Tuesday, October 16, 2012


My Mum, a self confessed birdo (bird watcher, or what I like to call a bird voyeur), and wildlife carer, asked me to write about her favorite bird.  I don't know how she can possibly single out one favorite bird (their garden in the South West is full of wild birds) but she chose the Babbler. It doesnt have striking plumage, it goes about its day quietly, its what you would call in the human world - a quiet achiever.  But they are 'characters'. 

I think she likes them so much as they exhibit all the traits that she does - great housekeepers, very family orientated, live in a small but select community, monogamous, great parents and carers, and although seemingly plain, are actually very interesting and animated.  A lot like my Mum. 

Once, in a life not so distant, I could not understand at all what Mum got out of watching birds for hours, carrying around her binoculars, walking for miles in bush and heat, getting a cricked neck from looking up all the time.  Now, after I have experienced it for myself, I get it on all its levels.  Not that I watch wild birds .. I am more the domesticated chook watcher, although I do have a penchant for the pelicans.

But this is not about my favorite birds, but Mums.

So the little babblers.  Written by Mum.

The White-browed Babbler is 18 to 22cm in size, brown with mask like white markings on head and chest. It is a very gregarious bird living in pairs or up to 10 birds in a family group. I used to love to see them in our garden on the ground digging with their beaks in leaf litter and mulch for all sorts of insects. They would come into the bird bath and if there were any leaves in it they would pick them out.

As they are quite a big bird only a couple would get in the bath at once but the others would wait their turn. They would then sit around on the branches nearby preening themselves, and each other, almost falling off the branch as they stretched out sunning themselves, in a type of stupor.

There were 10 in our babbler family at one time, but gradually the numbers went down. I'm sure they were killed off by cats that tenants in one of the neighbours old house's owned. I saw one of their cats right up at our place early one  evening*.

The last I saw of our group, there were 4 birds and one had an injured wing and could only fly low to the ground.
They also roost in a communal nest, though only the dominant female lays and incubates the eggs. Two to three eggs, but rarely four, in a large messy domed nest with spout like entrance.  The other birds in the group help feed the young, probably only after they have left the nest.

The male and female look alike, but individuals have different white markings on the end of their tail feathers. I have a record of all the markings that were on our group.

They are called babblers I suppose because of their happy chatter. I could always tell when they were around as they came through the garden on a regular basis, chattering and calling. They are also called 'happy families' as they do seem to be enjoying themselves.
Love Mum

*My folks are in an area where there is a covenant on the land that no cats or dogs are allowed by the householders, so that wildlife can be protected.  However, just down the road there are no such restrictions and cats and dogs do roam about and cause this destruction.  Mum does try and educate people about keeping their cats inside, but seems some people don't listen.


  1. I have these birds in my yard. For the past few weeks they have been coming into the patio area and pulling down spider webs I gathered it was for nest building - can you ask your Mum if my thoughts are correct please?

  2. Hi Jacana
    Yes several birds use spider web to help in nest building.
    The grey faintail uses quite a lot and builds a beautiful tiny cup shape with a long base like a wine glass nest usually on a horazontal branch.
    Also honey eaters which not only use some web for nest building, feed their young on spiders and other insects and I often see them under my patio roof collecting.
    What birds do you think you have?

    1. This (above) was my Mums reply Jacana.

    2. I think my birds match the ones in your picture. I will have to take a photo if that is possible - they move so fast. I thought they looked as if they were taking spider webs and this has been my excuse not to remove the webs for weeks now!!!

    3. haha. I have a better excuse for not moving spider webs! I tell people I study spiders and they can't be moved from my windows!

      Clever little birds using spider webs, it must be so soft yet strong.

  3. I miss the birds! Where we are now there isn't much for wildlife and I miss the array of birds we had when I was a kid.

  4. We are very lucky where we are in suburbia. We get a lot of birds, despite all the houses and people and traffic.