A Message from the Vet - November 2009

I was out for a walk a few days ago near the base of the Koolaus in Kaneohe, when I heard a familiar bird in the trees. The song belonged to a Shama Thrush. During many farm calls earlier in my career, the Shama Thrush was a memorable onlooker on my rounds in Waialua, Waimanalo, and Kaneohe. Standing in a quiet area and preparing to examine a patient, I would often hear the recognizable tune being sung from the nearby woods.

The Shama Thrush is a shy songbird identifiable by its distinct melodic warble and coloring. A friend of mine who often walks in Maunawili can whistle the Shama Thrush's call, and claims the bird will follow him along his path, tree to tree, returning his call. It is easy to hear the bird, but you need to be quiet on your walks. Like a lot of birds, they shun commotion.

We have had two of these birds presented to our clinic last month. The first was mauled by a predator and brought in by the pet's owner. These birds nest close to the ground, making easy prey for a cat; it suffered no life-threatening injury and was stabilized and handed over to a rehabilitator. The second, found and brought in by our tech Mary Jane, had a head-on encounter with something; it also recovered from its concussion to fly and sing another day.

We veterinarians at Kailua Animal Clinic consider it a privilege and our obligation to attend to the health, injuries, and suffering of wildlife. It is particularly gratifying to release a healed and recovered animal back to its natural habitat.

The Shama Thrush is one of the many species of animals that were introduced to Hawaii and escaped captivity. These birds are not considered endangered. They are not migratory, so there is no specific protection for them. Native to Malaysia, they were released on Oahu in 1940. They are territorial; the bird may follow you along a trail, keeping tabs on you. They live on insects and nest in low trees. The feeding habits of the birds and the wet/dry seasonality of Oahu bring them down from the wooded hills at times. If you are lucky, you will hear them even in Kailua during their brief visits.

Next time you are in the country, take a quiet moment to listen and look around for a Shama Thrush: spot a black bird with a chestnut-colored underside and a long tail streaked in white, and you have found it!

Click here to listen to the song of the male Shama Thrush.

John Haddock, DVM

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