Tag Archives: White-chested Babbler

Jungle, Tree and Tit Babblers of Panti.

Cover photo: Logging track into Panti Forest Reserve just before the dip with Gunung Panti Ridge in the distance.

Jungle, Tree and Tit Babblers of Panti.

“Babblers are the most infuriating group of birds to shoot”, Morten Strange, retired professional bird photographer once told us. We cannot agree more. They are sulking, confining and always on the move inside the dark under storey. You hear them calling more often than you will see them. Getting a good look was enough to make your day. You will need persistence, quick fingers and lots of luck to get decent photographs of these lowland forest babblers.


Much easier to zoom in on the birds at Panti’s sparsely wooded second clearing with from left Milton Tan, Alfred Chia, Veronica Foo, Patricia Tiang, Jimmy Chew and the author. Photo: Lim Kim Keang.

The lowland rainforest of Johor has 20 species of these Babblers. (See list below). You can find all of them at the Gunung Panti Forest Reserve. Some of the more common ones like the Black-capped and Chestnut-winged Babbler are more conspicuous and vocal, while others like the Grey-breasted are rare. They are mostly insectivorous, moves in family groups and non migratory. Forest fragmentation is a threat.

I was lucky during some of my recent visits to find a few either having a bath in the open, nesting building, feeding its chicks or popping out in the open for a split second. Here are some record images of them.

Chestnut-winged Babbler with nest material

This pair of Chestnut-winged Babblers were busy gathering leaves to build their nest and did not care too much about our presence. We have a small vulnerable population in our Central Catchment Forest and they are not so easily seen.

Fluffy-backed Tit-babbler 12.6.18

We found this Fluffy-backed Tit-babbler bringing back food for its chick. Even so they were very cautious and we had to stayed at a distance before they will feed the chick.

Black-throated Babbler

On hot mornings, the Black-throated Babblers cannot resist a dip in the puddles of water at the quiet tracks. Inside the undergrowth, it is hard to get the sheen of their plumage.

Black-capped Babbler

The Black-capped Babbler is one of the most vocal and common babblers in Panti. Still it is not easy to see them as they prefer to stay inside the forest. Best is to wait for them to fly out into the open and hope to snap it in the split second.


The Horsfield’s Babbler resembles the Abbott’s Babbler except for the faint streaks on its breast. Theirs were the first calls you used to hear as part of the dawn chorus at the first clearing. Unfortunately they have moved further in and are hard to find these days.

Rufous-crowned Babbler

Rufous-crowned Babblers are very jumpy and prefer to stay inside the dark mid storey. Light is always a premium for getting any good shots. Looks similar to the Scaly-crowned Babbler except for the grey legs.

White-chested Babbler

The White-chested Babblers inhabit the freshwater swamps of the lowland forests. Uncommon in Panti so great to have this record shot. It is very rare on mainland Singapore, last seen and heard in the early 2000s.

Reference: Graig Robson. The Field Guide Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. Lim Kim Seng and Lim Kim Chuah. Pocket Checklist of the Birds of Johore, Peninsular Malaysia. My thanks to Lim Kim Keang, Alfred Chia, Jimmy Chew, Veronica Foo, Milton Tan, Thio Hui Bing, Patricia Tiang, Luke Teo and Timothy Liew for their great company and help during these trips. 

  1. White-chested Babbler
  2. Ferruginous Babbler
  3. Abbott’s Babbler
  4. Horsfield’s Babbler
  5. Short-tailed Babbler
  6. Black-capped Babbler
  7. Moustached Babbler
  8. Sooty-capped Babbler
  9. Scaly-crowned Babbler
  10. Rufous-crowned Babbler
  11. Grey-breasted Babbler
  12.  Rufous-fronted Babbler
  13. Grey-throated Babbler
  14. Grey-headed Babbler
  15. White-necked Babbler
  16. Black-throated Babbler
  17. Chestnut-rumped Babbler
  18.  Chestnut-winged Babbler
  19. Pin-striped Tit-babbler
  20. Fluffy-backed Tit-babbler







Taman Negara Merapoh 10-14 October 2015


The least visited part of Taman Negara is the NW entrance at Merapoh. This is also the start of the climb to Gunong Tahan, the highest mountain of Peninsula Malaysia. The nearest town is at Gua Musang, 26 km from the Park HQ. Ping Ling organised this 4 days trip to look for the pittas and frogmouths. Together with Alfred Chia, Goh Yue Yun and Tan Ju Lin, we drove up from Kuala Lumpur via the Karak Highway turning off at Bentong.

Great company with three first ladies of birding.
Great company with three first ladies of birding.

P1210051We stayed at the Mines Inn, a clean and comfortable budget hotel with free wifi. Rooms with twin beds cost RM90 per night. There is a 24 hours 7-Eleven next door for any late necessities. Across the road KFC and a Malay Roti Cania shop are also open all day and night. This is where we had our breakfast and take away lunch. Dinner was at Kim Kee Restaurant just off the main road. They had a great menu serving typical Malaysian Chinese home cooked fare. Their menu was extensive with a few signature dishes. I highly recommend this place. The Secret Recipe down the road was a treat as the cakes here cost a third of what you pay in Singapore. So it is worth staying in town and drive to the park in the morning.


The park grounds are good for birding if the fig trees are fruiting. We were lucky and got half of our birds here. The best was a pair of Rhinoceros Hornbills feeding there together with the Black Hornbills on the second morning. Frogmouths were reported nesting in the trees above the bridge but we were late and they must have left. Look out for the White-chested Babbler walking below the bridge. The main birding track is the first 2 km paved road from the bridge.

Garnet Pitta.

We had our Garnet Pitta on the right side on the first morning. Further down there were two “feeding stations” where we think the photographers got the shots of the Banded Pittas. Unfortunately we did not even hear them calling. Rufous and Scaly-crowned and Ferruginous Babblers can be found along this stretch. This was also where the Crestless Fireback made a dash across the road. This is our bird of the trip which I missed.


We hired the park’s 4WD to take us to the Kelah Sanctuary about 14 km inside. This is where they hand fed the protected Kelah and Mahseers, something all visitors do.


The Kelah is an expensive table fish in many of the restaurants in town. They only live in clear running mountain streams and feed on fruits.

Scarlet-rumped Trogon

We found out that the last one kilometer stretch to the sanctuary was a good place to bird.This is where we encountered a few decent bird waves with species like Rufous-winged Philentoma, Buff-rumped Woodpeckers, Scarlet-rumped Trogon and Pale-blue Flycatcher. In all we saw 92 species and heard another 27 making a total of 119 species.

Rare Palm King Amathusia schoenbergi
Rare Palm King Amathusia schoenbergi

But Merapoh is not just about birds. The park is noted for its mammals, plants and butterflies. We had 13 non avian species comprised of three squirrels, two monkeys, a gibbon, barking deer and a herd of domesticated Bantengs. I photographed a rare Palm King and the Purple Duke, the only species of its genus in Malaysia. Many thanks to my birding kakis for the great company and a very enjoyable trip.