Species names in all available languages
|English (United States)||Spiny Babbler|
|French||Cratérope du Népal|
|Spanish (Spain)||Turdoide nepalí|
Carol Inskipp and Hem S. Baral revised the account. Tammy Zhang curated the media, and Gracey Brouillard copyedited the account.
Turdoides nipalensis (Hodgson, 1836)
- nipalense / nipalensis
The Key to Scientific Names
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The Spiny Babbler is the only endemic bird species in Nepal. It is a medium-sized, longish-tailed Turdoides babbler with distinctive black spinous shafts on its generally-brownish upperparts and its throat and buff breast. These shiny shafts are especially noticeable on the pale underparts and help separate Spiny Babbler from other similar Turdoides.
The species was first described to science from Nepal by Brian Houghton Hodgson in 1836 from a specimen collected by Nepalese trappers (1). However, it was not recorded again for 111 years until Mrs. Desiree Proud, the wife of a British diplomat, occasionally saw it in her Kathmandu garden in 1947 (2, 3). Her observations are the first published accounts of it in the wild; the species had gone unnoticed in the Kathmandu valley by other ornithologists (e.g., 4, 5). However, Proud (3) found it very common in the Kathmandu valley; she attributed the lack of records to the species’ habitat of secondary scrub and lack of knowledge of the species’ calls and song (3): "Spiny Babbler prefers the thicker areas of scrub, which lie away from cultivation, are difficult to walk through and where the birds are difficult to see, except in the breeding season. Then the males emerge to sing on top of bushes or near the tops of isolated bushes. Ornithologists with limited time at their disposal, naturally prefer the wonderful forest areas with great variety of species" (3). The species was also discovered around this time in the far west of Nepal from Rekcha, Surkhet district on 25 December 1948 by Ripley, who described the species as rare (5).
The Spiny Babbler is a resident that inhabits a fairly narrow altitudinal range, mainly between 915 m and 2,135 m. It mainly occurs in the mid-hills of Nepal, from west-central to east-central areas where it is locally fairly common or common within its preferred habitat. In the far west of Nepal, it is rare, and in the far east, it is uncommon. Reasons for its limited distribution are unknown.
Despite being Nepal’s only endemic bird, Spiny Babbler has been poorly studied and is not well known within the country, perhaps because of the bird’s shy and secretive nature. There is an urgent need to raise conservation awareness amongst Nepalis about this enigmatic bird. BirdLife International (6) has currently assessed Spiny Babbler as Least Concern and as a restricted-range species in the Central Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (7).