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White-rumped Shama
Copsychus malabaricus
– Family
Authors: Roberts, Guinnevere E., Timothy D. Male, and Sheila Conant

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White-rumped Shama adult male; Kapaa, Kauai Is., Hawaii; October.
Figure 1. Distribution of the White-rumped Shama in the Hawaiian Islands.

Native to southeast Asia, India, and some Indonesian islands, the White- rumped Shama was deliberately introduced to the Hawaiian Archipelago in 1931 as part of an early effort to supplement the native fauna. Shamas were released on Kaua‘i and O‘ahu islands and are now common on both islands. The species is found in a wide range of habitats, including native and introduced forests, agricultural land, and suburban yards. Because it prefers areas with dense undergrowth, it is more often heard than seen. The White-rumped Shama has striking plumage and a clear, melodious song that can be heard from several hundred meters away, although aural identification is complicated by the shama’s tendency to mimic other species.

Although introduced bird species may have contributed to the decline of native Hawaiian bird species through competition for food resources or nesting sites, there is no evidence to confirm that the White-rumped Shama has had any negative impacts on native species through direct competition. However, shama populations may act as reservoirs for introduced diseases, such as avian malaria, to which native Hawaiian birds have little resistance.

Very little information is available on the demography or behavior of the White-rumped Shama in the Hawaiian Islands. Although this species is both common and easily observed on O‘ahu and Kaua‘i Is., only one study has focused specifically on any aspect of White-rumped Shama biology in the Hawaiian Islands (Aguon 1988), and even this is limited in scope. All other data have been collected incidentally to other projects or as part of general forest bird surveys. Much work remains to be done on this species and its role in Hawaiian ecosystems.

Since Hawaiian populations may have diverged behaviorally or morphologically from populations of the same subspecies in southeast Asia, all information presented in this account is based on studies of White-rumped Shama populations in the Hawaiian Islands, unless otherwise noted.