Spiny Babbler | Kande Vyakur

Spiny Babbler | Kande Vyakur

Spiny Babbler | Kande Vyakur


Local Name: Kande Vyakur (Nepali) (काँडे भ्याकुर)
Scientific Name: Turdoises nipalesis
Color: Greyish brown
Significant Physical Traits: Spiny outgrowth on its feathers, streaked breast, white eye-coverts
Behaviors: Shy, naughty, fearful
Size: Approximately 26 cm. (10 inches) in length with a cross-barred tail.
Sound: Pookil Pookil Pookil chupuchupu – with an incessant burst of ter teer teer teer
Habitat: Dense low land shrubs mostly inhabit hilly terrain; abundant in Kathmandu valley.


Spiny Babbler | Kande Vyakur; Discovered by Brian Hodgson in the year 1836 in Kathmandu Valley. Ever since it was discovered, this bird is reported nowhere except in Nepal. Spiny babbler is now considered to be the glory of Nepal. Adapted for life in bushes, these birds are very shy and elusive indeed. Spiny babbler is well distributed in central, far western, and eastern Nepal. This bird is an evolutionary miracle considered to be a living witness of bygone ages:

The Spiny babbler is one of the rare birds and endemic in Nepal. It has an alert and graceful manner but is also rather retiring and unassertive by nature. On the cold winter days, it is more difficult to see them. However, the manner in which it suddenly appears in the bush, with its very upright stance and brisk hops and runs as it searches for small insects, has given it an appeal to observers.  As in most birds, both sexes in the Spiny babbler are alike and an adult measures some 26 cm in length and weighs 72 grams.

Spiny Babbler Systematics

This curious bird is a member of the Passeriformes, a natural order of birds. Its nearest kins are flycatchers and warblers. At first, it was placed in the family Musicapidae and sub-family musicapinae, but now the independent family Timaliidae has been established to include primitive babblers. The family timaliidae brings together a group of little-known birds such as Asiatic babblers. The generic name of the birds was previously Acanthoptila after the character of the shaft ending remarkably into a spine, but it has now been replaced by the new name Turdoides nipalensis (Hodgson).

Spiny Babbler Habitat

The general habitat constitutes cut-over scrub and semi-cultivated sloppy areas, and edges of fields. Mostly found in cut-over scrub with second growth, it can be frequently observed amongst yellow berry, barberry bushes, and in Artemisia fields. The general coloration of the plumage mimics well the surrounding environment. Thus the spiny babbler is elusive and crypts. It uses a variety of plant materials for cover and shelter.

Spiny Babbler Distinctive Character

The unique bulbul-size bird has dark olive-brown color with a short neck, small head, and dark olive-brown plumage. The color above is generally olive-brown and below streaked with cream buff and splashes. The black tail is longish and frequently undergoes later abrasion during nesting periods. The shift of plumage in the forehead and neck generally ends in a black sharp spine. The flank and tail coverts or retries are tawny olive. Secondaries have a normal shift as seen in the case of other birds and the tail is faintly cross-barred. Sees are alike and no sexual dimorphism is noted.

Spiny Babbler lives singly or in small, scattered parties composed of 5-6 individuals. It is a poor flier. Flight is generally an up and down movement. When it is flushed, it flies generally from one bush to another. They are rather shy and escape into tangled thickets along with bush or streams where they are rendered inconspicuous instantly.

Spiny Babbler Distribution

The range of distribution constitutes the Kumaon-Nepal border through western and central Nepal to Kathmandu Valley proper from 3,000 to 6,000 ft. they are well distributed from Doti to Lamjung Nepal.

Spiny Babbler Food and Feeding Habits

Like other members of its genus Turdoides, the Spiny Babbler is equipped with a very efficient multipurpose beak that enables it to exploit life just below the surface of the earth, explore plant debris, and add insects and earthworms to a vegetable diet. Earthworms are one of Spiny Babbler’s staple animal foods. These are easily found on pasture fields, trails, and waterways where the grass is comparatively short.

