Spot-throated Babbler (Pellorneum albiventre) is a small brown babbler that has a distribution ranging from eastern Himalayas, through southern China, northern Thailand, and all the way to southern Vietnam. It appears to be quite uncommon throughout its range though. In Thailand, I’ve only seen it at few locations including Doi Ang Khang, Doi Lang (west) and Doi Inthanon. Apart from these locations, a stakeout in Baihualing (Yunnan, China), Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary (Arunachal Pradesh, India) and Da Lat Plateau (Vietnam) are some other places where it can be seen regularly.
Despite its wide distribution range, there are not that many photos of this species online. It is one of the most skulking babblers in Thailand. It likes to forage quietly alone or in pair, in thick bushes near the ground or hopping on the densely covered ground similar to a mouse. It’s very unusual to see one foraging in the open, and even when it does, it would normally flee to the thickest cover immediately once disturbed. It gets a bit easier during the breeding season, when the males would sing their ridiculously long, varied and melodic songs.
I find early wet season (April-May) to be the best time to look for this skulking species. On my recent visits to Doi Ang Khang, I came across several singing birds just by walking along the road. They were all picked up first by the songs. Getting to see one requires some effort. Getting a good photograph requires even more work, experience and luck. I find that most birds don’t really like to move much while singing. Once the male finds a suitable perch, it can sit on that same perch and sing for minutes without moving. It’s a matter of sneaking into the bush and finding the right angle to obtain a clear view of the bird. Watching and listening to a singing Spot-throated Babbler is always a personal birding highlight. The songs can go on for 10, 20 or 30 minutes straight. It’s not surprising that this little drab bird is now being threatened by the illegal song bird trade. It is known to be sold to markets in Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam. I even found a silent and frightened bird in a cage once in a restaurant in Da Lat. It’s really sad how such beautiful and complex songs can become its downfall like too many species. To hear how cool the song is, here’s a short recording of one of the birds that I recently found https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/344570061.