Bird of the Week – Week 91 – Hartlaub’s babbler

The Hartlaub’s babbler, previously, and quite appropriately, called the Southern white-rumped babbler, is noisy in the manner of the babbler family and is most often heard well before it is seen. Within the southern African region it is quite limited in its range, being found only in northern Namibia and Botswana, although it is fairly common within this restricted area. Their preferred habitat is woodland that is located close to rivers and streams.

Hartlaub's babbler

Much the same size as other babblers within the region, with a length of approximately 26 cm, the Hartlaub’s babbler’s white rump and white belly are diagnostic. The sexes are alike in both size and plumage colouration, being brown overall with white-edged feathers that give them a scalloped appearance. The tail is darker brown; the eyes are red; the bill is black and the legs and feet are brown or brownish-grey.

Hartlaub's babbler

Their preferred habitat is the thick vegetation along streams and rivers and within Namibia their range increases during the rainy season when the rivers in the north of the country flood and there is more wetland available. They are noisy birds, moving around in groups of up to 15 individuals and calling constantly “pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa“.

Hartlaub's babbler

They forage out in the open or within thick vegetation, apparently feeding mainly on insects, although little is known about their diet.

The Hartlaub’s babbler is monogamous and builds a rather untidy cup-shaped nest in which the female lays a clutch of two to four greenish-blue eggs. The nests are known to be parasitized by the Levaillant’s cuckoo (Clamator levaillantii).

Hartlaub's babbler

The scientific binomial for the Hartlaub’s babbler is Turdoides hartlaubii; Turdoides from the Latin for “like a thrush” and hartlaubii after the German ornithologist Karl Hartlaub. Thus the name describes Hartlaub’s thrush-like bird, which is not a bad description at all.

Hartlaub's babbler

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