Laughing thrushes

Formosan hoamiThese interesting softbills, so-called because of the sound of their calls, originate from Asia, and form part of the large and diverse babbler grouping. While not being especially colourful, with shades of brown, white and black often predominating in their plumage,  they are lively by nature, and  hardy once acclimatised. Cock birds can also prove to be quite attractive songsters, especially in the case of the hoami or Chinese nightingale (Garrulax canorus), but they are also quite noisy.

A standard planted aviary will suit these softbills well. It needs to be designed to offer seclusion, as well as incorporating more open areas. Laughing thrushes are relatively bold by nature, but still prefer some seclusion, especially for nesting purposes. Dense cover also proves areas where hens can retreat if they are being harassed by their mates at nesting time. 

Feeding preferences

Omnivorous, eating fruit, berries and livefoods, as well as softbill pellets or softbill food. Pairs become more insectivorous during the breeding season, but at this stage, it is a good idea to put the livefood in various localities around the aviary, so the birds have to hunt for it, just as they would in the wild. This appears to decrease the risk of the adult birds cannibalising their chicks soon after hatching, which can also be a problem with corvids.


Pairs are likely to become increasingly aggressive as the time for nesting approaches. They need to be kept on their own at this stage, and must not be disturbed more than necessary, especially if they have not bred in your collection before.  It will also be safer to separate the young birds once they are feeding independently, as the adults may choose to nest again at this stage.


Established groups of laughing thrushes may agree well outside the breeding period, but there is a risk of bullying. It is potentially very dangerous to introduce a single individual to an established group, because the other birds are likely to turn on the newcomer. The safest way of carrying out introductions is to place the birds together for some time on neutral territory before moving them to their permanent accommodation. {break}

Health watch

Bullying can rapidly trigger a decline in an individual’s health, as the result of the weaker bird  being chased away from the food pot, so that it cannot feed. Remove the affected bird from the aviary,  and keep it warm, to aid its recovery. Aggressive behaviour of this type is most likely in the spring, before nesting actually starts. Offering additional feeding sites around the aviary at this stage can help to prevent this problem arising.

  • Good to start with: White-crested jay thrush (Garrulax leucolophus).
  • Clutch size: 3-4 eggs.
  • Incubation and fledging periods: 14 days.

Enthusiast's guide

Refer to regional field guides covering the area where a particular species originates, although there is also a very valuable specialist reference concentrating on these birds in aviculture, privately-published by Dave Coles.