Family Ground Babblers (Pellorneidae)

Near Threatened

Sooty-capped Babbler (Malacopteron affine)


French: Akalat affin German: Schwarzscheitel-Zweigdrossling Spanish: Tordina coronioscura

Tr[ichastoma]. affine


, 1842,



Often treated as monotypic, but race phoeniceum appears sufficiently distinctive to warrant recognition. Possible geographical differences in voice require further research#R. Birds from Banyak Is (off W Sumatra) separated as race notatum on basis of size difference, but this was later shown to be non-existent. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. a. affine (Blyth, 1842) – S Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra (including Banyak Is and Bangka#R).
  • M. a. phoeniceum Deignan, 1950 – Borneo.
  • Descriptive notes

    15–17 cm; 14–21 g. Rather dark-backed hook-billed babbler with contrasting whitish underside, vague grey breastband, and dull chestnut tail. Nominate race has... read more


    Song of two types. First a series of usually 6–9 clear, slow, airy, rising and falling... read more


    Edges and naturally disturbed areas of primary broadleaf evergreen forest, e.g. along rivers or... read more

    Food and feeding

    Ants (Formicidae), beetles (Coleoptera) and caterpillars. Average foraging height 6·5 m. Gleans from foliage. Often in small parties in... read more


    Apr–May in SE Asia; in Borneo, nest-building in Oct in Brunei, breeding in Jun–Oct and Jan in Sabah, and juveniles May–... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. Rare to locally common in continental part of range; common in Taman Negara National Park, in Peninsular... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. & Robson, C. (2019). Sooty-capped Babbler (Malacopteron affine). 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 18 April 2019).