Ian’s Bird of the Week – Hall’s Babbler

Hall's Babbler (Pomatostomus halli) by IanHere is another of the Bowra specialties, Hall’s Babbler, which has a restricted range in dry scrubland in western Queensland north to about Winton and northwestern New South Wales south to about Brewarrina.

If you think it looks just like a White-browed Babbler, you won’t be surprised to hear that it was overlooked as a separate species until 1963 and was first described in 1964. It was named after Harold Hall who funded five controversial bird collecting Australian expeditions in the 1960s and the species was detected, and presumably ‘collected’, on the first of these. It’s larger than the White-browed, 23-25cm/9-10 in length versus 18-22cm/7-9in, is darker overall, has a shorter white bib abruptly shading into the dark belly and a much wider eyebrow. DNA studies suggest that it’s actually more closely related to the Grey-crowned Babbler. It’s voice is described pithily by Pizzey and Knight as ‘squeaky chatterings … lacks “yahoo” of Grey-crowned and madder staccato outbursts of White-browed’. Babblers are clearly birds of great character.

Hall's Babbler (Pomatostomus halli) by Ian

It’s quite common at Bowra in suitable habitat, mainly mulga scrub, and on this occasion we found a party of about 20. Like all Australasian babblers, they’re very social and move erratically through the scrub bouncing along the ground and up into bushes like tennis balls. They’re delightful to watch, and infuriating to photograph as the tangled, twiggy mulga plays havoc with automatic focus – no time for manual – and they keep ducking out of sight. You can be lucky and get ones, like the bird in the second photo, that hesitate briefly, between bounces, in the open to look for food. There had been some good rain a couple of months before our visit, and the birds had been breeding – the one in the third photo with the yellow gape is a juvenile.

Hall's Babbler (Pomatostomus halli) by Ian

Bowra is unusual in that it’s in a relatively small area where the ranges of all four Australian babblers overlap. The other restricted range species, the Chestnut-crowned is at the northern end of its range and also fairly easy to find, while the widespread more northern species, the Grey-crowned, meets the mainly southern White-browed.

I’ve had several emails recently from prominent birders commenting on the excellence of the digital version of Pizzey and Knight. Things they like particularly are the combination of both illustrations and photos (including over 1200 of mine), the great library of bird calls by Fred Van Gessel, portability (phone, tablet and PC), comprehensiveness – all of the more than 900 species recorded in Australia and its territories and ease of generating bird lists by location. The good news is that the price has been reduced to $49.95 and it comes in iPhone/iPad, Android and Windows versions. Go here http://www.gibbonmm.com.au for more information, product tours and links to the appropriate stores, and here http://www.birdway.com.au/meropidae/rainbowbeeeater/source/rainbow_bee_eater_15231.htm to see the photo of the Rainbow Bee-eater below.

Hall's Babbler (Pomatostomus halli) by Ian

My apologies for the delay since the last bird of the week. I’m having a major drive to finish Where to Find Birds in Northeastern Queensland and other things are getting pushed temporarily into the background.

Greetings
Ian

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Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. (2 Timothy 2:16 NKJV)

Here is what a Hall’s Babbler sounds like:

Thanks again Ian for sharing another interesting bird from your part of the world.

Our Hall’s Babbler is a member of the Pomatostomidae – Australasian Babblers Family. There are only five species in the family.

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Hall’s Babbler – Wikipedia

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Pomatostomidae – Australasian Babblers Family

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