Abbott’s Babbler– family group and calls

on 2nd October 2021

I had an opportunity to have an extended observation of a presumed family unit of 4 Abbott’s Babblers (Malacocincla abbotti olivacea). I suggest family unit as it is generally described in literature as solitary or in pairs; I have usually seen it in pairs.

The bird that was making the majority of the classical calls.

The presumed adult male parent was calling out intermittently for the entire period I could observe them (~ 40 minutes). What was interesting was there was often a response call which I presume was made by the female as a contact call, but could have been by other members of the family. Unfortunately I was not able to image all the birds and look for juvenile features: a ‘dull yellow lower mandible’ and ‘cap and upper parts more rufescent brown’ (Wells 2007).

Another image of the bird that was making the majority of the classical calls.

I think in the lighting we see these birds I would be hard out to differentiate adults from juveniles. By behaviour one bird led the group and another gave responsive calls suggesting these were parents and the two accompanying birds the brood. No feeding of any birds was seen but easily missed in this thick undergrowth.

The bird that was making responsive calls.

The responses are often two notes but occasionally single. They are often made at the tail end as the lead bird is calling but can be before or during the calls. An edited recording of some calls is available here:

Sonogram and waveform of the classical and responsive calls.


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia


Location: Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Secondary growth in the city

Date: 20th March 2019

Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone


If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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