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Marsh Babbler Pellorneum palustre
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This poorly known grassland specialist is suspected to be in rapid decline as a result of the widespread loss of its tall grassland habitat. It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable.

Taxonomic source(s)
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

15 cm. Dark brown babbler with blackish streaks on lower throat and breast. Uniform brown crown and upperside. White of underparts restricted to throat and centre of belly. Lower throat and breast washed rufous at sides. Similar spp. Puff-throated Babbler P. ruficeps has prominent supercilium, rufous-brown crown and prominent brown spotting on breast. Voice Sings with short phrase, introduced by harsh notes krrt trr trr wi yi-yu; trr trr wi-you; trh-trh tu-tiu and trrh-ti trrh-ti trrh-ti. Hints Listen for its distinctive song in wet grasslands.

Distribution and population
Pellorneum palustre is endemic to the Brahmaputra floodplain, its associated tributaries and adjacent hill ranges in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, India and eastern Bangladesh (BirdLife International 2001). It is poorly known, but was formerly described as locally common. There are recent records from just five sites, at one of which it is described as common.

Population justification
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 10,000-19,999 mature individuals. This equates to 15,000-29,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 15,000-30,000 individuals.

Trend justification
A rapid and on-going population decline is suspected, in line with rates of habitat loss.

It is resident in extensive reedbeds and tall grass, sometimes mixed with scrub and scattered trees, on marshy ground or adjacent to swamps and rivers, from the plains up to 800 m. It has also been encountered in damp forest scrub. It is very inconspicuous, but has distinctive vocalisations, and is generally found in pairs or small parties, skulking on or near the ground. It breeds during the rainy season from May onwards.

The rapid and extensive loss and modification of tall grasslands and reedswamp throughout its limited range is the main threat. This is occurring as a result of drainage, conversion to agriculture (primarily rice-paddy, mustard and tea plantations), overgrazing by domestic livestock, harvesting of grass for thatch production, inappropriate grassland management within protected areas, damming of marshes and, recently, heavy flooding in the Brahmaputra valley caused by run-off from its increasingly denuded catchment.

Conservation Actions Underway
Recent records come from Dibru-Saikhowa, Manas and Kaziranga National Parks, both in Assam, and also West Bhanugach Reserve Forest in Bangladesh, although this is not a strictly protected area. Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys in remaining suitable habitat, perhaps using call playback, to establish its current distribution and status. Conduct research into its habitat use and seasonal movements to clarify the relative importance of different habitats and altitudes. Extend, upgrade and link existing protected areas, and establish new ones, in order to conserve remaining tracts of natural grassland. Promote regeneration of suitable grassland habitats wherever possible. Control livestock-grazing in protected areas to reduce rates of tall grassland loss and degradation. Promote widespread conservation awareness initiatives focusing on sustainable management of grassland to maximise both thatch productivity for local people and available habitat for threatened grassland birds.

BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Gilroy, J., Taylor, J.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Pellorneum palustre. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Marsh babbler (Pellorneum palustre) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Timaliidae (Babblers and parrotbills)
Species name author Gould, 1872
Population size 10000-19999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 62,800 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species