Family Rail-babbler (Eupetidae)

Near Threatened

Rail-babbler (Eupetes macrocerus)

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Taxonomy

French: Eupète à longue queue German: Rallenflöter Spanish: Zordala colilarga
Other common names: Malaysian Rail-babbler
Taxonomy:

Eupetes macrocerus

Temminck

, 1831,

Padang, Sumatra

.

Original name was unjustifiably emended to “macrocercus” and this version has been used extensively; Temminck himself emended name to “macrourus” (in 1835), and this name handwritten may have been misread/miscopied as “macrocerus” in original publication. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • E. m. macrocerus Temminck, 1831 – S Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and N Natuna Is.
  • E. m. borneensis Robinson & Kloss, 1921 – Borneo.
  • Descriptive notes

    28–30 cm; 66–72 g. Distinctive, with long neck and tail; broad white supercilium from front of eye and extending down side of neck, bordered below by broad black line from bill base and lores through and below orbit and along neck side, and azure patch on side of neck below black stripe. Nominate race has forehead rich ochra­ceous buff, crown, nape and hindneck chestnut-red, merging to reddish-brown on upperparts, uppertail-coverts slightly more intensely coloured; remiges dusky brown, edged golden-brown on outer webs, upperwing-coverts ochraceous buff, edged golden-brown; tail reddish-brown, rectrices edged more ochraceous; chin, throat and foreneck rich chestnut, underparts ochraceous brown, breast lightly washed chestnut, belly washed grey; underwing-coverts reddish-brown; iris brown; bill and legs black. Sexes alike. Immature is duller than adult, forehead grey, throat white, underparts dark brownish-grey. Race borneensis differs from nominate in having head richer brown, upperparts, especially tail, much redder, underparts more extensively rufous.

    Drawing by Chris Rose
    Descriptive notes:

    28–30 cm; 66–72 g. Distinctive, with long neck and tail; broad white supercilium from front of eye and extending down side of neck, bordered below by broad black line from bill base and lores through and below orbit and along neck side, and azure patch on side of neck below black stripe. Nominate race has forehead rich ochra­ceous buff, crown, nape and hindneck chestnut-red, merging to reddish-brown on upperparts, uppertail-coverts slightly more intensely coloured; remiges dusky brown, edged golden-brown on outer webs, upperwing-coverts ochraceous buff, edged golden-brown; tail reddish-brown, rectrices edged more ochraceous; chin, throat and foreneck rich chestnut, underparts ochraceous brown, breast lightly washed chestnut, belly washed grey; underwing-coverts reddish-brown; iris brown; bill and legs black. Sexes alike. Immature is duller than adult, forehead grey, throat white, underparts dark brownish-grey. Race borneensis differs from nominate in having head richer brown, upperparts, especially tail, much redder, underparts more extensively rufous.

    Voice

    Song, usually starting with two or three soft clucks (detectable only at very close range), followed by thin monotone whistle increasing and then fading in volume, “oo…ooo...oooooo...ooo…oo”; ventriloquial effect achieved by bird shifting between utterances. Presumed contact call “tok”; frog-like clucking “goink”, possibly as alarm call.

    Habitat

    Tall primary forest and logged forest with closed canopy, layered structure and well-vegetated to fairly open floor; also swamp-forest and heath-forest. From lowlands to montane-forest ecotone, rarely into base of lower montane forest; to c. 1300 m#R in Malay Peninsula, and to 900 m in Sumatra and Borneo.

    Food and feeding

    Insects, including cicadas (Cicadidae) and beetles (Coleoptera); also spiders (Araneae). Terrestrial; walks on forest floor, dashes over ground and fallen branches in pursuit of prey items. Timid. Reluctant to fly if disturbed, preferring to seek shelter by running.

    Breeding

    Eggs in late Jan or early Feb, and fledgling seen in Jun. Nest a shallow, loosely constructed cup of plant fibres; one described as built c. 30 cm from ground, on top of accumulated dead leaves among leaf stalks of ground plant. Clutch 2 eggs, white and unmarked. No other information.

    Movements

    Resident.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. Scarce to fairly common over most of range; locally numerous. Rare in Taman Negara National Park, in Peninsular Malaysia. Marked shyness no doubt contributes to its apparent scarcity. Lowland habitat has been, and will continue to be, extensively logged throughout most of this species’ range; it does, however, persist in logged forest. Forest on submontane slope more secure, although some doubt about long-term viability of fragmented populations.

    Recommended citation

    Boles, W. (2019). Rail-babbler (Eupetes macrocerus). 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 https://www.hbw.com/node/59723 on 24 April 2019).