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It is found in temperate forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests and is found in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam. They make altitudinal movements in the Himalayas, descending in winter.
This whistling thrush is dark violet blue with shiny spangling on the tips of the body feathers other than on the lores, abdomen and under the tail. The wing coverts are a slightly different shade of blue and the median coverts have white spots at their tips. The bill is yellow and stands in contrast. The inner webs of the flight and tail feathers is black. The sexes are similar in plumage. It measures 31–35 cm (12–14 in) in length. Weight across the subspecies can range from 136 to 231 g (4.8 to 8.1 oz). For comparison, the blue whistling thrush commonly weighs twice as much as an American robin. Among standard measurements, the wing chord can measure 15.5–20 cm (6.1–7.9 in) long, the tarsus is 4.5–5.5 cm (1.8–2.2 in) and the bill is 2.9–4.6 cm (1.1–1.8 in). Size varies across the range with larger thrushes found to the north of the species range and slightly smaller ones to the south, corresponding with Bergmann's rule. In northern China, males and females average 188 g (6.6 oz) and 171 g (6.0 oz), whereas in India they average 167.5 g (5.91 oz) and 158.5 g (5.59 oz).