Fr: Pomatorhin à joues rousses
All: Rotwangensäbler
Esp: Cimitarra Carirrufa
Ita: Garrulo scimitarra guanceruggine
Nd: Roodwangkruiplijster
Sd: Rostkindad sabeltimalia


Ingo Waschkies
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Text by Nicole Bouglouan


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A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig Robson. New Holland Publishers. ISBN: 9781780090498

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THE AVIANWEB (Sibylle Faye)

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Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler
Pomatorhinus erythrogenys

Passeriformes Order – Timaliidae Family

The Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler is a species essentially terrestrial. It is usually seen on the ground, foraging actively among the leaf litter, pecking and hopping in the thick undergrowth. Like other scimitar-babblers, it lives in groups of 10-12 birds outside the breeding season.

Length: 22-26 cm
Weight: 59-70 g

The adult of nominate race has dull olive-brown upperparts and white underparts on central throat, breast and belly. We can see faint broad greyish-white streaks on white chin, throat and breast. The bird shows broad extent of orange-rufous to chestnut, from head sides and forehead, down to flanks and vent. The long tail is graduated and the wings are small and rounded.
The head is buffy-grey from forecrown to mid-crown, turning then olive-brown like upperparts, upperwing and tail. Lores are pale greyish-white.
The long, laterally compressed decurved bill is greyish to pale brown, with pale yellowish-white base of lower mandible. The eyes are pale, mostly greyish-white. Legs and feet are flesh-brown. As mainly terrestrial species, legs and feet are strong with long claws, especially on the hind toe.
Both sexes are similar.

The juvenile has paler rusty parts. Upperparts, wing-coverts and wing edges are washed rusty.

We can find four subspecies.
P.e. erythrogenys (here described and displayed) is found in NE Pakistan, E to N India.

P.e. ferrugilatus occurs in Nepal E to Bhutan. This one is smaller, with darker olive upperparts, and chin to upperbreast are dusky grey with whitish feather edges.

P.e. imberbis is found in E Myanmar. It is smaller than “ferruginatus” but similar to nominate in coloration. It has greyish lores and unstreaked breast.

P.e. celatus is found in NW Thailand. It resembles “imberbis” but with darker grey lores, paler orange-rufous body parts and red eyes.

The Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler usually frequents open broadleaved evergreen forests, thick scrub and understorey at forest edges, bushes along fields, abandoned cultivated areas, grassy areas, hillsides covered with bushes and scrub.
This species is visible between 300 and 2400 metres, occasionally up to 3000 metres of elevation in Indian Subcontinent, and between 900 and 2000 metres in SE Asia.

The Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler gives powerful, repetitive vocalizations. They perform typical duets including « whih-u-ju-whi-u… » or « yu-u-yi-yu-u… » and other variants. It also gives 3-notes duet « kvird’kup » descending in pitch, and a similar 2-notes « kvikuu » with higher first note.
We can also hear high, clear « pu » or « ju », and repeated well-spaced « jrr-jrr-jrr-jrr ». The alarm call is a rattling « whih-whihihihihi » or a harsh « whit-it » and a « whoi-whititititit ». The first note « whoi » can be given singly, and is similar to the sound produced by a stone dropped in water.

The Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler forages mainly on the ground, searching for invertebrates among the leaf-litter, usually in dense undergrowth. It remains mainly in bushes and it feeds under the vegetal cover.
Essentially terrestrial, it moves the dead leaves to find insects, larvae, chrysalis, grubs and earth worms. It also takes seeds and berries, and occasionally hops to climb in trees.
If disturbed while foraging, it is able to escape rapidly with a succession of long bounding hops.
Outside the breeding season, they occur in groups of 10-12 birds.

During the breeding season, the Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler performs duets to maintain the pair-bonds. Male and female’s songs are highly synchronized and can be heard as a “single” song.
The courtship displays are poorly known. Like other members of the genus Pomatorhynus, this species indulges in a habit of dancing, with body postures, wing and tail movements, swaying the up-pointed head from side to side in order to display the throat and breast colours.

The Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler is resident in its range.
It rarely flies, but when it does take-off, its flight is strong and swift. However, the bird has ungainly appearance, due to the short wings, the heavy bill and the long, graduated tail.

The breeding season occurs between February and July.
Both sexes build the nest on the ground usually in a depression protected by vegetation, tree roots, tall grass, ferns or rock. The nest may sometimes be placed between 60 and 120 centimetres above the ground in thick vegetation.
This is a loose domed structure with broad opening high up at side. It is made with coarse grass, dead leaves, dry fern, plant fibres, roots, moss and other plant materials. It is lined with soft, fine grasses.

The female lays 2-4 white eggs and both sexes incubate. This period usually ranges between 13 and 16 days. The young birds fledge about two weeks after hatching.

The Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler is relatively common throughout its range, except in Pakistan where it is very local.
Populations appear stable and this species is not currently threatened.