Yellow-billed Babbler Turdoides affinis

Kulbushansingh Suryawanshi
Version: 2.0 — Published September 17, 2020

Diet and Foraging

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Main Foods Taken

Yellow-billed Babbler is an omnivore that feeds on insects, spiders, small fruits, grains, nectar and the occasional lizard or scraps of food from human habitations (12).

Microhabitat for Foraging

Primarily feeds on the ground and moves by hoping. Birds prefer leaf litter and foliage in the undergrowth, where they feed by flicking aside the leaves (1). Bushy thickets such as Lantana are also important foraging areas. In plantations and cultivations (e.g., mango orchards), they favor open understory (2). Sometimes, birds forage on open grounds with termite mounds and litter, as well as food waste around human habitations.

Food Capture and Consumption

Birds Feed in flocks while moving around using contact calls. While foraging, they predominantly hop on the ground , and digs holes to pull out prey hidden in crevices. They also use short flights to chase after flushed prey, and leap from the ground to catch insects in flight. Birds glean from leaves and branches, and sometimes even hang upside down (3). Yellow-billed Babbler uses its feet to hold down larger prey such as grasshoppers while tearing out bites (2) . Johnsingh et al. (2) estimated a movement rate of 100-135 meters per hour during foraging.


Major food items

Major food items include invertebrates, such as beetles (Coleoptera), grasshoppers (Orthoptera), cicadas (Cicadidae), caterpillars, termites (Isoptera), and other insects, as well as spiders (Araneae). Diet also includes fruit, including wild figs (Ficus spp.), Ziziphus spp., Lantana camara, Morinda tometosa, and Fluggea leucopyrus, grain such as Sorghum vulgare, and nectar from large fruits such as Erythrina variegata and Butea monosperma (2). Also feeds on scraps of food from around human habitation, and rarely whipscorpions (Amblypygi) and even lizards, including garden fence lizard (Calotes versicolor).

Quantitative analysis

Zacharias and Mathew (1) analyzed the stomach contents of 183 Yellow-billed Babblers with a sample of 13-24 individuals in each month of the year. Birds had similar diets across all months, and insects and fruits occurred at similar frequencies across all the 12 months. Coleoptera and Isoptera were the most frequent prey items, occurring in 142 and 141 samples (77.6 and 77%) respectively. Those prey items were followed by Hymenoptera in 122 samples (66.6%), Orthoptera in 82 samples (44.8%), Heteroptera in 36 samples (19.6%), Lepidoptera in 22 samples (13.1%), Arachnida in 22 samples (13.1%), Myriapoda in 3 samples (1.6%), Diptera in 2 samples (1%), and Dermaptera in a single sample (0.5%). Manihot esculenta (Cassava) was the most common fruit consumed, occurring in 64 (34.9%) samples, followed by Macaranga indica in 31 samples (16.9%), Lantana camara in 22 samples (13.1%), Passiflora foetida in 14 samples (7.6%), Physalis minima in 7 samples (3.8%), Ixora cocinea in 3 samples (1.6%), Leguminosae sp. in 2 samples (1%), and Ziziphus jujuba in a single sample (0.5%). Grains occurred in 22 (13.1%) samples, and other plant fibers in 16 (8.7%) samples. Vertebrate bones occurred in 3 (1.6%) samples.

Johnsingh et al. (2) reported Yellow-billed Babblers feeding on insects in 29 out of 69 observations (42%), followed by caterpillars in 22 observations (31.8%), seeds of Sorghum vulgare in 6 observations (8.6%), fruits of Morinda tomentosa in 5 observations (7.2%), Fluggea leucopyrus in 3 observations (4.2%), and other smaller invertebrates such as centipedes in 2 observations (2.8%), and spiders in a single observation (1.4%).

Both of these studies were done between 1974 and 1980 in Calicut and Sivakasi, respectively. More information is needed from other sites.

Food Selection and Storage

No information.

Nutrition and Energetics

No information.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

No information.

Drinking, Pellet-Casting, and Defecation

Drinks from stationary sources like small pools and ditches, as well as flowing water like small streams and canals (3). During hot summer days, the entire flock drinks together during late afternoons .

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