Sri Lanka whistling thrush (Myophonus blighi)
|Also known as:||Ceylon whistling thrush|
|Size||Size: 19 – 21.5 cm (2)|
Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
The male of this small, dark thrush native to Sri Lanka is a beautiful, velvety black spangled with a lustrous blue sheen, particularly on the inner wing-coverts (shoulders), forehead and above the eyes (2) (3). By contrast, the female is dull brown above with a mute purplish-blue shoulder-patch, and reddish-brown underparts, rump and undertail-coverts (2). Juveniles are similar to adult females but have more rusty-brown underparts and narrow buff streaking on the head, neck and breast (2) (3).
Confined to the central mountains of Sri Lanka (3).
This secretive, ground-dwelling bird is restricted to dense, relatively undisturbed evergreen mountain forests above around 900 metres, although it is now found mainly between 1,200 and 2,100 metres (2) (3) (4). The bird is usually found close to rapid-flowing water and streams, particularly in ravines and gorges (3) (4).
Pairs maintain territories throughout the year, although males have been observed roosting communally where territories adjoin (2). The breeding season is reportedly from January to May, and possibly again in September. Positioned on a rock ledge or tree fork next to waterfalls or rapids, the large, compact nests are constructed out of green moss and fern roots, lined with grass and rootlets (2) (3). Clutches seem to contain one to two eggs (2).
This extremely shy, elusive species forages on the ground, commonly at the margins of water, where it feeds mainly on insects, but also on snails, small reptiles (geckos and lizards) and amphibians (frogs) (2) (4).
The main threat to the Sri Lanka whistling thrush is the clearance of its upland forest habitat, which has left this rare species with a very small, severely fragmented population and range that are undergoing continuing declines. Montane forests have been extensively cleared for conversion to timber plantations and agriculture, firewood collection, particularly around Nuwara Eliya, Maskeliya and Bogowantaalaw, and gem mining. Even some ‘protected forests’ are unable to escape these threats, and continue to be degraded and fragmented. In particular, the replacement of natural, mixed forests containing fruiting trees with single-species plantations has badly affected this bird by reducing its available food supply. In addition, streams within this species’ range are becoming polluted with run-off chemicals such as insecticides and pesticides from nearby vegetable farms, almost certainly harming stream-dependent birds such as the Sri Lanka Whistling-thrush. It has also been speculated that mountain forest die-back may be the result of acid clouds, rain and mist, caused by air-pollution (3) (4).
The Sri Lanka whistling thrush is legally protected in Sri Lanka and occurs in several national parks and forest reserves, most notably Peak Wilderness Sanctuary and Hakgala Strict Nature Reserve (3) (4). A moratorium was also passed in 1990 to protect wet zone forests from logging (3).
For more information on the Sri Lanka whistling thrush see:
- BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
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- Coverts: small feathers concealing the bases of larger primary feathers, usually on the wings or tail
- Territories: areas occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
IUCN Red List (November, 2011)