The Grey-crowned Babbler (Pomatostomus temporalis) is a medium size bird, but the largest of the four babbler species. A conspicuous songbird with long curved beak, dark brown-grey above, a distinctive grey crown, dark grey mask and whitish eyes, The eye is pale yellow in adults. The underparts are variable reddish to dark brown, chin and throat are white, with a pale grey lower breast. It has short rounded wings, cinnamon brown colour wing patches and a long tail that is tipped white.

They are a highly sociable and communal bird that live in family groups of four to twelve members. Noisy and gregarious bird, they have a wide range of calls. Often seen on the ground or in low trees.

Their group usually consists of a primary breeding pair, with several non-breeding, although some groups can contain two breeding females or two breeding pairs. They build two types of nest that include the roost-nest (that is used by the whole group) and the brood nests (for the breeding females). These nests are large domed creations placed in a fork of a tree. The nests are constructed from sticks and twigs, with a hood and landing platform for the entrance. The nest inside is lined with bark, grass, wool and feathers. They will often re-use the same nests. All group members help to feed the young.

In north-western Australia there is a darker-coloured subspecies, rubeculus, that is often called the Red-breasted Babbler. This subspecies has a rufous lower breast and darker crown stripe.

Common name
Sometimes known as the ‘Yahoo-bird’, it is thought that this name stems from one of their common calls, where two birds do a call almost in unison (the ‘ya’ part is called by the female, closely followed by the ‘hoo’ called by the male). They are also known by the name Grey-crowned Chatterer, Happy Jack, Barker and Barking-bird.

Images © Dorothy L


  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Pomatostomidae
  • Genus: Pomatostomus
  • Species: P. temporalis
  • Binomial name: Pomatostomus temporalis

Footnote & References

  1. Grey-crowned Babbler – Bird calls / bird song, Graeme Chapman, Natural History Photographer – Ornithologist, https://www.graemechapman.com.au/library/sounds.php?c=4&p=54
  2. Grey-crowned Babbler (eastern subspecies), NSW Government Office of Environment Heritage, https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10660