Black-throated (Swinhoe’s) Laughingthrush (Pterorhinus (Garrulax) chinensis monachus): Barry Kent MacKay

Black-throated Laughingthrush (Pterorhinus chinensis monachus)

While I do sell my paintings, that is not my principle motivation for doing art, as I want the freedom to do exotic or little-known species, or other subjects, or experiment with techniques, where selling is unlikely…I don’t want to be motivated by market demand.  This small oil painting is a case in point.  It is not something at all familiar to most people on my list, the majority of whom live in North American or Europe.  It shows a bird species that is widely distributed in the People’s Republic of China, also found in other parts of southeast Asia – Vietnam, Cambodia, Mynamar, Thailand and Laos, and as an introduced species in Hong Kong – but through most of that large range it does not look like the bird in the painting.  In fact, the bird I’ve painted is so distinctive that some ornithologists regard it as a separate species, the Swinhoe’s Laughingthrush , P. monachus.  Swinhoe’s lacks the large, white cheek patch of mainland races, and is browner – altogether a different looking bird.  By whatever name the form, or “taxon”, I’ve painted is found only on Hainan Island, which is a large island, some 32,99 square kilometers (12,700 square miles) in size, found just off the southern coast of China.  And to make matters even more confusing, it, or both it and the mainland form, were once put in the rather large genus, Garrulax, and that name is often seen in print, with some experts preferring to keep the Black-throated Laughingthrush in that genus. 

It gets “worse”.  As a kid I was taught this was one of a very large number of birds put in the family, Timaliidae, which had the common name, Babblers.  It was a fascinating assembly of birds, entirely restricted to the eastern hemisphere, especially Asia, making it all the more exotic to me, although what most interested me was the variety of birds within that family.  As my mentor, Canadian bird artist T.M. Shortt, joked to me, “It’s the where they put all the songbirds that don’t fit anywhere else”.  But he also noted that each species, each genus, was, upon being seen alive in the field, distinctive.  At any rate the laughingthrushes now have their own family, the Leiothrichidae, the laughingthrushes.  They never did “babble”, but I guess the songs of some might sound like laughter, if not like thrushes.  They are rather jay-like in size and in being inquisitive, sociable, intelligent, attractively patterned and active. 

These laughingthrushes eat invertebrates (and, I’d imagine, the odd tiny snake or lizard), and various seeds, berries and perhaps other vegetation.  They have cup shaped-nests made of vegetation, where they lay glossy blue eggs that take about two weeks to hatch.  Babies are fast-growing, eating their weight in food – mostly insects – per day and leaving the nest in approximately two weeks after hatching. 

The painting is 12” by 16” inches, in oils with acrylic underpainting on gesso on a Russian birch panel.

Barry Kent MacKay

Bird Artist, Illustrator

Studio: (905) 472 9731

31 Colonel Butler Drive

Markham, ON L3P 6B6 Canada

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