Malabar whistling thrush

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Malabar whistling thrush
Malabar Whistling Thrush by Shantanu Kuveskar.jpg
from Mangaon, Raigad, Maharashtra
Partial song
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Muscicapidae
Genus: Myophonus
M. horsfieldii
Binomial name
Myophonus horsfieldii
(Vigors, 1831)
Malabar wthrush map.png

Myiophoneus horsfieldii[2]

The Malabar whistling thrush (Myophonus horsfieldii) is a whistling thrush in the family Muscicapidae. They are also known locally by the name of whistling schoolboy for the whistling calls that they make at dawn that have a very human quality. The species is a resident in the Western Ghats and associated hills of peninsular India including central India and parts of the Eastern Ghats.


This large thrush appears blackish with shiny patches of blue on the forehead and shoulders. The blue becomes visible only in oblique lighting. The bill and legs are black. The sexes are indistinguishable and juveniles are more brownish and lack the blue forehead.[3][4]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Foraging on the ground

The species is found all along the Western Ghats south of the Surat Dangs. They are also found along the Satpura range to northwestern Orissa (Surguja).[5] Also locally in the Eastern Ghats.[6] Populations are not migratory but have been known to disperse widely in winter.[7] An individual that was ringed in Mahabaleshwar in the summer of 1972 was recovered in the winter of 1976 in Sampaje, Coorg.[8] Although historically recorded twice from Mount Abu,[9][10] more recent surveys have not recorded the bird or suitable habitat.[11]

Malabar whistling thrushes are usually found in dark undergrowth and dense riverine forest.[3]

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

The species is omnivorous, eating a wide range of insects, crabs,[12] frogs, earthworms and berries. They are usually seen singly or in pairs.

This is a bold species and is often found close to human habitation. The male sings its varied and melodious whistling song from trees during summer. They may sing for a long time around dawn but at other times of the day they often utter sharp single or two note whistles. They were once popular as cage birds, with the ability to learn entire tunes. They bathe frequently in water usually in the mornings and evenings but at midday during hot weather.[13]


At nest

The birds breed from March to December and begins with the Monsoons.[13] Courtship involves chasing flights and calling.[14] They usually nest in a cavity on a stream side but will sometimes make use of nearby buildings.[15] In a study of nest-site selection in the Silent Valley area, a total of 21 nests were found mostly on rocks along the edge of streams and one each in a tree hole and inside an abandoned building. The nest is a cup made of moss, bamboo roots and grass, with a broad base and tapering towards the top. The base of the nest appeared to be cemented to the rock with mud. Mean nest height was 14.8 cm and depth 7.4 cm. The mean outer width and inner width were 21.5 cm and 13.1 cm respectively. Mean height from the ground was 125.8 cm.[16] Most nest sites were about 6 m from water with 60% rock cover. The nests were mostly fully concealed and nesting success was directly related to it. The birds show high site fidelity;[4] occupying and nesting near their previous season nests.[16] The clutch consists of 2 to 4 eggs.[17][18] The eggs are pale salmon pink with speckling.[19] The eggs are incubated for about 16 or 17 days by both the male and female.[4]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Myophonus horsfieldii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  2. ^ Delacour (1942) writes "the proper spelling is Myiophoneus Temminck and Laugier, 1822 Myophonus T. and L., 1822 is an orthographic error, as well as Myophoneus in their tables, x859, while Myiophonus Agassiz, 1846, is an unnecessary emendation."
  3. ^ a b Rasmussen PC & Anderton, JC (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Volume 2. Smithsonian Institution & Lynx Edicions. p. 371.
  4. ^ a b c Ali, S & Ripley, S D (1998). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. 9 (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 79–81.
  5. ^ Bharos, A M K (1996). "Range extension of the Malabar Whistling Thrush, Myiophonus horsfieldii (Vigors)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 93 (2): 295.
  6. ^ Ananth, G (1982). "Malabar Whistling Thrush near Madanapalle". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 22 (3&4): 10–11.
  7. ^ Praveen, J. (2006). "Post-monsoon dispersal of Malabar Whistling Thrush Myiophonus horsfieldii (Vigors) to Chamundi Hill and Nandi Hills, Karnataka, Southern India" (PDF). Zoos' Print Journal. 21 (9): 2411. doi:10.11609/jott.zpj.1504.2411.
  8. ^ Ambedkar, V C (1991). "Long distance movement of a Malabar Whistling Thrush (Myiophonus horsfieldii) (Vigors) in the Western Ghats". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 88 (1): 113.
  9. ^ Delacour, J (1942). "The whistling thrushes (Genus Myiophoneus)" (PDF). Auk. 59 (2): 246–254. doi:10.2307/4079555.
  10. ^ Butler, EA (1875). "Notes on the avifauna of Mount Aboo and northern Guzerat". Stray Feathers. 3 (3): 437–500.
  11. ^ Sangha, Harkirat Singh; Dhirendra Devarshi (March–April 2006). "Birds of Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan, India" (PDF). Indian Birds. 2 (2): 26–32. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  12. ^ McCann, Charles (1937). "Notes on the common land crab Paratelphusa (Barytelphusa) guerini (M.) of Salsette Island". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 39 (3): 531–542.
  13. ^ a b McCann, C (1931). "Notes on the Whistling School Boy or Malabar Whistling Thrush (Myiophoneus horsfieldi, Vigors)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 35 (1): 202–204.
  14. ^ Navarro, SJ (1981). "Observations of pair formation". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 21 (5): 3–7.
  15. ^ Betham, R M (1903). "Curious site for nesting chosen by the Malabar Whistling-Thrush Myiophoneus horsfieldi". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 14 (4): 815.
  16. ^ a b Anoop Das, K.S.; Vijayan L. (2003). "Nest and nest site selection of Malabar Whistling Thrush in Silent Valley". In R. Annamalai; M,. Narayanan; Juliet Vanitharani (eds.). Proc. of the 28th Conference of the Ethological Soc. of India, Mundanthurai, Tirunelveli. Dept. Zool. Sara Tucker College, Tirunelveli & Tamil Nadu Forest Dept, KMTR, Tirunelveli. pp. 83–86.
  17. ^ Whistler, Hugh (1949). Popular Handbook of Indian Birds. Edition 4. Gurney and Jackson, London. pp. 119–120.
  18. ^ Ali, Salim (1996). The Book of Indian Birds. Edition 12. BNHS & Oxford University Press. pp. 285–286.
  19. ^ Hume, AO (1889). The nests and eggs of Indian birds. Volume 1. R H Porter, London. pp. 124–127.

Other sources[edit]

  • Harish, B T (1977) The Malabar Whistling Thrush. Newsletter for Birdwatchers ., India. 17(11):8.
  • Thakker, P S (1980) Malabar Whistling Thrush and Chestnutheaded Bee-eater. Newsletter for Birdwatchers ., India. 20(11), 3–4.
  • Navarro, A (1976) The Whistling Thrush – the harbinger of the monsoon. Newsletter for Birdwatchers . 16(11):5–7