Mount Victoria Babax seen in India for first time in 70 years


A species known only in India from a specimen collected almost 70 years ago has been documented alive and well close to the Myanmar border.

Mount Victoria Babax, a range-restricted species known almost exclusively from the Arakan Mountains in western Myanmar, had been seen only once previously in India, when a single individual was collected by RupChand Thakur and Walter Koelz in Phawngpui National Park in March 1953.

But the species was seen and photographed again in Phawngpui National Park by birders Puja Sharma and Andrew Spencer on 12 January 2022, further verifying Thakur and Koelz's sighting and proving its continued existence in the country.

Mount Victoria Babax is a distinctive member of the laughingthrush family, with overall brown, streaky plumage, a pale eye and downcurved bill. It was considered conspecific with the more widespread Chinese Babax until 2005, when a study suggested that it should be split on the basis of appearance and song – something that has subsequently been confirmed by genetic analysis.