Grey-crowned Babbler

Did you know?

The old nests of Grey-crowned Babblers are used by a variety of other birds: Blue-faced Honeyeaters sometimes nest on top of the dome. Yellow-rumped Thornbills may nest underneath and are even tolerated in active nests.

Loud scolding and chattering calls: 'wee-oo'. Also distinctive 'ya-hoo' duet by breeding female ('yah') and male ('ahoo') repeated six to eight times.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
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Breeding season: 
July to February
Clutch Size: 
Usually two to three, up to five if more than one female.
23 days
Nestling Period: 
23 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
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What does it look like?

The Grey-crowned Babbler is the largest of Australia's four babbler species. It is dark brown-grey above, with a distinctive grey crown stripe and a dark face mask that contrasts with a white eyebrow. The chin and throat are white, running into a pale grey lower breast. It has a long, curved bill, short rounded wings with cinnamon brown wing patches and a long tail tipped white. The eye is pale yellow in adults. There is a darker-coloured subspecies, rubeculus, in north-western Australia (often called the Red-breasted Babbler), that has a rufous lower breast and darker crown stripe. The Grey-crowned Babbler is a noisy and gregarious bird, usually found in small groups of four to twelve, and is often seen on the ground or in low trees. It is sometimes called the Yahoo, after one of its calls.

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Similar species: 

The Grey-crowned Babbler lacks the dark crown of other babblers and has a yellow rather than a dark eye.

Where does it live?

The Grey-crowned Babbler is widespread throughout north-western, northern, central and eastern Australia. It is also found in Papua New Guinea.


The Grey-crowned Babbler is found in open forests and woodlands, favouring inland plains with an open shrub layer, little ground cover and plenty of fallen timber and leaf litter. May be seen along roadsides and around farms. In south-east Melbourne, small populations survive on golf courses.

Seasonal movements: 


What does it do?

Grey-crowned Babblers feed on insects and other invertebrates and sometimes eat seeds. They forage in groups of two to fifteen birds on the ground among leaf litter, around fallen trees and from the bark of shrubs and trees (they tend to use trees more than other babblers).


Grey-crowned Babblers live and breed in co-operative territorial groups of two to fifteen birds (usually four to twelve). Groups normally consist of a primary breeding pair along with several non-breeding birds (sometimes groups may contain two breeding pairs or two females that both breed). Most members of the group help to build nests, with the primary female contributing the most effort. Two types of nest are built: roost-nests (usually larger and used by the whole group) and brood-nests (for the breeding females), and often old nest sites are renovated and re-used from year to year. The large domed nests are placed in a tree fork 4 m - 7 m high and are made of thick sticks with projections that make a hood and landing platform for the entrance tunnel. The nest chamber is lined with soft grass, bark, wool and feathers. The brooding female (sometimes more than one) is fed by the other group members and all help to feed the nestlings. Larger groups tend to raise more young, and two broods are usually raised per season.

Living with us

Grey-crowned Babbler populations have declined throughout their range as a result of land-clearing practices that leave habitats fragmented. When groups become isolated, numbers decline to a level where they cannot continue to successfully breed. Habitat degradation is also a factor in declines, with fuel-reduction burning, grazing, weed invasions and removal of timber decreasing leaf litter build-up, which then reduces the amount of invertebrate food available. Eastern populations are near threatened, while they are classified as endangered in Victoria and South Australia. It is locally extinct in the south-eastern region of South Australia. Overall populations have declined by 95% since European settlement.

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