Jungle Babbler (Argya striata)
The jungle babbler (Argya striata) is a member of the family Leiothrichidae found in the Indian subcontinent. Jungle babblers are gregarious birds that forage in small groups of six to ten birds, a habit that has given them the popular name of "Seven Sisters" in urban Northern India, and Saath bhai (seven brothers) in Bengali, with cognates in other regional languages which also mean "seven brothers".
The jungle babbler is a common resident breeding bird in most parts of the Indian subcontinent and is often seen in gardens within large cities as well as in forested areas. In the past, the orange-billed babbler, Turdoides rufescens, of Sri Lanka was considered to be a subspecies of jungle babbler, but has now been elevated to a species.
These birds are gregarious and very social. They sometimes form the core of a mixed-species foraging flock. They feed mainly on insects, but also eat grains, nectar and berries. The groups maintain territories and will defend them against neighbours, which are nevertheless sometimes tolerated. For their size, they are long lived and have been noted to live as long as 16.5 years in captivity. When foraging, some birds take up a high vantage point and act as sentinels. They are known to gather and mob potential predators such as snakes.
Young birds have a dark iris. Older birds have an iris of a pale creamy colour and it has been found that the iris has a dark epithelium, which becomes invisible when the muscle fibres develop in the iris and make the dark basal colours invisible and thus appear cream-coloured.
They breed throughout the year, with peak breeding in northern India being noted between March–April and July–September. Birds reach sexual maturity after their third year. The nest is built halfway up in a tree, concealed in dense masses of foliage. The normal clutch is three or four (but can be up to seven) deep greenish blue eggs. In northern India, birds breeding during July–September tend to be parasitized by the pied crested cuckoo and sometimes by the common hawk-cuckoo. Helpers assist the parents in feeding the young. Post fledging survival is very high.
Birds fledge and females tend to leave their natal group after about two years. Birds within a group often indulge in allopreening, play chases and mock fights. When threatened by predators, they have been said to sometimes feign death.
These birds are very common near towns and cities particularly in northern India and are well known for their habit of moving in groups giving them the local name of "Sat Bhai" which means seven brethren but translated by the English in India to "Seven sisters".