Pin-striped Tit-BabblerMixornis gularis (Horsfield, 1822)

Striped-tit Babbler_1.jpg

Overview



A small, highly vocal and social bird, the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler (Mixornis gularis)[1] , also known as the Striped Tit-Babbler or Yellow-breasted Babbler, is widespread across the lowland tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia, with populations extending into South China as well as the Indian Subcontinent, exhibiting a wide range of intraspecific variation across its geographic range.

Identification



The Pin-striped Tit-Babbler is a small bird, approximately 11 - 14cm long and weighing around 10 - 15.1g[2] [3] , that is often found in a variety of wooded habitats in tropical Southeast Asia ranging from scrubby woodlands to mature forests. Across its Southeast Asian range, the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler exhibits a considerable amount of intraspecific variation, with some populations isolated on islands exhibiting markedly different forms.

In general, however, Pin-striped Tit-Babblers can be characterised by their brown upperparts; with the crown, tail and wing feathers coloured a rich rufous brown and the mantle and back a pale brown. Underparts and supercilium are coloured a pale yellow, with distinctive fine black streaks running down the chin and breast[4] . No sexual dimorphism has been observed in this species. Juveniles differ only slightly from the adult plumage, with more uniformly coloured upperparts, paler underparts and a thinner supercilium[5] .

PSTB_Description.jpg
In the field, however, these characteristics can be difficult to make out, especially in the dimly lit forest understorey. In spite of this, Pin-striped Tit-Babblers remain relatively easy to identify in the field due to their distinctive 'chonk-chonk-chonk' call (See Vocalisation) and their habit of traveling in small flocks near the ground[6] .

Vocalisation


Song


The song of the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler varies somewhat, although it generally consists of a single, loud and far-carrying "chonk" (sometimes described as "ch'nk" or "chunk") note repeated over and over again, in cycles of three to four notes repeated every two to three seconds, with the initial note slightly lower pitched than the rest. Longer songs can also feature a sequence of 28 notes delivered every 10 seconds. The duration of the song varies, although individuals have been observed vocalising for as long as five minutes continuously[7] .

Regional variations in the song are documented below[8]
  • North Vietnam: Repeated loud clear bouncing tichui-chutut-chut or tit-chutut-chutut-chutut...
  • Central Annam and Thailand: chut-chut-chut-chut-chut...

Call


The calls of the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler generally consist of contact calls made among group members, and usually occurs simultaneously between two or more individuals of the flock. The contact calls consist of a low, hoarse two-note "chrrt-chrr" that can often be heard in rapid succession when several birds call one after the other. Other contact calls include another harsh, rasping two-note "tititit-chrreeoo" call[9] .

The video clip below recorded by Lena Chow in Singapore contains both the song as well as the contact-call.



Biology and Behaviour


Adapted from Collar and Robson (2007), Robson (2008) and Wells (2007)

Habitat

Pin-striped Tit-Babblers are forest birds that exhibit a fairly broad range of tolerance for various types of wooded habitats ranging from poor-quality scrub to pristine lowland tropical rainforest. In back-mangrove areas, they can usually be found in the forest interior and crown, while generally preferring to remain in the mid-strata and canopy areas of lowland dry-land forests, peat swamps and freshwater swamp forests. In lower quality habitats such as secondary forest and overgrown orchards, they can often be found at the forest edge. Other degraded habitats where the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler can be found include bamboo groves and secluded cover in parklands and large gardens. Pin-striped Tit-Babblers can also be found on the edges of montane to sub-montane areas up to an elevation of approximately 1,000m above sea level in the Indian subcontinent and China, and up to 1,525m above sea level in Southeast Asia and Palawan[10] .

Foraging and Food

While their foraging behaviour of the is generally poorly studied[11] , the Pin-striped Tit-Babblers are known to feed mostly on insects, including small beetles, ants, caterpillars, grasshoppers and spiders. Fruit is also consumed on occasion. The Pin-striped Tit-Babbler forages in parties of up to 12 or more individuals, although generally remaining in pairs during the breeding season, probing for food on bark surfaces, in trapped litter and in clumps of epiphytic orchids, amongst other things. In tall inland forest, the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler can often be found in mixed-species flocks, which often includes other small babbler species. Foraging occurs at or near the ground, although flocks often climb vine-laden trees up to a height of 6 - 9m above the ground[12] .

Breeding

Pin-striped Tit-Babblers tend to breed between the months of February and July, although breeding has been recorded from December to August in Peninsular Malaysia. The nest is usually a round ball or dome with a side entrance constructed using dead bamboo, bark strips, leaves, palm strands, debris and plant fibres, placed close to the ground (between 0.3 to 6m above ground) in bushes, palms, bamboo clumps or dense undergrowth. Clutch sizes vary between 2 to 5, with eggs appearing fairly glossy white to dull white (sometimes faintly pinkish-tinged) or sea-green[13] . The Pin-striped Tit-Babbler has also been recorded being brood parasitised by the Drongo Cuckoo (Surniculus lugubris)[14] .

