Family Ground Babblers (Pellorneidae)

Least Concern

Horsfield's Babbler (Malacocincla sepiaria)


French: Akalat de Horsfield German: Horsfieldmausdrossling Spanish: Tordina de Horsfield

Brachypteryx sepiaria


, 1821,

Bogor, Java


Previously thought to be conspecific with M. perspicillata. Has been suggested that two or three species are involved#R. Form described from Aceh (N Sumatra) as “M. vanderbilti” now known to be synonym of race barussana of present species. Proposed race liberalis (NW Sumatra) merged with barussana, and minor (E Java and Bali) with nominate. Proposed race bangkae (claimed to be from Bangka I, off SE Sumatra) inseparable from nominate, and in any case of very doubtful provenance#R. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. s. tardinata E. J. O. Hartert, 1915 – extreme S Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia.
  • M. s. barussana Robinson & Kloss, 1921 – Sumatra.
  • M. s. sepiaria (Horsfield, 1821) – Horsfield's Babbler – Java and Bali.
  • M. s. harterti Chasen & Kloss, 1929 – N Borneo.
  • M. s. rufiventris Salvadori, 1874 – Salvadori's Babbler – S Borneo.
  • Descriptive notes

    15–16 cm; 23–33 g. Nominate race has crown dark brown, noticeably darker and greyer than olive-brown upperparts, upperwing and short tail; lores and supercilium... read more


    Usual song a strident, clearly spaced “wi-cho-teuu” or “tip top tiu”, first... read more


    Broadleaf evergreen forest, usually bordering streams or near water (described once as preferring... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, including small locustids, beetles (Coleoptera, including weevils), butterflies and their pupae (Lepidoptera), ants (Formicidae)... read more


    Apr–May in Peninsular Malaysia, Feb–May (but apparently all months except Jul) on Java, and Feb–Sept and Nov on Borneo.... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Rare in Thailand. Fairly common to common in Peninsular Malaysia, where common in Taman Negara National Park. Locally common in lowland forested... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. & Robson, C. (2019). Horsfield's Babbler (Malacocincla sepiaria). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 April 2019).