White-rumped Shama



The white-rumped shama (Copsychus malabaricus)1 is a slender, predominantly black bird that has become one of the most popular caged birds in Singapore because of its beautiful song.2 It is featured on the S$50 Bird Series currency notes released by the Monetary Authority of Singapore between 1976 and 1984, and on the Cashcards launched by the Singapore Mint in 2001 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the actual notes.3 It has been depicted twice on the 50-cent postage stamps of Singapore in 1962 and 1978.4

Description
The white-rumped shama was previously classified as part of the Thrush family (Turdidae),5 but DNA studies have since classified it under the Flycatcher family (Muscicapidae).6 It is recognisable by its glossy black head, back, wings and long tail with white outer feathers, its chestnut belly and white patch on its lower back.7 Adults of both sexes are similarly coloured, but in females the black parts are replaced by dark grey. Juveniles are mostly brown on their upperparts with buff spots.8 Males average approximately 27 cm in length with a tail about 19 cm long, while females average 22 cm in length with a tail approximately 14.5 cm long.9

Despite its distinctive and attractive appearance, the call of the white-rumped shama is its most valuable asset, as it is not only loud and melodious but also rich in notes and tonal quality.10 This has led to the species being heavily exploited in the caged bird trade. It is also known to imitate the songs of other birds.11 The males are more consistent singers, with females singing only during the breeding season.12 The gait of this bird is a mixture of hops and dashes, with an occasional pause and tilting of its head to one side.13

The white-rumped shama is one of the four most popular songbird species in the caged bird trade in Singapore, the others being the oriental white-eye, China thrush and red-whiskered bulbul. The value of the bird is based on two attributes: its physical appearance and its song. Longer-tailed birds fetch higher prices, and song quality is judged on a range of songs.14 Several ornithologists have named the white-rumped shama as the best songbird in the Malay Peninsula, above its more well-known relative, the magpie robin (Copsychus saularis).15     

Reproduction
The white-rumped shama breeds from March to June.16 Its nest is usually built in a hole in a low tree or in the undergrowth.17 Males are territorial and will sing to warn other males in the vicinity.18 Two to three eggs are usually laid and are pale green with light brown and dark lilac spots.19

Diet
It feeds on insects such as ants, grasshoppers, centipedes, black ants, worms, spiders, caterpillars and other small creatures, which it picks up from the ground or among bushes.20

Distribution and habitat
The range of the white-rumped shama extends from the Indian subcontinent, South China and Southeast Asia to the Greater Sunda Islands.21 In the early 1930s, it was also introduced to the Hawaiian islands, where it is now resident and breeding. Several subspecies also exist there.22


The white-rumped shama is found in forested areas, secondary jungle or where there is thick cover. It seldom ventures into the open and is more often heard than seen.23 In Singapore, it has been recorded at Pulau Ubin, Sime Road and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.24 However it is not certain if those spotted in the field are wild birds, released specimens or escaped caged birds.25 Its status as a resident species in Singapore is listed as “rare” as it is encountered with less than 10 percent probability in its preferred habitats. The white-rumped shama was formerly not uncommon but the local population has been heavily poached. Today, it is considered a nationally threatened species in Singapore.26

Variant names27
English: Common Shama.

Malay: Murai HutanMurai Batu.



