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White-crested laughingthrush (Garrulax leucolophus)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Superfamily: Sylvioidea
Family: Leiothrichidae
Swainson, 1832

16; see article text

The laughingthrushes are a family, Leiothrichidae, of Old World passerine birds. They are diverse in size and coloration. These are birds of tropical areas, with the greatest variety in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The entire family used to be included in the Old World babbler family Timaliidae.


They are small to medium-sized birds. They have strong legs, and many are quite terrestrial. They typically have generalised bills, similar to those of a thrush. Most have predominantly brown plumage, with minimal difference between the sexes, but many more brightly coloured species also exist.[1]

This group is not strongly migratory, and most species have short rounded wings, and a weak flight. They live in lightly wooded or scrubland environments, ranging from swamp to near-desert. They are primarily insectivorous, although many will also take berries, and the larger species will even eat small lizards and other vertebrates.[1]


The family Leiothrichidae was introduced (as a subfamily Leiotrichanae) by the English naturalist William Swainson in 1832.[2] A comprehensive molecular phylogenetic study of the family published in 2018 led to substantial revision of the taxonomic classification.[3] The laughingthrushes in the genus Garrulax were found to belong to three separate clades that had diverged in the Miocene 7-9 million year ago. The genus was therefore split with Garrulax restricted to one clade and the genera Pterorhinus and Ianthocincla resurrected for the other two clades. The genus Turdoides was also split and species moved into the resurrected genus Argya.[3][4]

In a separate change, the crocias were moved to the genus Laniellus Swainson, 1832 which has priority over Crocias Temminck, 1836.[4][5][6]

The cladogram below is based on a study of the babblers by Tianlong Cai and collaborators published in 2019.[7][4]

Pycnonotidae – bulbuls (160 species)

Sylviidae – sylviid babblers (34 species)

Paradoxornithidae – parrotbills and myzornis (37 species)

Zosteropidae – white-eyes (146 species)

Timaliidae – tree babblers (57 species)

Pellorneidae – ground babblers (65 species)

Alcippeidae – Alcippe fulvettas (10 species)

Leiothrichidae – laughingthrushes and allies (133 species)

The cladogram below shows the phylogenetic relationships between the genera in the family Leiothrichidae based on a study by Alice Cibois and collaborators published in 2018.[3]


Grammatoptila – striated laughingthrush

Cutia – cutia (2 species)

Laniellus – crocias (2 species)

Trochalopteron – laughingthrushes (19 species)

Montecincla – laughingthrushes (4 species)

Actinodura – barwings (9 species)

Minla – red-tailed minla

Leioptila – rufous-backed sibia

Leiothrix – Leiothrix and mesia (2 species)

Liocichla – liocichlas (5 species)

Heterophasia – sibias (7 species)

Argya – babblers (16 species)

Turdoides – babblers (19 species)

Garrulax – laughingthrushes and the hwamei (14 species)

Ianthocincla – laughingthrushes (8 species)

Pterorhinus – laughingthrushes and babaxes (23 species)

List of genera[edit]

The family contains 133 species in 16 genera:[4]


  1. ^ a b Perrins, C. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph (ed.). Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. pp. 188–190. ISBN 1-85391-186-0.
  2. ^ Swainson, William John; Richardson, J. (1831). Fauna boreali-americana, or, The zoology of the northern parts of British America. Vol. Part 2. The Birds. London: J. Murray. p. 490. The title page bears the year 1831 but the volume did not appear until 1832.
  3. ^ a b c Cibois, A.; Gelang, M.; Alström, P.; Pasquet, E.; Fjeldså, J.; Ericson, P.G.P.; Olsson, U. (2018). "Comprehensive phylogeny of the laughingthrushes and allies (Aves, Leiothrichidae) and a proposal for a revised taxonomy". Zoologica Scripta. 47 (4): 428–440. doi:10.1111/zsc.12296.
  4. ^ a b c d Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (January 2021). "Laughingthrushes and allies". IOC World Bird List Version 11.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  5. ^ Gregory, S.M.S.; Dickinson, E. (2012). "An assessment of three little‐noticed papers on avian nomenclature by G.N. Kashin during 1978‐1982". Zootaxa. 3340: 44-58 [51].
  6. ^ Dickinson, E.C.; Christidis, L., eds. (2014). The Howard & Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. Vol. 2: Passerines (4th ed.). Eastbourne, UK: Aves Press. p. 548. ISBN 978-0-9568611-2-2.
  7. ^ Cai, T.; Cibois, A.; Alström, P.; Moyle, R.G.; Kennedy, J.D.; Shao, S.; Zhang, R.; Irestedt, M.; Ericson, P.G.P.; Gelang, M.; Qu, Y.; Lei, F.; Fjeldså, J. (2019). "Near-complete phylogeny and taxonomic revision of the world's babblers (Aves: Passeriformes)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 130: 346–356. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2018.10.010.