Laughingthrush  birds
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Belonging to the family - Timaliidae

Laughingthrushes [24 cm] are large sized version of Babblers [14 cm]. Having the same behavior like Babblers, these are noisy birds and especially this group of birds are characterized by laughing calls. Laughingthrushes also has the tendency to gather and roam in groups.

There are about 38 species of Laughingthrushes in the world and almost all found in tropical Asia with the greatest number of species occurring in the region of south eastern slopes of the Himalayas. The 5 species seen in Malaysia are:-

 
Sunda Laughing-thrush Garrulax palliatus
White-crested Laughing-thrush Garrulax leucolophus
Black Laughing-thrush Garrulax lugubris
Chestnut-capped Laughing-thrush Garrulax mitratus
Chestnut-crowned Laughing-thrush Garrulax erythrocephalus
   

Just for information:- Other birds which could be sighted in Malaysia and grouped into this family Timaliidae, are:-

   

37 Babblers

1 Mesia

2 Shrike-Babblers 1 Cutia
1 Sibia 2 Minlas
2 Yuhinas 3 Fulvettas
   

Laughingthrushes are good sized land birds for viewing. Most species have floppy tail and soft fluffy plumage. Their legs are strong for hopping and do spend a fair bit of time foraging on the ground. Their wings re short and rounded for short flights within the dense lower storey as most species are jungle birds.

 

1. Black Laughingthrush  Garrulax lugubris

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 27 Cm.

 This bird from the undergrowth of the Montane forest can sometimes be heard but hardly seen. It does move along the lower storey near to the forest floor alone by itself. Or sometimes in a flock with its own species or joining the Chestnut-capped in a bird wave. During this time, the birds would be passing through the middle storey.  The bird has a blackish plumage and uniform in the upper part and under part. Diagnostic markings would be bluish-white skin around the eyes and the orange-red bills. The bird not only measure larger in size but also appear stockier.

 Distribution :-  This is a bird from the island of Sumatra
 Habitats & preferences:- The bird is found in sub-montane forest
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Had spotted the bird in sub-montane and just below sub-montane forest of Awana, and The Gap. Heard but not spotted as far up as Gunong Ulu Kali
 
 My personal jottings :-

The Black Laughingthrush is also a large bird at 27 cm and also a resident of Sumatra. This is a bird of the sub-montane forest. A very shy bird which sometimes goes with the flock of Chestnut-capped but usually alone in the undergrowth. Had seen the bird in a flock of 8 birds as well.

There is a proposal to start a new genus Melanocichla for this bird and a new name Melanocichla lugubris

This is a very shy bird that is often heard but seldom seen. Its presence could be detected by the calls or watch carefully at a marauding flock of Laughingthrushes. In fact they should be available where the other Laughingthrushes are. Places like Awana, Frasers Hills and even The Gap. Unlike the Chestnut-capped, this bird was seen on few occasions moving alone on its own. There were times when the bird, again, alone in the group of Chestnut-capped bird. More often than not when the bird was spotted alone, it was on the lower storey of the low scrubs. Have seen the bird walking on the ground. Not surprising that the Black Laughingthrush do behave like a ground bird as well.

Unlike the Chestnut-capped, the bird do not appear in the open when humans are detected, it would move swiftly into hiding. Then in times when the bird was moving with a flock of Chestnut-capped. it takes attention and focus to differentiate this bird from the rest of the group as I did not expect to have it together with them.

 

Record of bird's calls :-    and Videos:-
 

Black Laughingthrush  # 1

Black Laughingthrush  # 2

Black Laughingthrush  # 3

Black Laughingthrush  # 7

Black Laughingthrush # 8

Black Laughingthrush  # 9

 

2. Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush  Garrulax mitratus

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 24 Cm. This is the most common among the three species seen locally. Measuring only 24 cm., the bird appear slim. This bird looks grayish with a prominent chestnut crown and the under tail in rufous-chestnut color. Then there is the white eye ring which give the bird the new name and the orange-yellow bill which is diagnostic.

