Nepal’s Endemic Spiny Babbler

As a species of the Leiothrichidae (laughingthrush) family, the Spiny Babbler (Turdoides nipalensis) is Nepal’s only endemic bird, and is found mainly in the lush undergrowth on the slopes of Phulchoki Mountain, just sixteen kilometers from the bustling city of Kathmandu. Although it favors a restricted habitat range, the Spiny Babbler’s conservation status is considered to be of ‘least concern’ by the IUCN, with populations being monitored by local groups, such as Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN), to ensure its survival.

The organization BirdLife International acknowledges the IUCN conservation assessment of the Spiny Babbler as being of ‘least concern’, while noting that it may be considered ‘vulnerable’ under the criterion of range size, while being of ‘least concern’ under the population size criterion, which requires over 10,000 mature birds and a population decline of less than ten percent in ten years, or three generations. While there are not exact figures on the Spiny Babbler population size, reported sightings suggest that these attractive little birds are plentiful in their habitat.

Measuring between 22 and 26 cm, the Spiny Babbler has a slightly downward-curved bill which is dark brown to black in color. It has a whitish face and underparts and narrow dark streaks on its breast, throat and flanks. It is sometimes mistaken for the Striated Babbler and Common Babbler. It feeds primarily on insects, foraging through leaf litter on the ground to find its food. With breeding season being from April to June, the Spiny Babbler lays 3 to 4 eggs in a deep cup-shaped nest made of grass in low-growing dense scrub.

Bird Conservation Nepal is active in the area designated as the Pulchoki Important Bird Area (IBA) which includes the habitat of the Spiny Babbler. Working along with community organizations known as Forest User Groups (FUG), BCN ensures that local communities benefit from the revenue generated in the area by nature-loving visitors from nearby Kathmandu and Lalitpur, while at the same time conserving the natural resources of the area and developing eco-friendly visitor facilities.