Ashy-headed Laughingthrush Garrulax cinereifrons


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Vulnerable, as it has a small population and range, which are severely fragmented and undergoing continuing declines as a result of clearance and degradation of humid forest habitats.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals, based on a detailed analysis in BirdLife International (2001), who concluded that its total population numbers no more than a few thousand individuals. This estimate equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
A moderate and on-going population decline is suspected, owing to habitat degradation across the species's range.

Distribution and population

Garrulax cinereifrons is endemic to Sri Lanka, where it is confined to the lowlands and adjacent hills of the wet zone in the south-west of the island. Little is known of its population, but it appears never to have been abundant and now has a declining, increasingly fragmented population of probably no more than a few thousand individuals.


The species occurs in both edge and interior of primary and logged humid forests, up to 1,520 m. It is a 'gap-edge' specialist, being almost invariably associated with canopy gaps, even in deep areas away from forest boundaries (Siriwardhane 2007). In its apparent stronghold, the Sinharaja Forest, the species occurs in higher densities in the 20 year old selectively logged forest than in the unlogged forest (Siriwardhane 2007). It forages among litter and in understorey vegetation, usually in monospecific or mixed-species flocks, often with Orange-billed Babbler Turdoides rufescens. Its diet consists of small vertebrates (e.g. frogs), small invertebrates in leaf-litter and seeds. It also plucks ripe fruit from understorey trees and herbs and possibly picks fallen ripe fruits as well. Breeding season is probably extended since nests have been found even in December (Siriwardhane 2007), but mainly April to September.


The main threat is the extensive clearance of forests, particularly in the wet zone, through logging, fuelwood-collection, conversion to agriculture and tree plantations, gem mining, settlement and fire. It could benefit from low levels of selective logging, as this may increase the number of small light gaps that provide suitable habitat for this species. However, wholesale clearance and fragmentation is likely to be highly detrimental, as it is probably unable to move between isolated patches. Much fragmentation is driven by clearance (of forest and home gardens) for small-scale tea cultivation, and although illegal, encroachment into government-owned forests is on-going, as they lack proper conservation status and are often considered proposed forest reserves (C. Kaluthota in litt. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is legally protected in Sri Lanka. A moratorium was passed in 1990 to protect wet zone forests from logging. A survey of the biodiversity of 200 forest sites was carried out in 1991-1996, and research has been carried out on the micro-habitat requirements of this species.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct a comprehensive survey in order to clarify its distribution and status and to produce management recommendations for this species in conservation forests and other protected areas. Research its life history and ecology, particularly the effects of forest fragmentation on its population and distribution. Encourage protection of remaining important areas of forest holding this and other threatened species, including proposals to designate conservation forests, and ensure their effective management. Maintain the current ban on the logging of wet zone forests. Promote programmes to create awareness of the value of biological resources amongst local communities. Implement strict law enforcement to prevent encroachment into existing protected areas (C. Kaluthota in litt. 2012).


23 cm. Rather plain laughingthrush. Greyish head, rufous-brown upperparts and tail, tawny underparts with paler throat and dark bill and legs. Juvenile has brighter rufous underparts. Voice Harsh chattering amongst a group of birds usually ending in a hurried scream.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Gilroy, J., Taylor, J.

Kaluthota, C.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Garrulax cinereifrons. Downloaded from on 23/09/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/09/2019.