White-whiskered Laughingthrush – song and calls

on 24th September 2021

White-whiskered Laughingthrush calling.

The White-whiskered Laughingthrush (Garrulax morrisonianus) used to be a popular caged bird in Taiwan as they were considered to have “beautiful singing” (Avifauna of Taiwan, 2nd edition). As the birds were friendly, I heard and recorded two types of vocalisation.

White-whiskered Laughingthrush’s posture and wing flutter.

The first is a song, that Hsiao (2017) says is given by the male; sexes are phenotypically similar, so I presume Hsiao recognises this from breeding activity (there is a Taiwan reference on this but I am not able to locate it and possibly not read it: You Shuzheng, Yuan Xiaowei. 2000. Ecological study on the reproduction of the golden-winged white-browed eye in the Tataga area of Taiwan. China Forestry Monthly (33): 157-168). The song is a loud melodic whistle, described by Hsiao (2017) as “wo-piiyiuyiu” and by Brazil (2009) as “tsip pee pe wee”. It’s amazing how two completely different rendering of the same song can both sound appropriate. The song is repeated every 3 to 3.5 seconds and last ~ 1 second. It comprises 3 notes; the first given discretely while the next two are in rapid succession and merged. I understand this song as more of a loud contact call between the birds while foraging in a pair or group. A short edited song can be found here: and the fascinating sonogram is shown below. I am still poor at reading sonograms, but there is a lot more going on in the song than we can hear.

Sonogram of first song.

The second vocalisation I heard and recorded was much longer and harder to understand. They were fast, continual calls, with both birds in the pair participating, and lasting for long periods. Often in spurts of 7-8 seconds with very short breaks of 0.5-1 second in between. They sounded like anxious calls to me and the birds were continually looking around and would intimately make a rapid wing movement (flutter the wings). Both the waveform and sonogram (below) show the chaotic nature of these calls. A short edited call can be found here: Brazil (2009) aptly describes it as a “staccato” and suggest it occurs when the birds are alarmed. I was very near the birds when recording these types of calls (we had stopped for a British cuppa) and I could see them clearly – I could not see any danger and they had been very comfortable with us. Handbook of the Birds of the Worls (2019) has a description of one call as a “giddy laughter” but I am not sure they were these type calls.

Sonogram of second song


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

17th January 2019


Location: Daxueshan National Forest Recreation Area, Taichung City County, Taiwan

Habitat: 2,000-2,500 meter ASL, forested region

Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone


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.

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