SPECIES

Yellow-billed Babbler Turdoides affinis

Kulbushansingh Suryawanshi
Version: 2.0 — Published September 17, 2020

Behavior

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Locomotion

Walking, Running, Hopping, Climbing, etc.

Hopping is most common when foraging on the ground; walking and running is rare. Birds hop from branch to branch when trying to get high in a tree. They will often hop on smaller objects when trying to get over a taller object like a compound wall (17).

Flight

Flight is weak with intense wing flutter; a flight does not last longer than a few tens of meters in one stretch. Birds often hop up a tall tree before gliding across large distances like open ground, stream, or small ponds (9).

Swimming and Diving

Does not swim.

Self-Maintenance

Preening, Head-Scratching, Stretching, Sunbathing, Bathing, Anting, etc.

Yellow-billed Babblers start their day by preening themselves before heading out for foraging, and then preen themselves before roosting at the end of the day (3). Sometimes they sunbathe in warm morning sun on cold winter days during which they stretch their body and wings and preen themselves (3).

Yellow-billed Babblers also participate in allopreening between bouts of foraging . Birds huddle together and form allopreening units of 3-4 birds. Juveniles, first year birds, and breeding pair are known to allopreen more than other members of the flock (3) . Individuals seek allopreening by sidling towards a neighbor seeking attention and stretching out the body part in need of preening. Allopreening is expected to help in maintaining the cohesion of the flock (3).

Birds also bathe in shallow water ditches and canals. They sit in water and dip their underparts, dunk their head in and out, and wet their wings alternately before hopping to a nearby perch and shaking vigorously. Individuals repeat this 3 to 4 times and then preen themselves thoroughly (3).

Sleeping, Roosting

No information is available on sleeping behavior.

Yellow-billed Babblers are not known to roost with members beyond their own flock; the entire flock roosts together. Roosting begins with a lot of twittering at the end of the day between 18:00 and 19:00 h. Roosts are 2 to 6 m high in bushes or trees. Smaller flocks huddle together, and larger flocks spread across two or three branches. Flocks use different sites between breeding and non-breeding seasons; roosts are changed more often during rainy season (3). Birds use common trees such as Mango (Mangifera indica), Neem (Azadiracta indica), Albezia lebbeck, and Aegle marmelos for roosting (18).

Daily Time Budget

Broadly, Yellow-billed Babblers start the day by 05:55-06:20 h with preening for 15-20 minutes. There is more intense foraging and preening bouts until about 13:00 h, after which there is dullness in activity and birds appear to rest until about 15:00 h. There is more foraging in the afternoon until 18:00-19:00 h, when the birds preen for 5-15 minutes before roosting for the night (3). Systematic data on daily activity budget is not available.

Agonistic Behavior

Physical Interactions

Physical interactions are relatively uncommon. Yellow-billed Babblers usually mob and chase other competing species or smaller predators, relying on the numbers in their own flock; larger groups are thus more successful than smaller ones (2).

Communicative Interactions

Little is known about communicative antagonistic interactions.

Territorial Behavior

Neighboring flocks maintain 100 to 200 m between them. Neighboring territories are sometimes explored when the defenders are not around. Inter-group conflicts are characterized by chases by individual birds and loud vocalization. Physical attacks are rare, and are characterized by pecking and clawing (2) .

Spacing

Yellow-billed Babblers have larger home ranges than their sister species Jungle Babbler (T. striata), ranging from 1 to 10 hectares (2). Territories have clearly defined borders with only a little overlap. Sometimes, flocks do not defend a territory and stay transient (2). There is no clear relationship between home range and flock size (3).

Sexual Behavior

Mating System and Operational Sex Ratio

Yellow-billed Babblers are communal breeders (4) and the mating system is likely to be similar to the other Turdoides babblers (9), although there are no detailed studies. One pair from a flock of 3 to 15 member mates, while the other members help them raise the chicks (9). There is no information on operational sex ratio.

Courtship, Copulation, and Pair Bond

No elaborate courtship recorded. Allopreening and vocalization likely plays an important role in pair bonding, but this needs more investigation.

Extra-Pair Mating Behavior/Paternity

No information.

Brood Parasitism of Conspecifics

No known information on brood parasitism of conspecifics. However, being communal breeders, this area needs more investigation.

Brood Parasitism of Other Species

Yellow-billed Babblers are not known to parasitize other species.

Social and Interspecific Behavior

Degree of Sociality

Yellow-billed Babblers are gregarious and highly social. They live in small flocks of 3 to 15 individuals who are probably related to each other (2). Groups remain stable across seasons and years (1). Only the dominant pair mates while other members of the flock support the raising of the chicks.

Play

Two types of behavior have been classified as play among birds of the first year (3). First year birds chase each other from perch to perch or even on the ground without any apparent provocation. The other play behavior among first year birds is leap-frogging, where two or more birds run after each other with drooping wings, pecking each other, and often hoping over each others' heads (3).

Nonpredatory Interspecific Interactions

Yellow-billed Babblers are closely related to Jungle Babblers and often share the same habitat. There are several reports of the two species foraging together and at least one report of them jointly caring for young Yellow-billed Babblers (6). The interactions between these two species needs more research.

Over a three year study, Johnsingh et al. (2) observed 32 instances of Yellow-billed Babblers foraging with the Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus). Yellow-billed Babblers are near-ground foragers while Black Drongos are aerial foragers and hence they tolerate each other. This seems to be a mutualistic relationship where the babblers benefit from predator detection by the drongo, while the latter benefits from the insects flushed by the flock of babblers disturbing the understory. The only other birds that were tolerated by babblers during foraging were Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer) and Ashy Prinia (Prinia socialis), but at a minimum distance of 5 m. The same study recorded Yellow-billed Babblers chasing away other avian competitors such as Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos), House Crow (Corvus splendens), Rufous Treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda), Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus), Brahminy Starling (Sturnia pagodarum), and Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis). Potential predators like Shikra (Accipiter badius) and Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis) were also chased away.

Yellow-billed Babbler nests are commonly parasitized by Common Hawk-Cuckoo (Hierococcyx varius) and Pied Cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus; 19), and perhaps to a lesser extent by other species of sympatric cuckoos.

Predation

Kinds of Predators

Likely avian predators include kites, hawks, accipiters, and owls, while likely ground predators include mongooses, cats, and snakes (3).

Manner of Depredation

Not much information. Expected to be taken by surprise from arial attack or by stealth predator.

Response to Predators

Predators like kites, hawks, owls, mongooses, and snakes are not tolerated and mobbed consistently until they withdraw; if they persist then the babblers head for a safe area (3).

Recommended Citation

Suryawanshi, K. (2020). Yellow-billed Babbler (Turdoides affinis), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.yebbab1.02