Grey-breasted Babbler Malacopteron albogulare


Justification of Red List Category
This species occurs within a relatively large range, but is scarce and local in most areas. Its habitat requirements are poorly understood. It is suspected to be declining moderately rapidly owing to habitat loss, and is therefore considered Near Threatened. If further studies reveal that it is restricted to primary habitats, or declining at a higher rate than currently thought, its status may change to Vulnerable.

Population justification
There is no clear data to accurately estimate the global population of this species, but given the very low reporting rates it is plausible that the population size could be <10,000 mature individuals. However, mist netting has found the species to be more common than previously thought in some areas (Yong et al. 2014), and reported population densities are c.21-22 individuals per km2 (Dutson et al. 1991, Wilkinson et al. 1991). There have been few recent records from areas of suitable habitat (D. L. Yong in litt. 2007) and it has disappeared from several sites where it had been previously known (Yong et al. 2014). Additionally, the species is considered to react strongly to playback; yet, survey work in the early 2010s only found the species at two sites (D. Bakewell in litt. 2013). The sparse and scattered reporting of the species could mean that it may persist in only very small pockets throughout its range and without further information the population size is in effect unknown, although potentially very small.

Trend justification
Data from Tracewski et al. (2016) suggests that forest loss within the species’s range has been at a rate of 16.2% over three generations (14.4 years). It is suspected that the population size declines at a similar rate.

Distribution and population

Malacopteron albogulare is restricted to Sabah, Sarawak, and peninsular Malaysia; Sumatra (including Batu Islands and Lingga archipelago) and Kalimantan, Indonesia, and Brunei. There are few recent records from many apparently suitable areas, e.g. North Selangor Peat Swamp Forest, Panti Forest Reserve, Pondok Tanjong Forest Reserve, and South Pahang Peat Swamp Forest, Malaysia (D. L. Yong in litt. 2007, Yong et al. 2014), which suggests that it is now rare and declining.


This species occurs primarily in the understorey of lowland forests on poor soils, particularly freshwater peatswamp and heath forests on alluvial plains or terraces. In some areas it is restricted to lowland peatswamps and kerangas, although it is also recorded from mixed dipterocarp and dryland forests, lightly-logged forests and forests on sandy or rocky terrain. Its absence in many areas of apparently suitable habitat suggest that it may have specific and unidentified habitat requirements that influence its distribution.


Habitat loss is considered to be the primary threat to this species, with land conversion, logging and forest fires all taking their toll on its forest habitats. Rates of forest loss in the Sundaic lowlands have been extremely rapid, owing partly to the escalation of illegal logging and land conversion, with deliberate targeting of all remaining stands of valuable timber including those inside protected areas. Forest fires can also have a damaging effect. Peatswamp forests are being lost at a particularly high rate, and currently receive relatively scant protection from reserve networks.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species occurs in several Protected Areas.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct repeated surveys within the range to determine current distribution and abundance, as well as assess population trends and rates of habitat loss. Conduct ecological studies to improve understanding of its precise habitat requirements, tolerance of secondary habitats and response to fragmentation. Improve the management of any protected areas within the species's range that are suffering encroachment. Increase the area of suitable habitat that has protected status. Implement measures to reduce the number and severity of forest fires.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Khwaja, N., Martin, R., Hermes, C., Gilroy, J., Westrip, J.

Yong, D., Bakewell, D.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Malacopteron albogulare. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/09/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/09/2020.