 Distribution :-  This is a bird from the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Now this is the most common bird in Sun\b-montane forest. Moving about usually in flock
 Habitats & preferences:- This is definitely a bird seen in the sub-montane climate though it may venture higher into the montane environment but hardly below that sub-montane altitude.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Very common in the Old Pump House Road and Frasers Hills. Also in Awana but hardly seen in lower hills like Bukit Tinggi.
 
 My personal jottings :-

The Laughingthrushes is 24 cm long originates from Sumatra and a very common resident of the Malaysian sub-montane forest.

A new genus "Rhinocichla" would be started for this bird and the designation of Rhinocichla mitrata or Spectacled Laughingthrush would be used. One point very special about the bird is its continuous and reassuring calls that there are birds around and hidden within the dense forest. Then the group of birds, fearlessly moving across the foliages and confirming the presence of bird life at that point of time. Unlike the other two Laughingthrushes mentioned on this page, this species is hardly seen moving in low level though there are times they were seen in the lower storey but I had never witness them foraging on the ground.

I need not elaborate on the sighting of this birds further as they are readily available. I wish I could get more information to indentify the females and the juveniles.. Below in photo No.23 is the clue to ID the juvenile.

 

Video for this bird:-    Record Of Bird's Calls :-          
 

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush  # 1

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush  # 2

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush  # 3

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush  # 4

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush # 5

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush  # 6

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush  # 7

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush # 8

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush  # 9

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush  # 10

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush # 11

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush  # 12

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush  # 13

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush # 14

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush  # 15

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush  # 16

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush #17

Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush  # 18

 

3. Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush  Garrulax erythrocephalus peninsulae

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 28 Cm. The Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush is definitely a stockier bird at 28 cm. The bird is more olive-gray in color and has olive fringing on the wings and tail. The crown in prominently rufous-chestnut surrounded by a silvery gray supercilium and ear coverts. The white eye ring is very prominent but the bill is black.

 Distribution :-  This is a bird from North-eastern India, south-western China and Tibet. This bird is also common in the mountain in Malaysia.
 Habitats & preferences:- This bird can be seen in the sub-montane region but more active in the montane areas.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- This bird could be seen in Frasers Hills but more often on Gunong Ulu Kali and Gunong Brinchang.
 
 My personal jottings :-

This Laughingthrush is around 27 cm long but the whole bird appears broader and larger. This is a resident of the Himalayas foothills in India and China. In Malaysia it has taken up resident in the montane region and a common bird.

In the splitting process, a new genus "Trochalopteron" would be introduced and the new name given to this bird would Trochalopteron peninsulae and the common name Malayan Laughingthrush.

Very so often I had seen the bird foraging on the ground. Walking out suddenly from the bushes and returning into the bushes the same way. Many photos below also confirm that point, as the birds had their pictures taken while on the ground. Unlike the Chestnut-capped which were seen frequently, the Chestnut-crowned was hardly encountered as there was no reason for them to stay in the open other than the reason of picking up their meals.

So find a spot in the montane environment where they look for food. Sure the birds could be spotted with ease. Like all Laughingthrushes, their continuous calls will signal their presence. Unlike the Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush, this bird is wearied about human presence, though it doesn't show. They do not take flight of hastily makes their exit after spotting the human, but would be moving swiftly and after a short while leave the spot. The bird would appear singly and do not appear as a group and taking turns for isolated bird to appear into the open as the Chestnut-capped would do. The bird appear alone but they do fly in small group of 3-5 birds.

 

Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-
 

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush  # 1

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush  # 2

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush  # 3

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush  # 4

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush #5

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush  # 6

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush  # 7

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush #8

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush  # 9

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush # 10

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush #11

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush # 12

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush # 13

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush #14

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush # 15

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush # 16

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush #17

Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush # 18

 

 When birding the quietness of the forest was needed to trace the calls of birds. This endless repetition of calls from the Laughingthrushes would be interruptive. But it is also these calls that motivates the formation of bird waves though not always. The Laughingthrush covers vegetation at the rate and styles that the smaller birds may not follow. Overall I still would welcome their presence.