Dayal or Oriental Magpie Robin

Copsychus saularis

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The Dayal, or more correctly, it would seem, DHYAL (corrupted into Dial-bird), is the Hindustani name commonly adopted by Anglo-Indians for one of the loudest-voiced of their songsters, the Grecula saularis of Linnaeus,  whose plumage, black and white in the male, made Edwards call it the "Little Indian Pye".  Now commonly known as the Oriental Magpie Robin, with a modern 21st Century classification of Copsychus saularis, records exist of this bird being kept in Nepal at least as late at the 19th century to exhibit its pugnacity, and it is said that a bird that would fight well was highly prized.

Its other habits were recognized by the best ornithologists of the 19th Century as pointing to an alliance with the Saxicoline group of Turdidae (THRUSH) or Sylviidae (WARBLER).  Later 19th Century naturalists (Cat. B. Br. Mus. vii. p. 60) plunged the genus Copsychus into the large group of birds known as Timeliidae (now more often written Timaliidae), with the true members of which it has little in common.  In current times, at the year 2006 the Copychus genus is now recognised as being part of the  Muscicapidae family of Old World Flycatchers.

There are 7 or 8 species within the Copychus genus, with the Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis) being just one of those species.  One species, the Black Shama, is peculiar to the Philippine Islands, and its scientific name Copsychus Cebuensis, is named after the island of Cebu.  Simlarly the Seychelles Magpie Robin is known as  Copsychus sechellarum, while two species are found in Madagascar.  The White-Vented Shama (Copsychus niger) has obtained its name from the fact that it was known throughout India, simply by its Hindostani name of Shama.  It deserves for being a favourite song-bird.

The phonetic spelling of Dayal from DHYAL has naturally given rise to a series of confusions in the past. First used by Albin in 1737 (Suppl. N. H. Birds, i. p. 17, pls. xvii. xviii.), it was supposed by Levaillant (Ois. d'Afr. iii. p. 50) to refer to the ordinary instrument for ascertaining the time of day, and by him was accordingly rendered Cadran. Subsequently Jerdon asserted (B. India, ii. p.1l6), that Linnaeus, thinking it had some connection with a sun-dial, called it "solaris, by lapsus pennae, saularis." Herein, Jerdon was misled, for the epithet applied by Linnaeus is but the Latinized form of "Saulary", the name under which a cock and hen were sent from Madras by E. Buckley to Petiver, who first described the species (Ray, Synops. Meth. Avium, p.197).


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