White-Crested Laughingthrushes and Prey

“The White-crested Laughingthrush (Garrulax leucolophus) is a rather gregarious, sociable species that often forage in groups. It is not a native species in Singapore; but has established itself as a feral species. It can be found from the Southern Ridges in the South to Bukit Batok Nature Park in the west.

“A flock consisting of both adults and juveniles was recently encountered foraging on the ground. The adults and juveniles were similar in appearance but juveniles can be distinguished from adults by the presence of yellowish oral flanges at their gapes.

“One juvenile was observed busily pecking at something before pulling out a prey. At first, the prey was thought to be a large worm. After examining the processed images, a small snake seemed to be a possibility. Wondering now whether this was a worm or a snake. Can anyone kindly ID the prey?

“We have records of how some prey are processed by birds. The usual method is to bash the prey, presumably to kill or immobilise it, before consumption. The method used by this laughingthrush was different. Instead of the usual bashing, it attacked its prey by pecking at it repeatedly (above). This repeated pecking caused the prey’s outer skin covering to be ruptured, causing its internal contents to ooze out. In addition, the bird made use of its claws to grip onto the prey before using its bill to tug and pull at it with force. This particular prey must be tough as the bird was still handling it after close to two minutes. It then decided to fly into the undergrowth with the prey where it probably consumed it. Interestingly for me, this was the first time this species was seen with its claws clenched. It was even ‘tip-toeing’ on one of its claws.

“Another juvenile was seen catching a much smaller prey, which was likely to be an earthworm (above). This prey was relatively easier to handle. Although the prey managed to curl itself around the bird’s bill in a last-ditch effort to save itself, it was futile. The prey was swiftly dislodged from the bill with one quick jerking action. The bird then pierced the prey right in its mid section before swallowing it in a split second.”

Kwong Wai Chong
1st October 2011

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