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Tawny-breasted Wren-babbler Spelaeornis longicaudatus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This poorly known babbler qualifies as Vulnerable because it has a small, declining, severely fragmented population and range owing to the clearance and degradation of moist evergreen forest.

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

11-12 cm. Small, long-tailed wren-babbler with slightly scaled brown underparts. Pale orange-buff underparts with indistinct pale flecking. Grey lores and ear-coverts. Similar spp. Long-tailed Wren-babbler S. chocolatinus has more rufous underparts with conspicuous buff-and-brown flecking.

Distribution and population
Spelaeornis longicaudatus is endemic to hills south of the Brahmaputra river, north-east India, including the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, North Cachar Hills of Assam, and Naga Hills of Nagaland (BirdLife International 2001). Formerly, it was quite common and widespread within this limited range (particularly in the Khasi Hills), but there are very few recent records. However, this partly reflects a paucity of ornithological fieldwork because of security problems.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
A moderate and on-going decline is suspected, owing to the continuing degradation of habitats across the species's range, although data on resilience to habitat change and recent population trends are lacking.

It is probably sedentary in dense undergrowth of moist broadleaved evergreen (particularly oak Quercus and Rhododendron forests) or pine Pinus forests, favouring ravines and steep, rocky, boulder-strewn hillsides covered with moss, ferns and orchids, between 1,000-2,000 m. It is insectivorous, mainly terrestrial, occurring solitarily or in pairs, and is silent and unobtrusive. Breeding takes place during April-June.

The main threat is presumed to be forest clearance, degradation and fragmentation, primarily as a result of shifting cultivation, but also through burning, cutting for fuelwood collection and, more locally, commercial timber extraction. This occurs both within and outside protected areas, where enforcement of regulations is often absent or impossible. Overgrazing of forest undergrowth by domestic livestock (which is a problem throughout its range) may pose a serious threat, given its reliance on understorey habitats.

Conservation Actions Underway
None are known, although the Barail, Pulie Badge and Intanki protected areas might support populations.Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct comprehensive surveys for the species in north-east India, to establish its range, distribution and population status, whilst assessing its habitat requirements and identifying threats. Make recommendations for conservation, based on survey findings, including the establishment of protected areas around any new sites found to support populations (probably in the Khasi Hills), and link these to existing reserves where appropriate. Ensure stronger regulation of any future large-scale montane timber extraction within its range. Conduct widespread conservation awareness initiatives in hill and mountain communities, aimed at reducing shifting agriculture and promoting sustainable exploitation of natural resources.

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.

Choudhury, A.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Spelaeornis longicaudatus. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

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 - Tawny-breasted wren-babbler (Spelaeornis longicaudatus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Timaliidae (Babblers and parrotbills)
Species name author (Moore, 1854)
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 15,100 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species