SURELY THE SERPENT WILL BITE
“Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.” (Ecclesiastes 10:11 KJV)
Guineas and Snake ©Workshopaddict
“Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.” (Ecclesiastes 10:11 KJV)
Guineas and Snake ©Workshopaddict
bab·bler – ˈbab(ə)lər/ – noun
While reading in Ecclesiastes recently, I saw the word “babbler.” Working on the Birds of the World lists, that word caught my attention. Ahh! Maybe I could write an article about the Babblers that I had seen in the list.
A serpent may bite when it is not charmed; The babbler is no different. (Ecclesiastes 10:11 NKJV)
What I did not know is that there are seven families that have “Babbler” birds in them. There are Ground Babblers, Wren Babblers, Thrush-Babblers, Scimitar Babblers, Jewel-babblers, Hill Babblers, Tit-Babblers, a Rail-babblers and regular just plain Babblers.
Then checking for more verses on “babblers,” I found two more. The verse above and this one both have a sort of negative meaning to the word.
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. (Proverbs 20:19 ESV)
There is one more verse that will come later. First, what is a Babbler of the bird kind?
“The Old World babblers or timaliids are a large family of mostly Old World passerine birds. They are rather diverse in size and coloration, but are characterised by soft fluffy plumage. These are birds of tropical areas, with the greatest variety in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The timaliids are one of two unrelated groups of birds known as babblers, the other being the Australasian babblers of the family Pomatostomidae (also known as pseudo-babblers).
Morphological diversity is rather high; most species resemble “warblers”, jays or thrushes. This group is among those Old World bird families with the highest number of species still being discovered.
Timaliids are small to medium birds. They have strong legs, and many are quite terrestrial. They typically have generalised bills, similar to those of a thrush or warbler, except for the scimitar babblers which, as their name implies, have strongly decurved bills. Most have predominantly brown plumage, with minimal difference between the sexes, but many more brightly coloured species also exist.
The systematics of Old World babblers have long been contested. During much of the 20th century, the family was used as a “wastebin taxon” for numerous hard-to-place Old World songbirds (such as Picathartidae or the wrentit). Ernst Hartert was only half-joking when he summarized this attitude with the statement that, in the passerines, (Wikipedia)
“Was man nicht unterbringen kann, sieht man als Timalien an.” (What one can’t place systematically is considered an Old World babbler)
They finally started trying to divide them into different groups and families. You will find those seven families below. Also, from the definition at the beginning, they are vocal with a “typically a loud discordant or musical voice.”
The last verse I found with “babbler” gives us a more positive emphasis. The Apostle Paul was in Athens and:
“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” (Acts 17:16-20 NKJV)
Are we “babblers” for the Lord like Paul? When people listen to us (or read what we write), do they hear a loud “discordant sound” or a clear “musical note”? We have no control how the words are heard. Some may consider the Words of Jesus as just another belief system in the world, while others will hear the Words as joy to their souls. We are told to tell others about Christ. So, Who do we “Babble” for?
Eupetidae – Rail-babbler – 1
Pellorneidae – Fulvettas, Ground Babblers – 40+ Wren Babblers, Thrush-Babbler, Scimitar Babbler, Babblers
Pnoepygidae – Wren-babblers – 5 Wren-babblers
Pomatostomidae – Australasian Babblers – 5 Babblers
Psophodidae – Whipbirds, Jewel-babblers and Quail-thrushes – 4 Jewel-babblers
Sylviidae – Sylviid Babblers – 6 Hill Babblers, Thrush-Babblers, and Babblers
Timaliidae – Babblers – 55 Scimitar Babblers, Wren-Babblers, Tit-Babblers and Babblers
Here 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.
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.
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.
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.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au
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.
Hall’s Babbler – Wikipedia
“If you had a bird popularity poll with Australian birders, I imagine that Babblers would do well. I hope so anyway, as it would show that pretty colours aren’t everything and character still counts in an often superficial world!
