Shama Thrush

An excellent talker, the WATTLED MYNA (lower left) can learn to enunciate as clearly as the best of the parrots. One of these birds on exhibit at a meeting in Washington. D. C., astonished a former director of the Budget Bureau by greeting him with the words: “How about the appropriation?” The lively, engaging RED-CRESTED CARDINAL (top bird) comes from southern South America. A splendid singer, the sprightly SHAMA THRUSH (white-edged tail) is also something of a mimic. The lowest perched bird is the active. noisy WHITE-EARED BULBUL. “Japanese robin” is one of several misnomers for the warbling RED-BILLED HILL TIT (on ground), a native of China.

By Alexander Wetmore
Originally appeared in the December 1938 issue of the National Geographic Magazine

This Web version COPYRIGHT 2004

The sweet-voiced shama (Kittacincla malabarica), of handsome plumage, a member of the family of thrushes, is found from India and Ceylon to Yunnan, Borneo, and Java. The long tail varies considerably in length and often becomes frayed and worn unless the birds are kept in large enclosures (Color Plate VIII). The female is gray instead of black.

In captivity the shama is primarily an aviary bird, as it is of nervous temperament, but it can be handled in cages with a little attention and often becomes very tame. Ordinarily it is kept only by bird fanciers, as it requires soft food, meal worms, and other similar diet.

In its native home the shama lives in thickets and jungles. This accounts for its shyness when caged, as it is accustomed to cover and is ill at ease in the open when alarmed. Its beautiful song of rich notes is highly varied, and it is said to mimic the calls of other birds to some extent.

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