In February 2023, I was privileged to visit Van Long Nature Reserve in Northern Vietnam. I was lucky to encounter the elusive Annam Limestone Babbler during my visit.
This rare bird was recognized as being a separate species from the Variable Limestone Babbler in 2020, and it has been a sought-after bird for bird watchers who visit this part of the world.
Annam Limestone Babbler in Vietnam
The Annam Limestone Babbler is a native resident of the limestone hills of Northern Indochina and Southern China. Its natural habitats are tropical or subtropical moist lowland and montane rainforests. It is a large, chunky, scraggly-looking babbler found in limestone hills covered with forest. It is grey and brown overall, with heavy streaking on the head, back, and throat.
Like other babblers, it is shy and is often heard rather than seen. Its song is a loud, ringing, hoarse-sounding sequence of whistled notes, including some repeated phrases. It also gives harsh calls.
How to identify the Annam Limestone Babbler?
Known scientifically as Gypsophila annamensis, this bird looks similar to other babblers. However, it can be distinguished from other species from the below features:
- Greyish dark brown crown with black scaling.
- Greyish dark brown rump.
- Dark brown upper wings and tail.
- Greyish face with darker ear coverts.
- White throat and upper breast with dark streaks and grey lower breast and belly.
- Grey-brown flanks, thighs and vent.
- Bolder striping on the throat and no white spots on the shoulder distinguish it from a similar-looking Streaked Wren-Babbler.
Where to look for the Annam Limestone Babbler in Vietnam?
Being an endemic bird with a limited range, there are only a few countries where we can find the Annam Limestone Babbler. This includes China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Vietnam, one of this species’ strongholds, provides one of the most opportunities to see this shy and elusive bird.
Among the locations where we can find the Annam Limestone Babbler in Vietnam includes;
- Van Long Nature Reserve
- Cuc Phuong National Park in Ninh Binh Province
- Pu Mat National Park in Nghe An Province in Northern Vietnam
Walking around the paths near the limestone hills and visiting the cave pagodas around the area gives you the highest chance of encountering this shy and elusive bird. Because of its choice of habitat, this bird is difficult to see. It usually forages near the ground, often in and around rocky cracks and crevices.
If you ever visit Northern Vietnam, it is worthwhile to put the Annam Limestone Babbler as one of the endemic birds to see. Being able to encounter this bird that has specifically adapted to the habitat in this region will make one appreciate nature’s wonders even more.