After stumbling across a circle of white-rumped shama enthusiasts while writing an earlier piece, one of my favorite reads from their ranks is Alan Pang’s post explaining why he lost interest in traditional shama competitions. The standard Singaporean competition, he writes, last as much as two hours:

Personally, i only enjoy active, swift n nice display and long melodies song type of shama. I prefer them to go around the cage flicking and flashing their tails plus some wings display at the same time. Not the stand singing type. What i meant by stand singer is flick tail once or twice sing two three notes and stay in one position all the time. This is no fun to watch for many of us but don’t forget this are the the birds that is able to last for hours! Haha…! So for those birds that showed us wonderful display, swift cage play, stretching all muscle to give us the best posture and bursting at the top of their voice with beautiful songs would be drain out by then. Then how? How about the next one hour? Frankly, i do not think Shama is by nature create to show that kind of aggression in the wild for such prolonged hours. Did we extend the competition time for human satisfaction? Haha…

Sing it, brother.

And in the video above, you can see one of Mr Pang’s shamas “singing like crazy till sorethroat,” which has accumulated a whopping 276,133 views on YouTube.

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Pursuit of the White-Rumped Shama

Here’s a little recording I made in Kauai in April 2012:

I later learned it was a white-rumped shama. The shama is popular for its song—we heard this bird well before we saw it—and inspires a quite devoted following in some quarters.

Copsychus malabaricus is a type of thrush native to south and southeast Asia. It was first introduced to Kauai by Alexander Isenberg in 1931 (presumably this is the son of beloved sugar baron Paul Isenberg). The particular subspecies on the islands is C.m. indicus, found from east India and Nepal to northwest Burma.

In Asia, there are whole groups devoted to the bird. Singapore, especially, has an active set of shama enthusiasts raising them, sometimes catching them in the wild, and entering birdsong competitions with them.

To see what a shama looks like, the photo below (posted on Flickr by Chris Thomas), gives a better view of one of these birds than the less-than-stellar iPhone snap I filed with that audio clip.

bird on the trail

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