on 23rd November 2014

“On the 22nd September 2014, I was observing a small group of White-crested Laughingthrushes (Garrulax leucolophus) foraging at a local park when a particular individual caught my eye. It had just found a feisty moth caterpillar which was covered in irritant hairs and stinging spines. My curiosity was aroused and I wondered how this bird would surmount the walls of self defense put up by the wriggly and spiky caterpillar.

“Firstly, the laughingthrush used the tip of its beak like a pair of forceps and gripped the caterpillar at a safe distance (above). It then smeared the caterpillar vigorously against exposed earth. When it felt that there was insufficient exposed soil, it moved aside fallen leaves to expose dirt space for additional rubbing.

“Satisfied that most of the hairs and spines of the caterpillar had been removed, it then brought the ‘undressed’ caterpillar to an exposed root. The laughingthrush then began to swing and bash the caterpillar against the dense root repeatedly (above).

“So after stripping and swinging the spiky caterpillar, this tasty snack was finally certified as being safe to swallow (above).

“Upon ingesting the limp and lifeless larva, the laughingthrush certainly had the last laugh in this battle between predator and prey, so its white crest was erected in triumph (above).

“A summary video of the laughinghthrush systematically tackling this tricky treat may be previewed here:”

Dr. Leong Tzi Ming
13th November 2014

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

2 Responses

  1. Thank you for your observations. I observed a Grey Shrike-thrush doing the same thing, yesterday in the Blue Mountains Australia and wondered if it was removing the hairs from the caterpillar before eating it. I will publish your observations along with mine in Blue Mountains Conservation Society newsletter, April 2016.

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