Saturday, 10 August 2013

Passerines 4: White-Rumped Shama

White Rumped Shama, Bristol Zoo (male)
Moving on from starlings, one of the most musical birds in our collection can be seen in the Forest of Birds, where we have a pair of White-Rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus. These birds have an extensive range through India and south East Asia, and have been divided into numerous subspecies. In addition, they have been introduced to Hawai’i and Taiwan, where they are considered invasive and a possible threat to native species.

Shamas are secretive birds of dense understorey and bamboo, where they feed on various invertebrates and fruit in season. They make their nest in tree hollows, and in captivity will use a half open fronted nest box. The clutch size is usually 4 or 5 eggs. The chicks develop rapidly, and usually fledge at around 14 days old, and can feed independently by around 24 days. They go through a post-juvenile moult from around 60 days, after which they resemble the adults.

White-Rumped Shama (female)
As with many insectivorous passerines, Shamas are highly territorial. A pair can be kept together, but young birds need to removed from an aviary as soon as they are self-supporting, as the adults may wish to nest again and will attack youngsters around the nest site. In the wild of course, they would simply be driven away to find their own territories.

Shamas are long-lived birds, and a life expectancy of over 10 years is not uncommon. In South East Asia, where they are popular cage birds, the general belief is that they do not reach their full potential as songsters until at least 3 or 4 years old. This probably reflects the time it takes for a young bird, especially a male, to find and defend a territory good enough to attract a female and breed successfully.

The popularity of Shamas as cage birds in South East Asia is very high, and local societies stage regular competitions with sometimes over 100 birds entered. Most of these will be wild caught and imported birds, but they are also bred in captivity by hobbysists. In view of their large range, the species is not classed as endangered, but some of the subspecies with a small range, especially the island forms, may be at greater risk.

Seychelles Magpie-Robin
In addition to our species, several other species of Copsychus can be found throughout Asia and Africa. The most famous of these is the Seychelles Magpie-Robin, C.sechellarum, which is one of the rarest birds in the world with a population of under 300. Even this is a great improvement, as in 1970 it was down to 16 individuals, all on a single island, frigate. Intensive support, including supplemental feeding and predator eradication programmes, has resulted in the increase, and new populations have also been translocated to other islands which were part of the former range of the species. As a result, the Seychelles Magpie-Robin has been downlisted from Critically Endangered to just Endangered by the IUCN.

(images taken by me, also from wikipedia)

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