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Thai Girl Tattle: What Sort Of Bird Is This?

Andrew Hicks tells of tit-babblers of both the feathered and human varieties.

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So what’s a pin striped tit-babbler?

So what’s a pin striped tit-babbler?

I have a grizzled expat friend called George and when occasionally I see him in Surin town he babbles on about the crazy, idiosyncratic things that have happened to him since I last saw him. He then shrugs and throws up his hands and says, ‘TIT… This is Thailand!’

Even though he never wears pin stripes, he surely must be a tit babbler.

Yesterday a tiny bird flew against one of our windows and fell stunned onto the terrace. It was stunningly beautiful with a curved beak and seemed too weak to move. A bird in the hand was worth a photograph and I then gently put it in a bush where I hope it recovered.

Associated Press has just been reporting that a new species of babbler has been found in caves in S.W.China which is distinctive and ‘resembles a wren babbler because it prefers running to flying’.

My little bird too didn’t seem keen on flying either and when I trawled the internet and found www.birdlife.org I became hopeful that this was a pin striped tit-babbler (macronous gularis).

I wish too that I was better at identifying some of the beautiful birds that are seen round here. There are king fishers and wood peckers and Peter swears that a hoopoe regularly visits him even when he’s not been drinking. Sadly though the habitat is vanishing and with every little boy equipped with a catapault, bird life is under threat.

If you are hungry, conservation of birdlife is inconceivable and the tiniest bird offers some life-giving protein. In rural markets in Laos I’ve seen birds with the most spectacular plumage laid out in rows on the ground for sale. Each one would provide less that a mouthful but it would not even cross peoples’ minds how pitiable it is to kill and eat them.

The pin striped babblers who brought down New York and London’s financial systems are now escaping with massive bonuses as a reward for failure and I reflect on the people here who in contrast have very little to eat.

Feed the villagers adequately and they’ll leave the birds alone, but with the world economy in free fall, life round here is becoming even more difficult.


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