Nature conservation

Threatened species

Grey-crowned Babbler (eastern subspecies) - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Pomatostomus temporalis temporalis
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Gazetted date: 26 Oct 2001
Profile last updated: 01 Nov 2022


The Grey-crowned Babbler is the largest of the four Australian babblers, reaching to 30 cm long. Its distinctive bill is scimitar-shaped, long and heavy. The broad white eyebrow and a pale grey crown-stripe are other distinguishing characters. A dark band passes from the bill through the eye, separating the pale throat and brow to giving a 'masked' look. It has dark greyish-brown upperparts and is paler brown on the underparts, grading to a whitish throat. It is distinctive in flight, showing white tips to the tail feathers, and orange-buff patches in the broad, rounded wings. Young birds have dark brown eyes, with the iris becoming paler with age, reaching a yellow colour by about three years. This species has a loud and often repeated ‘ya-hoo’ call which is a duet between the male and female (the female says ‘ya’ and the male answers with ‘hoo’). It is used to maintain the bond between the pair and as a territorial call. The ‘ya-hoo’ duet sequence is repeated rapidly, up to thirty times in a row. The Grey-crowned Babbler is distinctly larger than the three other babbler species and is also the only one to possess the distinctive rufous wing patches.


The Grey-crowned Babbler has two distinctive subspecies that intergrade to the south of the Gulf of Carpentaria. West of here the subspecies rubeculus, formerly considered a separate species (Red-breasted Babbler) is still widespread and common. The eastern subspecies (temporalis occurs from Cape York south through Queensland, NSW and Victoria and formerly to the south east of South Australia. This subspecies also occurs in the Trans-Fly Region in southern New Guinea. In NSW, the eastern sub-species occurs on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, and on the western plains reaching as far as Louth and Balranald. It also occurs in woodlands in the Hunter Valley and in several locations on the north coast of NSW. It may be extinct in the southern, central and New England tablelands.

Habitat and ecology

  • Inhabits open Box-Gum Woodlands on the slopes, and Box-Cypress-pine and open Box Woodlands on alluvial plains. Woodlands on fertile soils in coastal regions.
  • Flight is laborious so birds prefer to hop to the top of a tree and glide down to the next one. Birds are generally unable to cross large open areas.
  • Live in family groups that consist of a breeding pair and young from previous breeding seasons. A group may consist of up to fifteen birds. All members of the family group remain close to each other when foraging. A soft ‘chuck’ call is made by all birds as a way of keeping in contact with other group members.
  • Feed on invertebrates, either by foraging on the trunks and branches of eucalypts and other woodland trees or on the ground, digging and probing amongst litter and tussock grasses.
  • Build and maintain several conspicuous, dome-shaped stick nests about the size of a football. A nest is used as a dormitory for roosting each night. Nests are usually located in shrubs or sapling eucalypts, although they may be built in the outermost leaves of low branches of large eucalypts. Nests are maintained year round, and old nests are often dismantled to build new ones.
  • Breed between July and February. Usually two to three eggs are laid and incubated by the female. During incubation, the adult male and several helpers in the group may feed the female as she sits on the nest. Young birds are fed by all other members of the group.
  • Territories range from one to fifty hectares (usually around ten hectares) and are defended all year. Territorial disputes with neighbouring groups are frequent and may last up to several hours, with much calling, chasing and occasional fighting.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Brigalow Belt SouthLiverpool Plains Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthLiverpool Range Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthMoonie-Barwon Interfluve Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthNarrandool Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthNorthern Basalts Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthNorthern Outwash Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthPilliga Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthPilliga Outwash Known None
Brigalow Belt SouthTalbragar Valley Known None
Channel CountryBulloo Predicted None
Channel CountryBulloo Dunefields Predicted None
Cobar PeneplainBarnato Downs Known None
Cobar PeneplainBoorindal Plains Known None
Cobar PeneplainCanbelego Downs Known None
Cobar PeneplainLachlan Plains Known None
Cobar PeneplainNymagee Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsBogan-Macquarie Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsCastlereagh-Barwon Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsCulgoa-Bokhara Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsLouth Plains Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsWarrambool-Moonie Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsWilcannia Plains Known None
Mulga LandsCuttaburra-Paroo Known None
Mulga LandsKerribree Basin Predicted None
Mulga LandsNebine Plains Known None
Mulga LandsParoo Overflow Predicted None
Mulga LandsParoo-Darling Sands Known None
Mulga LandsUrisino Sandplains Known None
Mulga LandsWarrego Plains Known None
Mulga LandsWarrego Sands Known None
Mulga LandsWest Warrego Known None
Murray Darling DepressionDarling Depression Known None
Murray Darling DepressionSouth Olary Plain Known None
NandewarInverell Basalts Known None
NandewarKaputar Known None
NandewarNandewar Northern Complex Known None
NandewarPeel Known None
New England TablelandsBundarra Downs Known None
New England TablelandsEastern Nandewars Known None
New England TablelandsSevern River Volcanics Known None
New England TablelandsStanthorpe Plateau Known None
New England TablelandsTingha Plateau Known None
NSW North CoastBarrington Known None
NSW North CoastCataract Known None
NSW North CoastCoffs Coast and Escarpment Known None
NSW North CoastDalmorton Known None
NSW North CoastEllerston Known None
NSW North CoastKaruah Manning Known None
NSW North CoastMummel Escarpment Known None
NSW North CoastTomalla Known None
NSW North CoastUpper Hunter Known None
NSW North CoastYuraygir Known None
NSW South Western SlopesCapertee Valley Known None
NSW South Western SlopesInland Slopes Known None
NSW South Western SlopesLower Slopes Known None
OceanTweed-Moreton Known None
Ocean - Other StateNorthern Australian Coastal Waters Known None
Other StateQLD Known None
RiverinaLachlan Known None
RiverinaMurray Fans Known None
RiverinaMurrumbidgee Known None
South Eastern HighlandsCapertee Uplands Known None
South Eastern HighlandsHill End Known None
South Eastern HighlandsOrange Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Sandstones Known None
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Known None
South Eastern QueenslandWoodenbong Known None
Sydney BasinHunter Known None
Sydney BasinKerrabee Known None
Sydney BasinWollemi Known None
Sydney BasinWyong Known None
Sydney BasinYengo Known None