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Streaked Laughing Thrush


Knowing birds in the close vicinity:

By Rajashekhar Pant

Continual rains and sleet, along with the chill directly proportionate to it, have been keeping us confined to the indoors. The ridge of the mountain at the back of our house has also been covered with a thin sheet of white after so many decades. Sitting close to the fireplace I have, since the morning, been turning the pages of a fat volume. The surroundings are absolutely lulled, save the monotonous pitter-patter of the intermittent showers on the tin roof. Even birds resting in their hideouts haven’t visited the feeder today. Suddenly, outside, in the lawn, my attention is caught by a rustle and the subdued call of a bird. Coming out in the open I discover that it is a hungry Streaked Laughing Thrush (Trochalopteron lineatum) foraging close to the bed of broccolis.

Seen commonly close to houses, or at the edge of the forest, often foraging for flies and insects amidst the thickets of lantana bush, we, as children, used to call this bird ‘mushiya -chidiya’ i.e. a rat like bird. Its orangey brown colour with quite conspicuous white streaks all over, combining with its habit to remain grounded and glide swiftly through the bushes of nettle grass and lantana, foraging for insects and flies, must have earned for her the referred vernacular sobriquet that reminds us of restless hungry mice.

In the Central Himalayan Hills, one may sight it quite easily close to the human settlements up to an altitude of 9,000 ft. Besides flies, etc., I have seen her feeding on fruits and seeds dropped from trees by other birds. It does not least mind visiting invariably the bird feeder to share the feed with sparrows and other friendly birds. It has varied calls which are often quite subdued and complex. Unlike other birds roosting on trees and vantage points, it prefers to stick to the ground, in pairs or small flocks.

Its preference to remain close to the human settlements undoubtedly has increased its dependence on us humans. Compared to other birds, it is less suspicious of the presence of humans and prefers to ignore them. These days it is quite busy feeding on the pods of green peas in our kitchen garden and basking in the sun with her tummy full of soft and sweet peas.