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White-rumped Shama

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Is the White-rumped Shama right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Shama Thrush

Scientific name: Copsychus malabaricus

The basics:
Many people regard the White-rumped Shama as one of the finest songbirds in existence. However, it won't be the right choice for every situation. As a softbill, it demands a more complex (and more expensive) diet than a low-maintenance songbird like the Canary. That said, they are adaptable. A captive breeding was reported as early as the late 1890s-- long before the era of modern softbill pellets or nutrition studies.

Despite being collected for the Asian bird trade, this widespread species of the forest undergrowth seems to be holding its own. There are multiple subspecies distributed over a large area of the Indian subcontinent, China, and Southeast Asia. They have also been introduced to Hawaii and Taiwan. To preserve the unique forms, avoid interbreeding the subspecies. Some of them, especially some of the island forms, may eventually be accepted as full species in their own right.

Appearance:
The sprightly White-rumped Shama has dark upperparts, a long tail, and (of course) a flashy white rump in addition to reddish-orange underparts. Females are duller.

Average size:
22 centimeters (8.5 inches)

Average weight:
30 grams (1 ounce)

Lifespan:
10 years

Behavior / temperament:
These bold, territorial birds are highly regarded as cage-birds in their native Asia and elsewhere thanks to their outgoing personalities. They sing to claim territory, and they can also flip their tails around in a very expressive manner. They are intelligent and can be taught to fly to the hand to take live food treats from your fingers.

Experienced aviculturists have kept them in well-planted mixed-species aviaries with carefully chosen companions, but a novice shouldn't attempt this without guidance from a more experienced aviculturist. These territorial birds could harm smaller birds-- or even harm themselves by picking fights with bigger birds.

Housing:
Individual singing males can be kept successfully in roomy cages, but you will want to allow plenty of room for them to fly or to flip their tails. The sooner you teach them to fly to your hand for food, the sooner you can give them some freedom around the house. Don't put the cage in a window where they would be trapped in direct sunlight. They are a shade-loving species.

A pair will do better in a large flight or aviary provided with a nest box and plenty of cover.

Shama Thrushes love to bathe and should have access to a shallow bird bath.

Diet:
In addition to softbill crumbles or pellets, White-rumped Shamas appreciate protein sources like live insects, crickets, mealworms, and other grubs. The parents are likely to demand live food to encourage them to nest and feed their young.

Written by Elaine Radford

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