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Species Guide
A photo of a Nilgiri Laughingthrush (Montecincla cachinnans)
Nilgiri Laughingthrush

Nilgiri Laughingthrush

Montecincla cachinnans

The Nilgiri laughingthrush, a bird of vibrant contrasts and melodious disposition, graces the high elevation areas of the Nilgiris and adjoining hill ranges in Peninsular India. With a length of about 24 cm, it boasts a rufous underside and a dark olive grey upper body. The crown is a slaty brown, and a striking white supercilium, jagged and broad, is margined with black, creating a distinctive facial pattern. The throat, lores, and a streak behind the eye are a deep black, while the tail maintains an olive brown hue. The reddish-brown iris, along with black legs and bill, complete the bird's unmistakable appearance.

Identification Tips

Upon encountering this bird, one is struck by its unique plumage. The rufous underside contrasts sharply with the olive brown upperparts, and the white eyebrow stands out against the black throat. While it may briefly be mistaken for an Indian scimitar babbler, the Nilgiri laughingthrush's distinct coloration and vocalizations quickly dispel any confusion.


The Nilgiri laughingthrush prefers the dense forest patches of the Nilgiri and Wayanad ranges, thriving above the elevation of 1,200 meters. These birds are often found foraging along the forest edge, in the undergrowth, or sometimes on the ground.


This species is endemic to a relatively small area, with its range restricted to the high elevation areas of the Nilgiris and adjoining hill ranges in Peninsular India.


Active during the early morning and late afternoon, the Nilgiri laughingthrush is a sociable creature, often seen in small groups. Its loud, nasal calls resonate through the forest, while its feeding habits include crushing insects and tearing apart large fruits with dexterity.

Song & Calls

The vocal repertoire of the Nilgiri laughingthrush includes a series of loud ascending and descending nasal notes, complemented by sharp "kek" notes from its companions in the nearby foliage.


Breeding season for the Nilgiri laughingthrush spans from February to early June. The nest, a cup of mosses and fine materials, is placed low in dense undergrowth near water sources. Both parents partake in nest building and incubation, which lasts until the chicks hatch around the 16th or 17th day. The young are fed a diet of insects initially, followed by berries as they grow.

Diet and Feeding

An omnivorous bird, the Nilgiri laughingthrush enjoys a varied diet of insects, berries, and nectar. It has a particular fondness for the nectar of Lobelia excelsa and Rhododendron during winter, and feeds on the fruits of various plant species.

Conservation status

The Nilgiri laughingthrush is currently classified as Endangered. Its limited distribution and the threat of habitat destruction contribute to its precarious status, necessitating conservation efforts to ensure its survival.

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Nilgiri Laughingthrushes on Birda

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Profile picture for Arjun Cheyyur
Arjun Cheyyur
25 Dec 2022 - 10:21am

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