Sunday, August 10, 2014

Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis)

(20 cm.) Male: Black head, throat and breast; white underparts; black and white wings and tail. Female: Like male except for grey head and breast.

The Oriental Magpie Robin, which is a common sight in South China parks, is an unmistakable bird which looks like a much smaller version of the Black-billed Magpie. Once placed in the family of thrushes, “Turdidae,” it is now slotted in the family, “Muscicapidae,” the family of flycatchers.

This species is a non-migratory bird of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia, including China, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. In China, it is found in the southern half of the country including the central portion of the country, as well as Tibet.

The male of the species is a beautifully-patterned black and white bird, while the female is a greyer version of the male.

The Oriental Magpie Robin favors open wooded areas and cultivated areas such as gardens and parks. This preference of habitat makes it an ideal city-dweller.

During the breeding season, the male of the species becomes extremely animated and can be seen singing loudly from a perch high in a tree while puffing his feathers and fanning his tail in his attempts to attract a mate.

After mating, the female will lay 4-5 eggs in a nest she constructed in a cavity of a tree or wall. The female takes most of the responsibility for the raising of chicks while the male will aggressively defend their nesting territory.

This species is primarily an insectivore with its diet consisting mainly of insects and other invertebrates. On occasion, they will consume small lizards and even fish.

The Oriental Magpie Robin is still a fairly common bird within its Chinese range, but its population has declined, especially around Hong Kong, due to its frequent capture for the caged bird trade and the introduction of invasive species such as the Common Mynah.

As a bird of such striking beauty, this species is well-loved throughout its Asian range. It is highly admired by cage bird collectors for its beautiful singing, and it is the national bird of Bangladesh.

Oriental Magpie Robin in moult (Photo by Brian Westland)

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