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Hall's Babbler

Pomatostomus halli

The Hall's babbler, Pomatostomus halli, is a medium-sized bird, measuring between 19 to 21 centimeters in length. It is characterized by its striking thick white eyebrows and a white 'bib' that extends from the chin to mid-breast, creating a sharp contrast with the brown lower breast and belly. The tail feathers are tipped with white, which is more pronounced on the outer feathers, diminishing towards the center, where the innermost pair often lacks white tips. This pattern gives the tail a distinctive white 'cornered' appearance when fanned, particularly noticeable during flight. The bird's legs and feet are a dark grey, the bill is curved, and the eyes are a deep brown. Hall's babbler exhibits sexual dimorphism and monochromatism, with juveniles briefly distinguishable by their shorter, all-black, and less curved bills, as well as a yellow rictal flange and palate.

Identification Tips

Hall's babbler can be confused with three other Australian babblers. The white-browed babbler has thinner eyebrows and lacks the sharp demarcation between the white breast and brown belly. The chestnut-crowned babbler is identified by its chestnut crown, thinner eyebrows, and white-tipped wing coverts, without the sharp breast-belly contrast. The grey-crowned babbler, considerably larger, has thick white eyebrows, a grey crown, and a rufous patch in the spread wing, distinguishing it from Hall's babbler.

Habitat

This species is predominantly found in semi-arid and arid regions, favoring tall Acacia-dominated shrublands, particularly mulga (Acacia aneura). It may occasionally be sighted in other arid woodlands or shrublands.

Distribution

Hall's babbler is endemic to the interior regions of eastern Australia, with sightings reported from as far north as Winton and Boulia, west to the McGregor and Grey Ranges, south to Mootwingee and Brewarrina, and east to Longreach, Idalia National Park, and Cunnamulla.

Behaviour

Breeding

During the breeding season, flocks of Hall's babbler may reduce from groups of 15 to pairs with helpers. The domed nests, constructed from twigs with a side entrance, are often found in the outer branches of acacias or the vertical forks of mulgas and Casuarina. Multiple nests may be built, but only one is used for laying eggs, with the others serving as roosting sites.

Feeding

Hall's babbler is insectivorous, primarily feeding on insects and other invertebrates. They forage on the ground, under bark, and in decomposing timber, occasionally flipping stones or foraging on tree branches. Flocks move together between feeding grounds, maintaining close communication.

Voice

The species communicates with constant 'clucks' while foraging and emits a loud buzzing alarm call, prompting retreat to tree cover.

Conservation status

The Hall's babbler is not listed at the Commonwealth level, but it is considered vulnerable in New South Wales and of least concern in Queensland. Threats include habitat loss, degradation from pastoralism, and predation by foxes and cats. Conservation recommendations include reducing grazing intensity, retaining grasslands and understory shrubs, preventing habitat clearing, and controlling invasive species.

Similar Species

Hall's babbler can be distinguished from similar species by its thick white eyebrows, sharply demarcated white 'bib', and the distinctive white 'corners' of its tail in flight.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists mainly of insects and other invertebrates, with foraging occurring on the ground and occasionally in trees. Flocks forage together, staying in tight units and communicating constantly.

Song & calls

The bird's vocalizations include 'clucks' during foraging and a loud buzzing alarm call that signals the flock to retreat to safety.

Breeding

Pairs, sometimes with helpers, incubate eggs in domed twig nests with side entrances, located in acacias or mulgas. Multiple nests may be built, but only one is used for egg-laying, with the rest serving as roosts.

Similar Species

The white-browed, chestnut-crowned, and grey-crowned babblers are similar but can be differentiated by eyebrow thickness, crown color, and wing markings.

Diet and Feeding

Hall's babbler is an insectivore, foraging on the ground and in trees, with flocks maintaining close communication during this activity.

Conservation status

The species is listed as vulnerable in New South Wales and of least concern in Queensland, with habitat loss and predation by invasive species being primary threats. Conservation efforts focus on habitat protection and invasive species control.

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Hall's Babblers on Birda

Sightings
A map showing the sighting location
πŸ¦‰
Wintah Thompson
15 Feb 2023 - 1:20pm
Australia

More Australasian Babblers

A photo of a Chestnut-crowned Babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps)

Chestnut-crowned Babbler

Pomatostomus ruficeps
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