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Babblers are small to medium-sized passerine (perching) birds characterized by soft, fluffy plumage, strong, stout legs, and short rounded wings. Their wings make them poor fliers, and most are largely sedentary birds. Many species, particularly those that stay close to the ground, are gray, brown, or black, while the tree-living (arboreal) species are often green, yellow, or olive. Wren-babblers grow to only 3.5 in (9 cm), while the laughing-thrushes measure up to 1 ft (30 cm).

Babblers belong to Timaliidae, a large family of approximately 230 species of passerine (perching) birds that is thought to have originated in southern Asia. Babblers are most abundant in India and the Orient, but are also found in New Guinea, the Philippines, Australia, Africa, Madagascar, Saudi Arabia, and the Near East. The only species of babbler found in the New World is the wrentit, a small, reclusive brown bird found in the chaparral country west of the Rocky Mountains from Oregon, south to Baja California.

Most babblers are highly social and nuzzle close to their mates and flock companions. Babblers feed primarily on insects gathered by probing and digging into the earth with their beaks; fruit and seeds round out their diet. While foraging for food, babblers keep in constant contact through the noisy chattering sounds for which they are named. The chattering pattern varies between species, some jabbering almost constantly, while others remain relatively quiet. Only members of the subfamily Turdoidini are true songbirds, and their bright plumage makes them prized as cage birds.

Most babblers build dome-shaped nests on or near the ground, while the Turdoidini songbirds typically build cup-shaped nests in trees. The bareheaded rock fowl, a most unusual babbler from Africa, defies convention by plastering its mud nest to the side of a cliff.

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