workshop, 2012); and Bhaludhunga Community Forest, Ilam District (Naresh Shrestha, personal communication).

Extralimital Records

There is one record of Spiny Babbler from outside Nepal, said to have been collected by Captain Stackhouse Pinwill in the 1800s at Loohoo Ghat in Kumaon (now Uttarakhand), 24 km west from Nepal’s western border. A 1960–1966 review of all of Nepal’s bird species describes Pinwill’s collection as follows: "well known for its inaccurate locality records on the specimen labels. I shall not be surprised if Pinwill in fact purchased a skin while at Loohoo Ghat from Nepali people who seasonally go across the border for trade" (11).

Historical Changes to the Distribution

None known.

Distribution of the Spiny Babbler - Range Map
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Spiny Babbler

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