t was formerly classified as a member of the thrush family, Turdidae, causing it to be commonly known as the white-rumped shama thrush or simply shama thrush.
The nominate race is found in the Western Ghats and parts of southern India while leggei is found in Sri Lanka. Race indicus is found in the northern parts of India. Race albiventris is found in the Andaman Islands and now usually considered a distinct species, the Andaman shama. Race interpositus from southwester Asia-China to Myanmar, Thailand and the Mergui Archipelago. Southern China has race minor while mallopercnus is found in the Malay peninsula. Race tricolor is found in the Sumatra, Java, Banka, Belitung and Karimata islands. Race mirabilis from the Sunda Strait, melanurus from northwestern Sumatra, opisthopelus, javanus, omissus, ochroptilus, abbotti, eumesus, suavis (Borneo), nigricauda, stricklandii and barbouri are the other island forms. The last two are sometimes regarded as a separate species, the white-crowned shama (C. stricklandii).
They typically weigh between 28 and 34 g (1.0 and 1.2 oz) and are around 23–28 cm (9–11 in) in length. Males are glossy black with a chestnut belly and white feathers on the rump and outer tail. Females are more greyish-brown, and are typically shorter than males. Both sexes have a black bill and pink feet. Juveniles have a greyish-brown colouration, similar to that of the females, with a blotchy or spotted chest.