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Arabian babbler

Turdoides squamiceps
Photo by Alan Williams (Arkive)

Common name:
Arabian babbler (en); zaragateiro-árabe (pt); cratérope écaillé (fr); turdoide árabe (es); graudrossling (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Timaliidae


The Arabian babbler is found from Yemen, Oman and the United Arab Emirates in the southern Arabian Peninsula into Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Egypt.

These birds are 25-29 cm long and have a wingspan of 31-33,5 cm. They weigh 64-83 g.

They are mostly found in arid scrubland and savanna, favoring acacias, tamarisk, saltbush, and datepalm groves and gardens. In such habitats they dependent on vegetation and water sources, and may be found up to an altitude of 2.800 m.


Remaining close to cover, the Arabian babbler feeds mainly on insects, but during the winter when insects are scarce, it feeds largely on fruit, as well as small lizards and snakes, and even leaves, berries and seeds.

Arabian babblers have a complex social system, lives in groups of 6-22 birds, composed of an alpha breeding pair, usually the oldest birds, which maintain a strict dominance hierarchy over rest of unit. Typically, only the alpha male mates with any of the females. In others, subordinate males may breed with subordinate females, but the alpha female is always the one most fiercely defended by the alpha male. These birds breed in March-May, nesting is a large cup of grass, twigs and other plant material. Generally, only one nest is constructed in a group’s territory and up to 3 females may lay eggs this nest. Each female lays 3-5 glossy turquoise eggs which are incubated by several group females for 13-15 days. The chicks fledge 14 days after hatching but continue to receive food from adults for up to 2 months after fledging.

IUCN status – LC (Least concern)
This species has a large breeding range and, although the global population size has not been quantified, the species is described as locally common at least in Israel. The population is suspected to be increasing as ongoing human colonisation and agricultural expansion is creating new areas of suitable habitat.
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