Yellow-billed Babbler Turdoides affinis
Version: 2.0 — Published September 17, 2020
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The species was originally described as Melacocicus affinis Jerdon 1847 [Type locality Travancore]. Other names have included Turdoides polioplocamus Oberholser 1920 and Turdus griseus Gmelin (Coromandel coast, India), not to be confused with Turdus griseus Boddeart 1783, which was an earlier name for antwrens (Thamnophilidae; 10). Based on recent molecular studies (11, 12), some have opted to place Yellow-billed Babbler into an expanded Argya (e.g., 13).
The two subspecies, occurring in south India and Sri Lanka respectively, are clearly differentiated by the pale head of T. affinis affinis from south India as opposed to the brownish-gray head of T. affinis taprobanus occurring in Sri Lanka. Birds from Rameshwaram Island between the two regions are currently considered T. affinis affinis, but visually their plumage is intermediate between the two.
Two recognised subspecies, T. affinis affinis occurring in South India and T. affinis taprobanus occurring in Sri Lanka.
Turdoides affinis affinis
T. affinis affinis (Jerdon, 1845)
Southern peninsular India (including Rameswaram Island) south from southern Maharashtra, southern Chhattisgarh, and central Andhra Pradesh.
Turdoides affinis taprobanus
T. affinis taprobanus Ripley, 1958
Darker, with grayer wash than nominate on head and upper body. Chin and breast have pale brown and gray so the scaled pattern is much less obvious.
Yellow-billed Babbler is part of the large and diverse family Leiothrichidae (11, 12). Within that large family, it has long been considered part of the large Turdoides genus (e.g., 14, 15); recent molecular studies confirm this (11, 12), but only if the genera Argya and Chatarrhaea are subsumed into an expanded Turdoides, as is adopted here (15). Within an expanded Turdoides, Yellow-billed Babbler appears to be sister to Jungle Babbler (T. striata; 11, 12). Together, these two species appear to be sister to Orange-billed Babbler (T. rufescens; 12), which are in turn most closely related to Rufous Babbler (T. subrufa) and Slender-billed Babbler (T. longirostris; 11, 12).