Rusty-throated Wren-babbler Spelaeornis badeigularis


Justification of Red List Category
This species is currently known from just a single location, rendering it susceptible to human impacts. It is therefore classified as Vulnerable. However, given its tolerance of secondary habitats it is unlikely that its population is declining, and further survey effort may reveal that it is more widespread. If this is confirmed it will warrant downlisting to Near Threatened.

Population justification
This species is known from only one locality, where it is reported to be common. It may be more widespread, but a precautionary population estimate of 2,500-9,999 individuals is currently deemed appropriate. This equates to 1,667-6,666 mature individuals, rounded here to 1,500-7,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Although the species is apparently tolerant of secondary habitats, it is likely to be negatively affected by human activities within its range, including total habitat clearance. It is therefore suspected to be declining, although probably not rapidly.

Distribution and population

Spelaeornis badeigularis was known from one specimen, collected at Dreyi in the Mishmi Hills of eastern Arunachal Pradesh, India, in 1947. It was rediscovered in 2004 along Mayodia Pass in the Mishmi Hills, where it was recorded as common (King and Donahue 2006). This remains the only known location for the species, but its use of roadside secondary growth suggests that it may occur more widely in eastern Arunchal Pradesh and other north-east Indian hills (J. Pilgrim in litt. 2006). The species appears to be tolerant of secondary habitats, and given the extent of forest within eastern Arunchal Pradesh it is unlikely to be declining rapidly (J. Pilgrim in litt. 2006).


The type-specimen, an adult female, was collected in moist subtropical forest at 1,600 m in winter (January). It has since been recorded in dense undergrowth 1-3 m high in secondary forest, often with a broken canopy, within an elevation range between 1,800 and 2,550 m. This vegetation is typical of road-cuts and ravines. It is very active, typically remaining within 1 m of the ground. It has been noted in a mixed-species flock (A. Rahman in litt. 2016).


Timber extraction in Dibang Valley, Lower Dibang Valley and Lohit districts in Arunachal Pradesh, combined with forest loss and degradation as a result of shifting agriculture, are the most significant potential threats. In 1992, an estimated 61% of the state was still forested, but rates of habitat destruction are rapidly increasing in parallel with increases in the human population of Arunachal Pradesh, which doubled between 1970 and 1990. As the species inhabits secondary growth in upland areas, deforestation may not have a dramatic impact on the population in the near future. However, the construction of a new by-pass and dam is likely to negatively impact the species (A. Rahman in litt. 2016), and while it is known from such a restricted area there remains the possibility that it is restricted by a currently unknown factor.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
None are known. However, the Dibang and Mehao Wildlife Sanctuaries are close to the type-locality and may support undiscovered populations.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys for the species across Lohit, Anjaw, Lower Dibang Valley and Dibang Valley districts, Arunachal Pradesh, including Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary, and also adjacent China and north-west Myanmar, to establish its distribution, status, habitat requirements and threats. Conduct studies to determine the extent of tolerance of secondary habitat, focussing in particular on whether populations persist in areas where primary habitat has been completely removed. Make recommendations for its conservation, based on survey findings, including the establishment of protected areas supporting populations of this and other threatened species, linked if possible to existing reserves. Promote conservation-awareness initiatives in hill and mountain communities, aimed at reducing shifting agriculture and promoting sustainable exploitation of natural resources. Investigate ways to minimise the impacts of the construction of a dam and by-pass within its range.


9 cm. Tiny, tailed wren-babbler with white chin and dark, streaked rusty-chestnut throat. Rest of underparts dark, scaled whitish, especially on flanks. Brown upperparts. Small black bill. Similar spp. Rufous-throated Wren-babbler S. caudatus has rufous-orange throat without dark streaks, less white on chin and greyer ear-coverts. Browner scaling on flanks and belly.


Text account compilers
Westrip, J., Martin, R, Taylor, J., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Benstead, P., Tobias, J., Butchart, S., Peet, N., Gilroy, J., Allinson, T

King, B., Choudhury, A., Pilgrim, J., Rahman, A., Eames, J.C.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Spelaeornis badeigularis. Downloaded from on 29/01/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 29/01/2023.