Babbler, Illadopsis
Black-lored Babbler - Turdoides s. sharpei

Babblers, Chatterers & Illadopsis in East Africa

Order Passeriformes is the largest order of birds in the Class Aves. It contains over 140 families with 6.500 identified bird species world wide. They are also called perching birds. 3 toes point forward, 1 backwards called hallux and is long. This is called anisodactyl arrangement. This toe constellation makes it easier to hold on to a branch, twig, wire or blade of grass. A further adaptation for perching is a tendon running on the rear side of the leg to the underside of the toes is attached to the muscle behind the Tibiotarsus (the large bone between femur and tarsometatarsus). This makes the feet curl automatically once the leg is bent and becomes stiff when landing on a branch. So they can sleep without falling down and using valuable energy. Bird foot Passerines are mostly insectivorous or omnivorous meaning feeding on insects, small vertebrates, fruits, seeds and nectar. Omnivorous birds change to more carnivorous during breeding season. Plant material has less protein which is required for the chicks to grow fast and strong. The name Passeriformes derives from Greek – Passer = Sparrow, Formis = shape. They originated in the Southern Hemisphere around 60 Mio years ago. Most Passerines have 12 tail feathers. The eggs are coloured in most species. The number of eggs vary from species to species. The chicks are altricial meaning they hedge blind, without feathers and are helpless. They have reflexes to sense when a parent is landing and open their beak wide to get fed. The beak is fringed with yellow skin to signal the feeding parent where to place food. Superfamily Sylvioidea Family Leiothrichidae – Laughing Thrushes

Babblers (Turdoides) and Chatterers (Argya)

are 20 – 30 cm medium seized thrush like birds. They live in groups and warn of danger which has given them the name. In East Africa species are brownish with marks and different eye colours. They are always busy pushing leaves and soil around to find invertebrates. Sexes are alike. They can be monogamous or polygyn. Most species have small distribution ranges and some are endemic and one needs to know the spots where they can be found. They like bushy areas in open bush land to hide and build their nests.

Family Pellorneidae – Jungle Babblers

The family is divided into several genera and occurs in the tropics of Africa and Asia. They prefer searching for their food mainly invertebrates. Most are shy and some are very territorial. They are usually non migratory birds. Members of the family Pellorneidae are monogamous and both parents care for the nest and upbringing of the chicks. The exeption are Illadopsis – only the female sits on the nest. Genus Illadopsis – Illadopsis. They inhabit the lower areas for forest where they can hide in thickets. Often they are heard but to see them is something else. Illadopsis are only found in tropical Africa. Brown is the main colour while the under parts are brighter coloured. They are hard to photograph in the understorey of forests where they live.

To give you as actual information as possible we use Avibase, the books “Birds of Africa South of the Sahara”, “Birds of East Africa”, “Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania”. Then we put the most characteristic information to the photo.


You can also follow us on Facebook “Bird photography Safaris Kenya” and see the numerous species as well as the beautiful photos from Lorenzo Barelli. Click on the photo for larger view. The names of the photographers are on the photo and in the text. Without the generosity of several amazing bird photographers it had not been possible to create the pages with so many illustrated bird species. Those photos without name are from Elvira Wolfer.


Here you find samples of our birding safaris. Some below listed species are endemic and one needs to know the exact locations where to find them. We know the spots and can generate the journey to see several of these special Babbler and Illadopsis species.