Field Observations on the Rufous-fronted Babbler Cyanoderma rufifrons poliogaster

The Rufous-fronted Babbler (Cyanoderma rufifrons poliogaster) is aptly described as unobtrusive by Wells (2017) and there is limited information on the species in our region. Having observed a number of these babblers in 2022, especially in the past few weeks, I would like to add to what we know about C. r. poliogaster. 

The babbler has been observed by myself as a pair; no social groups seen. It has been seen as part of a lowland mixed foraging party with Chestnut-winged Babblers (Cyanoderma erythropterum) and Pin-striped Tit-Babblers (Mixornis gularis); other birds were present but not identified. 

The Rufous-fronted Babbler tends to forage fairly low down (1-3 meters) and there appears to be a preference for bamboo clumps. They look under leaves, occasionally acrobatically hanging upside down. I presume they are looking for invertebrate prey but have yet to observe feeding clearly. They are often in dark parts of the forest, which make observations challenging.  

I have observed nesting material being collected on 18th July 2022; on both occasions dried bamboo leaves (see Image 1 and 2). Breeding is as yet undescribed in our region (Wells 2017).

Image 1: Rufous-fronted Babbler collecting dried bamboo leaves as nesting materials. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 18 July 2022.
Image 2: Another image of a Rufous-fronted Babbler collecting dried bamboo leaves as nesting materials. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 18 July 2022. 

 

These babblers tend to be better heard than seen. I often hear the classical “hu hu hu hu…” calls (Wells 2017) in the later parts of the mornings; although I have occasionally heard them earlier. Wells (2017) only describes this one type call, although the duration and speed can vary. I have heard the “hu hu hu hu…” being given in a slow, measured pace as well as a fast pace. Most times I have heard 5-10 notes; more often on the higher end of the range of notes. These types of call are often initiated by a single note before the burst of notes. 

A second call I have heard is a responsive call from the ‘partner’. These calls are given at the tail end of the “hu hu hu hu…” calls and are a rough, dragged our “she-she-she” notes. They can be brief or extended. A call recordings of this mixed type of call can be heard here: https://xeno-canto.org/736798 and here https://xeno-canto.org/736797. Two sonograms and waveforms showing these mixed or responsive calls are attached (see Image 3 and 4). Observe the introductory note, followed by a varying number of the classical notes and then the responsive notes which are also variable in length. In the field these responsive notes by the second bird are very soft and easily missed (call recordings have been amplified). 

Image 3: Sonogram and waveform of Rufous-fronted Babbler. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 18 July 2022.
Image 4: A second sonogram and waveform of the Rufous-fronted Babbler. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 18 July 2022.

 

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

 

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