Distribution


Widely distributed across Southeast Asia and extending north and west to China and India respectively, the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler exhibits a range of intraspecific variation across its geographic range with 14 subspecies currently recognised.
Distribution_PSTB.jpg
Adapted from del Hoyo et al. (2007)
**From Clements Checklist 6.8 (2013)[15] # M. g. rubicapilla: Lowlands of E Nepal to NE India and extreme N Myanmar# M. g. ticehursti: W Myanmar (Upper Chindwin District to Arakan
  1. M. g. sulphurea: S China (SW Yunnan) to E Myanmar and N Plateau of Thailand
  2. M. g. lutescens: S China (SE Yunnan) to N and E Thailand, Laos and Tonkin
  3. M. g. saraburiensis: E Thailand and W Cambodia
  4. M. g. kinneari: Central Vietnam
  5. M. g. versuricola: E Cambodia and S Vietnam
  6. M. g. connectens: Coastal gulf of Siam (Isthmus of Kra to Cambodia)
  7. M. g. inveterata: Coastal islets off SE Thailand and Cambodia
  8. M. g. condorensis: Pulau Kundur (South China Sea)
  9. M. g. archipelagica: Mergui Archipelago (off SW Myanmar)
  10. M. g. chersonesophila: Malay Peninsula (Isthmus of Kra to Perak and Trengganu)
  11. M. g. gularis: S Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Banyak, Batu, Lingga and Riau Islands
  12. M. g. woodi: SW Philippines (Balabac and Palawan)

Conservation Status


status_lc_on.gifThe Pin-striped Tit-Babbler has been categorised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Least Concern owing to its large range as well as its large and stable population size. It is a resident species across its geographic range and is not known to display migratory behaviour[16] .





Diagnostics


Original Description

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 2.12.24 PM.png
Original illustration of the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler from Horsfield (1822) (Source: Biodiversity Heritage Library)


"The entire length of the Timalia gularis is five inches. Upper parts brown, with a rufous tint; inclining to olivaceous on the nape and back; deeper, and saturated on the crown of the head, wings, and tail. Underneath, yellowish; sides of the abdomen bounded by gray, with an olivaceous cast. Throat and breast intensely yellow, marked with black lines, gradually wider at their lower extremity, and having a sagittateform. Eye encircled by a patch of blueish-gray. Bill brown; tip and lower mandible lighter, having a plumbeous hue. Feet brownish-gray. The white colour of the axillae shews itself in a small spot on the margin of the wing. Plumes of the hypochondriae, thighs, and vent, long, pendulous, and decompound.

Native of the Island of Sumatra ; whence it was sent to the Museum of the Honourable East India Company by Sir T, S. Raffles." ~ **Horsfield (1822)[17]

Intraspecific Variation

The broad geographic distribution of the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler means that there exists quite a considerable amount of intraspecific variation across its geographic range. As a result, a number of subspecies of the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler have been identified to account for the observed intraspecific variability.There currently exists 14 accepted subspecies of the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler (see Distribution)[18] , although the differences between many races appear superficial, and several races are likely to be synonymised in the near future[19] .

The degree of variability between localised populations has thus given rise to a fair amount of confusion with regard to field guide illustrations since the choice of prototypical subspecies varies from book to book. King et al. (1975), for instance, base their description on race rubricapilla while Robson (2008) includes sulphurea, connectens and gularis[20] [21] . Another confounding factor stems from varying quality of illustrations across the different field guides. In particular, the illustrations in Robson (2008) barely resemble the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler at all (see Mixornis gularis sulphurea).

Here the descriptions of some of the more major subspecies are outlined.

Mixornis gularis gularis


ssp gularis.jpg
Source: Handbook of the Birds of the World (del Hoyo et al., 2007)
The nominate subspecies of the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, the race
gularis// is found mostly in southern Peninsular Malaysia (including Singapore) and in Sumatra and the Riau Islands[22] .
  • Crown: Dull chestnut
  • Nape: Pale chestnut, paler than on crown
  • Upperparts: Rufescent brown, slightly paler than nape
  • Upperwing: Rufescent brown, slightly paler than nape
  • Tail: Rufescent brown, slightly paler than nape
  • Lores: Buffy, shading to grey-tinged pale yellow on supercilium and ear coverts
  • Supercilium: Grey-tinged pale yellow
  • Ear-coverts: Grey-tinged pale yellow
  • Eyestripe: Narrow, brownish
  • Chin and Throat: Pale yellow with sparse long blackish shaft streaks.
  • Submoustachial area: Pale yellow with sparse long blackish shaft streaks
  • Breast: Pale yellow with sparse long blackish shaft streaks
  • Belly: Pale yellow
  • Flanks: Washed olive
  • Thighs and vent: Washed olive
  • Iris: Yellowish-white to greyish brown
  • Orbital skin: Bluish-lead
  • Bill: Slaty, lower mandible paler
  • Legs: Pale greyish-olive
Mixornis gularis connectens
mg connectens_wells copy.jpg
Source: The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula (Wells, 2008)