I photographed these White-browed Babblers when staying with friends in Talbot in rural Victoria northwest of Melbourne. This species is found in dry woodland in the southern half of the continent, mainly west of the Great Divide and south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Although wren-like in shape, they are much larger, the White-browed is 18-22cm./7-8.5in. in length and is the smallest of the four Australian species.
Babblers are highly social, noisy and exuberant. The live in groups of 3 to about a dozen and do everything together, including roosting, breeding and, as in the second photo, bathing. They build a number of domed nest in their territory; apparently only one of these is used for nesting, so the others are thought to be used for roosting. When disturbed by an observer, they chatter scoldingly, and move away, appearing to bounce rather than fly on their short wings. Their gregarious habits have earned them lots of common names such as Happy Family, Cackler, Go-aways, Twelve Apostles and Jumper, names applied rather indiscriminately to both this and the other widespread species, the Grey-crowned Babbler.
The four Australian species and a fifth found in PNG comprise the Australo-Papuan Babblers (family Pomatostomidae). These used to be included with the superficially similar Old World Babblers in the family Timaliidae http://www.birdway.com.au//timaliini/index.htm . It is now apparent that the two groups are not closely related.”
I’ve revised the Australo-Papuan Babblers on the website with new photos of 3 of the 4 species:
I’ve also added new photos to these waders:
Sooty Oystercatcher .
At the moment, I’m doing the ducks and have added photos, taken in Ireland, of:
Please visit Ian Montgomery’s Birdway site for many interesting Birds of the World photography. He is a fantastic photographer. (Bolding by Lee)
What an interesting bird and I love their common names – Happy Family, Cacker which bring to mind the following verses:
And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD; It shall rejoice in His salvation. (Psalms 35:9 NKJV)
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is the great God, And the great King above all gods. (Psalms 95:1-3 NKJV)”
“The Australo-Papuan or Australian babblers are endemic to Australia-New Guinea. The Australo-Papuan babblers are medium-sized terrestrial birds with sombre plumage and long decurved bills. The wings are short and round, and the tail is long and often held fanned which makes it look broad as well. The feet and legs are strong and adapted to a terrestrial existence. There is no sexual dimorphism in the plumage, which is composed of brown, russet and grey colours, often with striking white markings on the face and throat. The plumage of juvenile birds is similar to that of adults.
Five species in one genus are currently recognised, although the red-breasted subspecies rubeculus of the Grey-crowned Babbler may prove to be a separate species. Further investigation is required.
All five species are ground-feeding omnivores and highly social. Babblers live in family groups and small flocks of up to about 20 individuals and forage communally, calling loudly to one another all day long. They feed principally on insects and other invertebrates, but will also take seeds, fruits and small vertebrates. Most food is obtained on the ground, although they will also forage in low bushes; the Grey-crowned Babbler and New Guinea Babbler feed more extensively in vegetation than the other species. The long bill is used to probe and overturn large objects. They will also hold objects with one foot and hammer them with the bill in order to extract food.
Australo-Papuan babblers are monogamous breeders which defend territories. The breeding pair will be aided in breeding by a number of helpers from its group. A number of groups may have more than one breeding pair. Extra male helpers aid the male in his responsibilities whereas the females aid the main breeding male in hers. They have an extended breeding season. Australo-Papuan babblers construct large nests for communal roosting, and these nests may be used for breeding, or new nests may be constructed. There may be a lrage number of nests used by the group in a small area. When the female is breeding she alone uses the breeding nest. Nest construction, both of roosting and breeding nests, is undertaken by all birds in the group. Between one to six eggs are laid (the number and range varies by species) and are usually incubated by the breeding female alone (although a helper female may aid occasionally). The Breeding male and other helper males feed the breeding female during incubation. Incubation lasts between 19-25 days. The female broods the chicks until they are able to thermoregulate, and the chicks fledge after 16-23 days. After leaving the nest the chicks will continue to be fed by the adults for a number of months.”
Check out the Bird of the Week – Introduction