Author

Eunice Low



References
1. Salim Ali. (1968). The book of Indian birds. Bombay: Bombay Natural History Society, p. 59. (Call no.: R 598.2954 ALI); Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Smythies, B. E. (1999). The birds of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; Kuala Lumpur: Sabah Society; Malayan Nature Society, p. 479. (Call no.: RSEA 598.095983 SMY); Hails, C. J. (1987). Birds of Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 129. (Call no.: RSING 598.295957 HAI)
2. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Hails, C. J. (1987). Birds of Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 129. (Call no.: RSING 598.295957 HAI)
3. Monetary Authority of Singapore. (2017). 2nd series – The bird series currency notes (1976–1984). Currency. Retrieved 2017, March 8 from Monetary Authority of Singapore website: http://www.mas.gov.sg/currency/circulation-currency/notes.aspx#pagecontent_0_currency_repeater_carousel_3_0_2_details_repeater_2_dialog_5; Bird-series Cashcards, new coin set launched. (2001, July 20). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. New set of stamps to go on sale. (1978, May 29). The Straits Times, p. 12; Birds and orchids on new Singapore stamps. (1963, February 1). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Wee, Y. C., Tan, W. K., & Wang, L. K. (2011). One for the birds: Singapore stamps & money. Singapore: Tan Wee Kiat, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 769.5695957 WEE)
5. Glenister, A. G. (1971). The birds of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore and Penang. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 211. (Call no.: RSING 598.29595 GLE-[RFL]); Madoc, G. C. (1947). An introduction to Malayan birds. Kuala Lumpur: Malayan Nature, p. 171. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 MAD-[GBH])
6. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Chesser, R., et al. (2011). Fifty-second supplement to the American Ornithologists’ Union check-list of North American birds. The Auk, 128(3), 600–613, pp. 600–611. Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
7. Salim Ali. (1968). The book of Indian birds. Bombay: Bombay Natural History Society, p. 59. (Call no.: R 598.2954 ALI); Glenister, A. G. (1971). The birds of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore and Penang. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 213. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 GLE-[GLE]); Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON)
8. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON)
9. Glenister, A. G. (1971). The birds of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore and Penang. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 213. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 GLE-[GLE]); Salim Ali. (1968). The book of Indian birds. Bombay: Bombay Natural History Society. (Call no.: R 598.2954 ALI); Tweedie, M. W. F. (1970). Common birds of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Longman Malaysia, p. 47. (Call no.: RSEA 598.29595 TWE)
10. Hails, C. J. (1987). Birds of Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 129. (Call no.: RSING 598.295957 HAI)
11. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Hails, C. J. (1987). Birds of Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 129. (Call no.: RSING 598.295957 HAI); Smythies, B. E. (1999). The birds of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; Kuala Lumpur: Sabah Society; Malayan Nature Society, p. 479. (Call no.: RSEA 598.095983 SMY)
12. Aguon, C. F., & Conant, S. (1994, June). Breeding biology of the White-rumped Shama on Oahu, Hawaii. The Wilson bulletin, 106(2), 311–328, p. 315. Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
13. Smythies, B. E. (1999). The birds of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; Kuala Lumpur: Sabah Society; Malayan Nature Society, p. 479. (Call no.: RSEA 598.095983 SMY)
14. Lin, H. D. (1983). Shama as a competition song bird in Singapore. Singapore aviculture: An official publication of the Singapore Avicultural Society3(2), 3–4. (Call no.: RSING 636.6860625957 SA); Look for thin feathers and a big head. (1997, February 21). The Straits Times, p. 3; Who the kings are. (1997, February 21). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Tweedie, M. W. F. (1970). Common birds of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Longman Malaysia, p. 47. (Call no.: RSEA 598.29595 TWE); Salim Ali. (1968). The book of Indian birds. Bombay: Bombay Natural History Society, p. 280. (Call no.: R 598.2954 ALI)
16. Lim, K. S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society (Singapore) & Bird Group Records Committee, p. 324. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 LIM)
17. Smythies, B. E. (1981). The birds of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; Kuala Lumpur: Sabah Society; Malayan Nature Society, p. 302. (Call no.: RSEA 598.295983 SMY); Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Robinson, H. C., et al. (1976). The birds of the Malay Peninsula: A general account of the birds inhabiting the region from the Isthmus of Kra to Singapore with the adjacent islands. London: H. F. & G. Witherby, p. 318. (Call no.: RSING 598.29595 ROB); Salim Ali. (1968). The book of Indian birds. Bombay: Bombay Natural History Society, p. 280. (Call no.: R 598.2954 ALI)
18. Aguon, C. F., & Conant, S. (1994, June). Breeding biology of the White-rumped Shama on Oahu, Hawaii. The Wilson bulletin, 106(2), 311–328, p. 315. Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
19. Smythies, B. E. (1981). The birds of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; Kuala Lumpur: Sabah Society; Malayan Nature Society, p. 302. (Call no.: RSEA 598.295983 SMY)
20. Smythies, B. E. (1981). The birds of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; Kuala Lumpur: Sabah Society; Malayan Nature Society, pp. 302, 479–480. (Call no.: RSEA 598.295983 SMY); Salim Ali. (1968). The book of Indian birds. Bombay: Bombay Natural History Society, p. 280. (Call no.: R 598.2954 ALI)
21. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Smythies, B. E. (1999). The birds of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; Kuala Lumpur: Sabah Society; Malayan Nature Society, p. 479. (Call no.: RSEA 598.095983 SMY)
22. Lim, K. S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society (Singapore) & Bird Group Records Committee, p. 324. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 LIM)
23. Hails, C. J. (1987). Birds of Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 129. (Call no.: RSING 598.295957 HAI); Tweedie, M. W. F. (1970). Common birds of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Longman Malaysia, p. 47. (Call no.: RSEA 598.29595 TWE)
24. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Briffett, C. (1993). The birds of Singapore. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, p. 60. (Call no.: RSING 598.295757 BRI); Lim, K. S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society (Singapore) & Bird Group Records Committee, p. 324. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 LIM)
25. Hails, C. J. (1987). Birds of Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 129. (Call no.: RSING 598.295957 HAI)
26. Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Lim, K. S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society (Singapore) & Bird Group Records Committee, p. 325. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 LIM)
27. Glenister, A. G. (1971). The birds of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore and Penang. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 213. (Call no.: RCLOS 598.29595 GLE-[GLE]); Yong, D. L., & Lim, K. C. (2016). A naturalist’s guide to the birds of Singapore. England: John Beaufoy Publishing, p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 598.095957 YON); Tweedie, M. W. F. (1970). Common birds of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Longman Malaysia, p. 47. (Call no.: RSEA 598.29595 TWE)



The information in this article is valid as at 2006 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


 

Subject
Birds on postage stamps
Science and technology>>Zoology>>Birds
White-rumped shama--Singapore
Birds in numismatics
Nature>>Animals
Wildlife