Marsh Babbler Pellorneum palustre


Justification of Red List Category
This poorly known grassland specialist is suspected to be in rapid decline as a result of the widespread loss of its tall grassland habitat. It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 10,000-19,999 mature individuals. This equates to 15,000-29,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 15,000-30,000 individuals.

Trend justification
A rapid and on-going population decline is suspected, in line with rates of habitat loss.

Distribution and population

Pellorneum palustre is endemic to the Brahmaputra floodplain, its associated tributaries and adjacent hill ranges in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, India and eastern Bangladesh (BirdLife International 2001). It is poorly known, but has been described as fairly common within suitable habitat found in protected areas (A. Rahmani in litt. 2016). During recent surveys in 2015-2016 under the BirdLife PEP Grassland Birds of the Brahmaputra floodplains, it was seen/heard or reported to us from the following areas: D’Ering Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, Dibru-Saikhowa, Kaziranga, Orang, Manas, and in many wet grasslands outside PAs in Assam (Rahmani 2016).


It is resident in extensive reedbeds and tall grass, sometimes mixed with scrub and scattered trees, on marshy ground or adjacent to swamps and rivers, from the plains up to 800 m. It has also been encountered in damp forest scrub. It is very inconspicuous, but has distinctive vocalisations, and is generally found in pairs or small parties, skulking on or near the ground. It breeds during the rainy season from May onwards.


The rapid and extensive loss and modification of tall grasslands and reedswamp throughout its limited range is the main threat. This is occurring as a result of drainage, conversion to agriculture (primarily rice-paddy, mustard and tea plantations), overgrazing by domestic livestock, harvesting of grass for thatch production, inappropriate grassland management within protected areas, damming of marshes and, recently, heavy flooding in the Brahmaputra valley caused by run-off from its increasingly denuded catchment.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Recent records come from Dibru-Saikhowa, Manas and Kaziranga National Parks, all in Assam, and also West Bhanugach Reserve Forest in Bangladesh (now Lawachara National Park).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys in remaining suitable habitat, perhaps using call playback, to establish its current distribution and status. Conduct research into its habitat use and seasonal movements to clarify the relative importance of different habitats and altitudes. Extend, upgrade and link existing protected areas, and establish new ones, in order to conserve remaining tracts of natural grassland. Promote regeneration of suitable grassland habitats wherever possible. Control livestock-grazing in protected areas and regulate grassland burning (A. Choudhury in litt. 2016) to reduce rates of tall grassland loss and degradation. Promote widespread conservation awareness initiatives focusing on sustainable management of grassland to maximise both thatch productivity for local people and available habitat for threatened grassland birds.


15 cm. Dark brown babbler with blackish streaks on lower throat and breast. Uniform brown crown and upperside. White of underparts restricted to throat and centre of belly. Lower throat and breast washed rufous at sides. Similar spp. Puff-throated Babbler P. ruficeps has prominent supercilium, rufous-brown crown and prominent brown spotting on breast. Voice Sings with short phrase, introduced by harsh notes krrt trr trr wi yi-yu; trr trr wi-you; trh-trh tu-tiu and trrh-ti trrh-ti trrh-ti. Hints Listen for its distinctive song in wet grasslands.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Gilroy, J., Taylor, J., Westrip, J.

Rahmani, A., Choudhury, U.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Pellorneum palustre. Downloaded from on 03/12/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 03/12/2022.