You know you are in northern India when you hear a fast, liquid, tinkling, chittering trill, immediately followed by a clear, thin, elastic whistle “chittititititchééter-whééeze!”. That is the song of the Streaked Laughingthrush (Trochalopteron lineatum).
This member of the Leiothrichidae family of Old World laughingthrushes is common in the northern regions of the Indian subcontinent, where it prefers bushes and scrubby vegetation on slopes close to rivers and forest edges, at 1,400 to 3,900 metres above sea level. It also ventures close to cultivated areas and towns and villages.
The Streaked Laughingthrush is, like most of its family, a striking bird. It is a smallish laughingthrush, mostly brown and greyish, with fine streaking all over, and with a rufous tail and a bright rufous ear patch. Five subspecies are recognised, based on geographical differences. The scientific name “lineatus” (Latin) means “of a line”, indicating the linear streaking patterns on the bird.
It feeds on insects, including moths and caterpillars, ants and spiders, but also berries, fruit and seeds. It keeps mostly to the ground and forages with others of its kin in groups of up to 6 individuals. In some western Himalayan towns it is considered a “garden bird”!
The Streaked Laughingthrush breeds from March to October, laying 2 to 4 eggs in a loose and untidy cup-type nest in thick bushes. Incubation is done by both sexes, and they have to keep a lookout, as the nests are parasitized by several local cuckoo species.
Although it is a common bird in its region, it doesn’t deter from the fact that it is still special! Streaked Laughingthrushes are generally not shy and will approach humans, allowing a fascinating insight into their behaviour and making the taking of nice photographs a breeze.