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Masked Laughingthrush
Masked Laughingthrush
Garrulax perspicillatus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Inopinaves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri
Infraorder: Passerida
Superfamily: Sylvioidea
Clade: Babbler clade
Family: Leiothrichidae
Swainson, 1831

The Laughingthrushes, Leiothrichidae is a family of birds in the Sylvioidea superfamily and part of the Old World babbler clade of passerine birds. They occur in tropical Asia, with the greatest number of species occurring in the Himalaya and southern China.

These are rangy, medium-sized, floppy-tailed landbirds with soft fluffy plumage. These birds have strong legs and are quite terrestrial. This group is not strongly migratory, and most species have short rounded wings, and a weak flight.

A few, like the Streaked Laughingthrush occur in fairly open habitats, but most are jungle species, difficult to observe in the dense vegetation they prefer.

Like other babblers, these are noisy birds, and the characteristic laughing calls are often the best indication that these birds are present. As with other babbler species, they frequently occur in groups of up to a dozen, and the rainforest species like the Ashy-headed Laughingthrush often occur in the mixed feeding flocks typical of tropical Asian jungle.


As with some other babblers, this genus has turned out to be highly polyphyletic. Rather than forming a natural evolutionary group of closest relatives, the laughingthrushes are spread about the entire babbler family. This is quite apparent by their diverse morphology and presence of several groups with distinct color patterns, but the rarity of several species and the sheer number of taxa have hitherto prevented a thorough revision. Before this paraphyly was realized to be as dramatic as it is, it was generally assumed that the laughingthrushes were a clade comprising several subgenera.

This has much confounded further research: most molecular phylogeny studies, for example, used only the White-crested Laughingthrush as an "example" of this "genus", because specimens were readily available. Morphological studies, on the other hand, had usually more material at their disposal, but these too were generally conducted under a false assumption of monophyly. A 2003 study,[1] analyzing mtDNA cytochrome b and 12S/16S rRNA data of a number of laughingthrushes, did establish however that there is no such thing as a "representative" laughingthrush. Consequently most of the work regarding the evolution of this assemblage needs to be evaluated anew and if necessary even redone. Indeed, the taxon Garrulax would need to be restricted to the type species (Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush) and its closest relatives, but the species generally considered the most likely candidates have not been comprehensively studied in recent times.[2]

Species list[]

The list below uses the treatment of the laughingthrushes by Birds of South Asia[3] and the Handbook of Birds of the World[4] as a baseline, acknowledging the polyphyly of Garrulax and attempting to reorganise it into monophyletic genera.

This list is by no means the last word on the subject though, and it is very likely that some of the new groups will be revised, expanded or split as more species are studied in the future; additional laughingthrushes are presently elevated to species status and even hitherto unknown taxa are discovered at a rate of about 1-2 per year. Some proposed small or monotypic genera on the other hand might ultimately be merged with others for convenience if they turn out to be sister taxa. All in all, the resolution of the laughingthrush assemblage's taxonomy depends on a resolution of the Old World babblers' systematics in general.

Genus Alcippe[]

(10 species)

Genus Grammatoptila[]

(1 species)

Genus Cutia[]

(2 species)

Genus Acanthoptila[]

(1 species)

Genus Argya[]

(10 species)

Genus Chatarrhaea[]

(2 species)

Genus Malacocircus[]

(3 species)

Genus Phyllanthus[]

(1 species)

Genus Kupeornis[]

(3 species)

Genus Turdoides[]

(14 species)

Genus Leucodioptron[]

(2 species)

Genus Stactocichla[]

File:Chestnut-capped Laughing Thrush.png

Spectacled Laughingthrush
Garrulax mitratus/Rhinocichla mitrata

Genus Garrulax[]

(11 species)

Genus Melanocichla[]

(2 species)

Genus Ianthocincla[]

(8 species)

Genus Pterorhinus[]

(23 species)

Genus Trochalopteron[]

(21 species)

Genus Montecincla[]

(4 species)

  • Banasura Chilappan / Banasura Laughingthrush, Montecincla jerdoni
  • Nilgiri Chilappan / Black-chinned Laughingthrush, Montecincla cachinnans
  • Palani Chilappan / Kerala Laughingthrush, Montecincla fairbanki
  • Ashambu Chilappan / Travancore Laughingthrush, Montecincla meridionalis

Genus Laniellus[]

(2 species)

Genus Heterophasia[]

(7 species)

Genus Leiothrix[]

(2 species)

Genus Minla[]

(2 species)

Genus Liocichla[]

(5 species)

Genus Actinodura[]

(9 species)

File:A03 2880 640x427.jpg

White-crested Laughingthrush
Garrulax leucolophus

File:New Friend.jpg

Chinese Hwamei
Garrulax canorus/Leucodioptron canorum

File:Streaked Laughingthrush I IMG 3892.jpg

Streaked Laughingthrush
Garrulax lineatus/Strophocincla lineata

File:Garrulax formosus - front-6.jpg

Red-winged Laughingthrush
Garrulax formosus/Trochalopteron formosum


  1. ^ Cibois (2003)
  2. ^ Cibois (2003), Pasquet et al. (2006)
  3. ^ Rasmussen & Anderton (2005)
  4. ^ Collar & Robson (2007)
  • Cibois, Alice (2003a): Mitochondrial DNA Phylogeny of Babblers (Timaliidae). Auk 120(1): 1-20. DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2003)120[0035:MDPOBT]2.0.CO;2 HTML fulltext without images
  • Collar, N.J. & Robson, Craig (2007): Family Timaliidae (Babblers). In: del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew & Christie, D.A. (eds.): Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 12 (Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees): 70-291. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  • Pasquet, Eric; Bourdon, Estelle; Kalyakin, Mikhail V. & Cibois, Alice (2006). The fulvettas (Alcippe), Timaliidae, Aves): a polyphyletic group. Zoologica Scripta 35, 559–566. doi:10.1111/j.1463-6409.2006.00253.x (HTML abstract)
  • Rasmussen, Pamela C. & Anderton, J.C. (2005): Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions, Washington DC and Barcelona.

External links[]

Sterna diversity This article is part of Project Bird Families, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each bird family, including made-up families.
Hemipus picatus This article is part of Project Bird Taxonomy, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on every order, family and other taxonomic rank related to birds.
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