Found along the coastal regions of the Gulf of Thailand from the Isthmus of Kra to Cambodia, the race connectens has slightly more olive upperparts than race gularis with a stronger yellow supercilium and slightly weaker breast streaks. Other similar subspecies include M. g. versuricola, M. g. inveterata, M. g. condorensis, M. g. archipelagica, and M. g. chersonesophila[23] [24] .










Mixornis gularis rubicapilla
rubicapilla copy.jpg
Source: Birds of Southeast Asia (King et al., 1975)



Found mostly around the Indian subcontinent in the lowlands of East Nepal and Northeast India, stretching out to the extreme North of Myanmar, the race
rubicapilla is much paler and more olive than race gularis, with its crown tinged rufous, wings and tail pale olive-brown, supercilium and ear-coverts pale yellow, breast streaks weaker. Subspecies similar to rubicapilla include M. g. ticehursti[25] [26] .








Mixornis gularis sulphurea
sulphurea_robson.jpg
Source: A Field Guide to the Birds of Southeast Asia (Robson, 2008)


The range of race sulphurea extends from East Mynamar to South China, including the North plateau of Thailand, and its plumage is similar to race rubicapilla, although brighter yellow on face to breast, with finer breast streaks[27] [28] .











Mixornis gularis lutescens
ssp lutescens.jpg
Source: Handbook of the Birds of the World (del Hoyo et al., 2007)


The race lutescens is found in South China (Southeast Yunnan), North and East Thailand, Laos and Tonkin (North Vietnam), and is brighter yellow than the race sulphurea, with darker olive tinge on flanks, slightly darker cap, darker mantle. Similar races include M. g. kinneari and M. g. saraburiensis [29] .










Mixornis gularis woodi**
ssp woodi.jpg
Source: Handbook of the Birds of the World (del Hoyo et al., 2007)


Found on the islands of Balabac and Palawan in Southwest Philippines, the race woodi appears distinctively different from other races, and differs from gularis in having crown chestnut-greyish, face greyish, mantle, back and scapulars dark greyish, underparts much paler and breast-streaks almost absent[30] .

Owing to is distinctiveness and geographic isolation, the race woodi is likely to be split into a separate species in the near future.








Similar Species

Mixornis bornensis
bornensis.jpg
Source: Handbook of the Birds of the World (del Hoyo et al., 2007)


Formerly thought to be conspecific with Mixornis gularis, the Bold-striped Tit-Babbler has since been split into a separate species following Collar (2006)[31] . Found on the landmasses of Borneo and Java, the Bold-striped Tit-Babbler possesses much darker and richer brown upperparts than the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler and the chest streaking is much more pronounced, with the chest colour a stony white rather than yellow and the chest-streaks thick and black. The flanks of the Bold-striped Tit-Babbler are also greyer than the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler[32] .







Taxonomy and Systematics


Adapted from Clements Checklist 6.8 (2013)

Phylogeny

A hierarchical summary of the classification of the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler is as follows
Animalia
Chordata
Aves
Passeriformes
Timaliidae Vigors & Horsfield, 1827
Mixornis (Hodgson, 1842)
Mixornis gularis (Horsfield, 1822)
  • Mixornis gularis rubicapilla (Tickell, 1833)
  • Mixornis gularis ticehursti (Stresemann, 1940)
  • Mixornis gularis sulphurea (Rippon, 1900)
  • Mixornis gularis lutescens (Delacour, 1926)
  • Mixornis gularis saraburiensis Deignan, 1956
  • Mixornis gularis kinneari (Delacour & Jabouille, 1924)
  • Mixornis gularis versuricola (Oberholser, 1922)
  • Mixornis gularis connectens (Kloss, 1918)
  • Mixornis gularis inveterata (Oberholser, 1922)
  • Mixornis gularis condorensis (Robinson, 1920)
  • Mixornis gularis archipelagica (Oberholser, 1922)
  • Mixornis gularis chersonesophila (Oberholser, 1922)
  • Mixornis gularis gularis (Horsfield, 1822)
  • Mixornis gularis woodi (Sharpe, 1877)
Protonyms: Timalia gularis, Macronus gularis, Macronous gularis
Vernacular Synonyms: Striped Tit-babbler, Yellow-breasted Babbler

annotated phylogeny.jpg
The avian tree of life, with Babblers indicated in the red box. (Source: Jetz et al., 2012)
[33]

