My thanks to all who responded to my inquiry as to what species it is that
is referred to as burung tité. (My apologies if I've missed anyone in
thanking you directly.)
On May 3, I wrote:
>"The Australian Magazine" ("Weekend Australian", May 1-2, 1999) on page 25
>carries a note about burung tités: "tiny grey doves" prized, bred and
>traded for their songs in Thailand.
>"The bird with the most enchanting song may be worth 2 million Thai baht
>($85,000)," says author Paul Jarry. And the eggs of a female with a
>particularly fine voice "can fetch more than $2600 each".
Advice from Peter S Lansley of Melbourne indicates that the burung tité is
the Zebra Dove Geopelia striata which is closely similar to our Peaceful
Dove Geopelia placida. (In fact the RAOU list shows our Peaceful Dove as
"HANZAB lumped them, together with the Timor Dove or Barred Dove G.
maugeus, but then even HANZAB is known to get it wrong... obviously
Christidis & Boles didn't look into this species complex too closely in
terms of different vocalizations, soft part colours and extent of barring
on underparts, but that's another story...and before my time at HANZAB."
Peter confirms that Spotted Turtle-doves (genus Streptopelia) are also kept
as cage birds for their songs, but it is the Geopelia doves that are the
really expensive ones. (Philip Veerman observed that he found the
Streptopelia calls quite irritating after a time.)
Peter also pointed out that 'burung' is Indonesian and Malay for 'bird' and
he adds that "... people in the 4 southernmost provinces of (Peninsular)
Thailand also speak a semi intelligible dialect of Bahasa Melayu - so that
may explain 'burung tité. In Indo., these doves are normally called
perkutut (Geopelia) or terkukur (Streptopelia) - onomatapoeic obviously."
Thanks Peter. Fascinating!
Confirmation was provided by Smathi Kuoh K who explains that he is a Malaysian
student studying (medicine)in Melbourne who has relatives in South
Thailand. I quote his advice:
"Peter Lansley was absolutely right.
"Another name for the species Geopelia striata is Merbuk in Malaysia. In
the south of Thailand it is called burung tite (with the e pronounced).
I'm not sure whether they are the same species as the Peaceful Doves you
find in Australia but in South East Asia we tend to use Peaceful Dove and
Zebra Dove interchangably. I suppose much depends on whether you're a
lumper or splitter. The calls of the Peaceful Doves here are quite
different from those in South East Asia though.
"The Streptopelia chinensis Spotted dove (Spotted T-Dove) never fetches a
fraction as much in price although they also are kept in cages in much of
South East Asia for their voices.
"There are farms in the district of Chana in South Thailand where these
birds are bred. The breeders are millionaires, as you might expect from
such highly prized birds. They are probably one of the most expensive
common birds in the world. In Chana town there is a huge replica of a bird
in its distinctive dome like cage in the middle of the main roundabout.
Something like the great Koala or Big Merino that you find in Australia!
"Competitions are held on weekends where birds are hoisted up on tall
poles in individual cages and judges walk around judging their voices
based on number of coos per call, quality of calls, resonance, etc. I
personally can't tell the difference."
Again, my thanks to Smathi and all others who responded.
Syd Curtis at Hawthorne in Queensland.
H Syd Curtis
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