Turdoides bicolor (Southern pied babbler) 

Witkatlagter [Afrikaans]; Siwerewere (generic term for babbler) [Kwangali]; Letshêganôga [Tswana]; Eksterbabbelaar [Dutch]; Cratérope bicolore [French]; Elsterdroßling [German]; Zaragateiro-meridional [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Sylviidae > Genus: Turdoides

Turdoides bicolor (Southern pied babbler) Turdoides bicolor (Southern pied babbler)

Southern pied babbler. [photo Sion Stanton ©]

Southern pied babblers, Marakele National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to southern Africa, where it is locally common in arid and semi-arid savanna woodland across northern Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and northern South Africa. It is absent from more open habitats, such as that of the southern Kalahari Desert.

Distribution of Southern pied babbler in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

There is record of a Gabar goshawk attacking a well-defended group of 5 juveniles. It caught one of them, only to be viciously mobbed by the adult members of the group. After 10 minutes of fierce attacking by the adults, the goshawk dropped the juvenile and flew 15 metres away, where it is pinned by the babblers once again. This time it could not escape, and after 5 more minutes of vigorous pecking on its head and neck the group left the goshawk alone. It died 36 hours later from a fractured neck, puncture wounds, spinal cord damage and haemorrhages.

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Levaillant's cuckoo.


It eats a variety of insects supplemented with small reptiles and amphibians, foraging in groups on the ground, flicking away leaves and twigs in search of prey. One group member perches higher up then the rest of the group, acting as a lookout for predators. Sentry duty is switched regularly, so that everyone in the group gets to forage. It often joins foraging flocks along with Red-billed and Damara hornbills, Crimson-breasted shrikes, Fork-tailed drongos, Common scimitarbills and Red-billed bufffalo-weavers. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Cooperative breeder, living in year-round groups of 3-15 birds, all of whom help to build and defend the nest and feed the chicks.
  • The nest is built in about 26 days by all group members, consisting of a large bowl built of creeper and grass stems and thin twigs, lined with finer material such as rootlets and hair. It is typically placed in a fork in the center of a thorny tree, such as a Blue thorn (Acacia erubescens), Black thorn (A. mellifera), Scented thorn (A. nilotica), Umbrella thorn (A. tortilis) and Buffalo-thorn (Ziziphus mucronata).
Turdoides bicolor (Southern pied babbler)   

Southern pied babbler nest with eggs, Nylsvley area, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from August-April, peaking from about September-November.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubated for roughly 16 days.
  • The chicks are fed by all group members, leaving the nest after about 16 days, after which they remain dependent on the group for about 10 more weeks.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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