Amongst other animal foods, Spiny Babbler takes caterpillars, particularly larvae of moths and even the hairy caterpillars and moths. They also feed on grasshoppers, click and scarab beetles, rove and wireworm beetles, humblebees, ants, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, and a range of mollusks, especially snails. After the end of the breeding season, Spiny babblers search for food and eat in short bursts, alternating periods of rest, preening, song or display. The frequency of feeding will depend on the weather and the availability of food.

Spiny Babbler Breeding

Spiny babbler establishes non-breeding territories in the late autumn and early winter. These may be held by both males and females, but in general, males predominate. The process of establishing breeding territories varies in time from year to year according to the availability of food and weather, might also be earlier in winter. The Spiny babbler prefers to build a nest in both trees and bushes, scrub, and dense creepers on walls, and sometimes in holes in manmade structures.

The eggs of the spiny babbler are normally a bright light blue. The average egg size is 26.5 x 18.45 mm and the average weight is 485 milligrams. Incubation of the babbler’s eggs is almost entirely carried out by the female, though a few males may sometimes share the responsibility. They hatch in order of laying after a period from 18 to 21 days but shorter and longer periods have both been recorded. The period normally spent in the nest by young birds before fledging lasts from thirteen to fourteen days but twelve, fifteen, and sixteen have been reported. When the young ones leave the nest they depart secretively and keep to close cover where their presence is betrayed only by their curious hunger calls. They are barely able to fly and have undeveloped tails and primaries. After a week or so they are able to fly themselves more openly.

Spiny Babbler Conservation

Although Spiny babblers appear to fare very well in the scrubland of Kathmandu Valley, the removal of dead and dry twigs by firewood hunters has a detrimental effect on scrubland. Moreover, gradual shrinkage and fragmentation of natural scrubland also have a far-reaching effect on tree canopy rasters. Since babbler plays an invisible role in controlling different harmful insects, and crop pests, and in cross-pollination and seed dispersal of plants, they deserve consideration in conservation strategies.

List of the Plant Species Providing Cover and Shelter to Spiny Babbler


S.N Scientific Name Local Name Family
1 Albizia lebbeck Siris Leguminosae
2 Artemisia indica Titepati Compositae
3 Arisaema consanguineum Bish Araceae
4 Berberis arstata Chutro Berbeidaceae
5 Bombax ceiba Simal Bombacaceae
6 Castanopsis hystrix Katus Ericaceae
7 Dendrocalamus Bans Graminae
8 Juglans regia Okhar Junglandaceae
9 Pinus roxburghii Gobre Salla Pinaceae
10 Phyllanthus emblica Amla Euphorbiaceae
11 Prunus persica Aru Rosaceae
12 Pyrus communis Naspati Rosaceae
13 Quercus semecarpifolia Kharsu Fagaceae
14 Schima wallichii Chilaune Theaceae
15 Alnus nepalensis Utis Betulaceae
16 Colebrookea oppositifolia Ghurselo Lamiaceae
17 Choerospondias axillaris Lapsi Anacardiaceae
18 Toona ciliate Tooni Meliaceae
19 Justicia adhatoda Asuro Acanthaceae


Surrounding Hills of the Kathmandu Valley

In the Kathmandu valley, many birds are seen in the forests, low bushes, semi-cultivated fields, and trunks of high trees and roof canopies. Every morning and evening, the bustling activities of birds are seen in Phuldhoki, Nagarjun, Shivapuri, Kakani, Gokarna, Dakshinkali, Chapagaun, Rani Ban, and many others places. About 500 species of birds have been recorded from the valley. The best sports for birds sightseeing in Kathmandu are:

  1. Godawari
  2. Phulchoki Hill
  3. Shivapuri Hill
  4. Nagarjun Hill

Several rare birds may also be sighted occasionally in the valley. These include Black-naped oriole (Oriolus chinensis), Emerald cuckoo (Chalcites maculatus), Little brown dove (Streptopelia senegalensis), Pigmy blue flycatcher (Musicappella hodgsoni), and White-gorgetted flycatcher (Muscicapa monileger).

Source: Wildlife of Nepal

Recommended Package:

Birds Watching in Koshi Tappu 

Spiny Babbler | Kande Vyakur