ThomasHorsfield.jpg
Thomas Horsfield, portrait by J. Erxleben (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The Pin-striped Tit-Babbler was originally described in 1822 by Thomas Horsfield, an American physician who travelled extensively in Southeast Asia in the early 19th Century. His description of the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler was published in one of his most famous manuscripts: Zoological Researches In Java And The Neighbouring Islands, based on a specimen received from Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles belonging to the Museum of the Honourable East India Company. The specimen was later named Timalia gularis and subsequently placed within the family of the Old World Babblers (Timaliidae)[34] .

Since its inception, however, the Old World Babblers has been a 'garbage bag' taxon for dumping difficult to classify species[35] . Owing to the relative taxonomic instability of the Old World Babblers, the classification of Mixornis gularis has undergone several revisions in recent years based on both morphological and phylogenetic studies. Most significantly, a study conducted by Moyle et al. (2012) based on an analysis of 6 genes (3 mitochondrial genes and 3 nuclear introns) revealed that the genus Macronus (sometimes spelled Macronous) - to which Mixornis gularis formerly belonged - is not monophyletic, with Macronus ptilosus and Macronus straticeps forming one clade and leaving Mixornis gularis in a weakly supported clade with the genera Dumetia, Timalia, and Rhopocichla. The splitting of the genus Macronus has resulted in the reclassification of the Pin-striped Tit-babbler under the formerly deprecated genus Mixornis[36] [37] .


phylogeny.jpg
Phylogeny of the Old World Babblers, showing the non-monophyly of the genus Macronus and the regrouping of the Pin-striped TIt-Babbler in a weakly supported clade with the genera Timalia and Dumetia (Source: Moyle et al., 2012)
Additionally, the Bornean and Javan populations of the Pin-striped Tit-babbler, comprising the subspecies
zopherus, zaperissus, everetti, javanicus, bornensis, montanus, cagayanensis and argenteus, have been split by Collar (2006) into a distinct species - the Bold-striped Tit-babbler (Mixornis bornensis, formerly Macronus bornensis) - based on morphological differences with the rest of the Mixornis gularis// complex[38] .

Type Information

  • Current name: Mixornus gularis rubicapilla
  • Collection: University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
  • Collecting data:
    • Locality: India, Assam, Garo hills, Tura
    • Sex: M
    • Date: Jan 1829
    • Collector: Koelz, Walter N.
    • UMMZ #: 190725
190725Da.jpg
Dorsal View (Source: University of Michigan Museum of Zoology)


190725Va.jpg
Ventral View (Source: University of Michigan Museum of Zoology)


190725La.jpg
Lateral View (Source: University of Michigan Museum of Zoology)

Molecular Biology


Barcode Data: BOLD

The following is a representative barcode sequence for Mixornis gularis, showing the centroid of all available sequences based on 3 specimens, two from Myanmar and one from the Philippines (race of each specimen not specified).

getBarcodeRepForSpecies-1.png

There are currently 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank. Below is a Cytochrome Oxidase Subunit 1 sequence from a member of the species

TGGCACTCTGTACCTAATCTTCGGTGCATGAGCCGGAATAGTTGGTACCGCCCTCAGCCTCCTCATTCGAGCAGAACTAGGCCAACCTGGTGCCCTTCTAGGAGACGACCAAATCTACAACGTAATCGTCACAGCCCATGCTTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTTATACCAATTATAATCGGAGGATTTGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCCCTAATAATTGGAGCCCCCGACATAGCCTTCCCTCGAATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTACTACCACCCTCCTTCCTCCTCCTCCTAGCATCCTCTACAGTGGAAGCCGGAGCAGGAACAGGATGAACCGTATACCCCCCTCTAGCAGGAAACCTGGCCCACGCTGGAGCCTCAGTCGACCTGGCCATCTTCTCCCTACATTTAGCAGGTATCTCCTCAATCCTAGGAGCTATCAACTTCATTACAACAGCAATTAACATAAAACCACCAGCCCTATCACAATACCAAACTCCACTGTTTGTCTGATCCGTCCTCATCACCGCAGTCCTACTCCTCCTATCCCTGCCTGTACTTGCCGCAGGTATCACAATACTCCTAACAGACCGTAACCTAAACACTACCTTCTTCGACCCCGCAGGTGGAGGGGACCCCGTACTATACCAACACCTA
-- end --




Barcode Data: GenBank












References


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