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. The bird has been called whistling schoolboy for the whistling calls that they make at dawn that have a very human quality.[3] The species is a resident in the Western Ghats and associated hills of peninsular India including central India and parts of the Eastern Ghats.

Taxonomy and systematics[edit]

This is a monotypic taxon previously considered conspecific with Taiwan whistling thrush.[4]

Description and biology[edit]

It is a large thrush measuring about 25-30 cm[4] and weighs about 101-130 g. The male has a blackish upper body with shiny metallic patches of blue on the forehead and shoulders, and glossy royal-blue scaling on back, scapulars and mid-breast to belly. The bill and legs are black. The female is very similar, but with weaker scaling below. Juveniles are black, with glossy blue shoulder patch and wing edgings. The blue becomes visible only in oblique lighting and is due to ultraviolet reflectance, a shared attribute with other whistling thrushes.[4][5][6][7]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Foraging on the ground

Malabar whistling thrushes are usually found in dark undergrowth in dense riverine forest.[5] They typically forage in the margins, beds and adjacent ground of rocky hill streams and rivers in forest, secondary growth and plantations from foothills upto 2200 m above sea level but reaches the plains in the rains.[4] The species is found all along the Western Ghats south of the Surat Dangs. They are also found along the Satpura range to Chhattisgarh[8] and northwestern Orissa (Surguja and Simlipal National Park).[9][10] Also locally in the Eastern Ghats.[11] Populations are not migratory but are known to disperse widely in winter.[12] An individual that was ringed in Mahabaleshwar in the summer of 1972 was recovered in the winter of 1976 in Sampaje, Coorg.[13] Although historically recorded twice from Mount Abu,[14][15] more recent surveys have not recorded the bird or suitable habitat.[16]

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

The species is omnivorous, eating a wide range of insects, crabs,[17] frogs, earthworms and berries. They are usually seen singly or in pairs. Wherever there is suitable habitat, they are 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 high-pitched 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.[3]

Food and feeding[edit]

They feed primarily on insects, snails, worms, crabs and small frogs, as well as drupes, and wind-fallen figs and berries.[6] Occasionally they have been recorded eating small snakes[18] and rare records of eating longer snakes such as the Rat snake have been reported.[19]


At nest

The birds breed from March to December and begins with the Monsoons.[3] Courtship involves chasing flights and calling.[20] They usually nest in a cavity on a stream side but will sometimes make use of nearby buildings.[21] 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.[22] 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;[6] occupying and nesting near their previous season nests.[22] The clutch consists of 2 to 4 eggs.[23][24] The eggs are pale salmon pink with speckling.[25] The eggs are incubated for about 16 or 17 days by both the male and female.[6]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Myophonus horsfieldii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22708324A94156443. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22708324A94156443.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  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 c 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.
  4. ^ a b c d Collar, Nigel; Bonan, Arnau (4 March 2020), Billerman, Shawn M.; Keeney, Brooke K.; Rodewald, Paul G.; Schulenberg, Thomas S. (eds.), "Malabar Whistling-Thrush (Myophonus horsfieldii)", Birds of the World, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, doi:10.2173/bow.mawthr1.01, retrieved 1 February 2022
  5. ^ a b Rasmussen PC & Anderton, JC (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Volume 2. Smithsonian Institution & Lynx Edicions. p. 371.
  6. ^ a b c d Ali, S & Ripley, S D (1998). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. Vol. 9 (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 79–81.
  7. ^ "Bright ultraviolet colouration in the Asian whistling-thrushes ( Myiophonus spp .)". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences. 263 (1372): 843–848. 22 July 1996. doi:10.1098/rspb.1996.0124. ISSN 0962-8452.
  8. ^ Vishwakarma, Anurag, Ravi Naidu2 P. Vijay Sitaram Raju, and Saurabh Singh. "Range extension of Malabar Whistling Thrush (Myophonus horsfieldii) in Chhattisgarh." Newsletter for Birdwatchers 59.6 (2019): 73.
  9. ^ Bharos, A M K (1996). "Range extension of the Malabar Whistling Thrush, Myiophonus horsfieldii (Vigors)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 93 (2): 295.
  10. ^ Panda, B., S. Pati, and B. P. Dash. "Occurrence of Malabar Whistling Thrush: Myophonus horsfieldii,(Vigors, 1831) in Similipal Biosphere Reserve of Odisha. Bird-o-soar# 05." Zoo’s Print 32.11 (2017): 37.
  11. ^ Ananth, G (1982). "Malabar Whistling Thrush near Madanapalle". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 22 (3&4): 10–11.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Delacour, J (1942). "The whistling thrushes (Genus Myiophoneus)" (PDF). Auk. 59 (2): 246–254. doi:10.2307/4079555. JSTOR 4079555.
  15. ^ Butler, EA (1875). "Notes on the avifauna of Mount Aboo and northern Guzerat". Stray Feathers. 3 (3): 437–500.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ kuttettan, munnar; kallettumkara, raphy. "eBird checklist from Pothamedu, Munnar". Retrieved 6 February 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ Sayyed, Amit; Gokulkrishnan, G; Patil, Rajgopal; Mahabal, Anil (2017). "Malabar Whistling Thrush feeding on rat snake" (PDF). Indian Birds. 14: 57–58.
  20. ^ Navarro, SJ (1981). "Observations of pair formation". Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 21 (5): 3–7.
  21. ^ Betham, R M (1903). "Curious site for nesting chosen by the Malabar Whistling-Thrush Myiophoneus horsfieldi". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 14 (4): 815.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Whistler, Hugh (1949). Popular Handbook of Indian Birds. Edition 4. Gurney and Jackson, London. pp. 119–120.
  24. ^ Ali, Salim (1996). The Book of Indian Birds. Edition 12. BNHS & Oxford University Press. pp. 285–286.
  25. ^ 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