Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Azure winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyanus)

Field marks:  black head, blue wings, long blue tail, and white underparts (31-35 cm.)
灰喜鹊 – huī xǐ-què – ‘grey magpie’

The Azure-winged Magpie is a close cousin of the “lucky bird” of China, the Black-billed Magpie. It is easy to see the physical similarities between the two species-long slender body, long tail, long bill, but these two species, while sharing a family heritage seem to differ in personality. The Black-billed Magpie is a noisy and aggressive bird that is often seen attacking and harrying other species. The Azure-winged Magpie, on the other hand is a shy bird that it's difficult to approach. In large cities, such as Beijing, these birds have become much tamer due to their exposure to friendly humans in city parks.

Like its more boisterous cousin, the Azure-winged Magpie is an omnivore that exists by eating a wide variety of foods. It will eat insects as well as pine seeds and acorns, the large seeds of the Oak tree. Given its more diffident temperament, the Azure-winged Magpie is less likely to engage in predatory behavior, and as such, it has not earned the negative reputation of its bigger cousin.

This species can readily be found in city parks as these locations offer both the coniferous and deciduous trees that provide it with food and shelter. Outside of the city, the Azure-winged Magpie can be found in coniferous or deciduous forests.

The Azure-winged Magpie is a gregarious bird that likes the company of others of its kind. It is usually found in large loose flocks, especially in fall at the end of the breeding season. Following the completion of breeding and chick-rearing duties, magpies will band together to search for food. Flocks of 50-60 individuals can be seen gleaning the treetops of forests and moving together from tree to tree.

The Azure-winged Magpie will also nest in colonies with each pair of mated magpies having its own tree in which to make a nest. The female magpie usually lays around 6-8 eggs and incubate them for about two weeks before hatching.

Photo by Toshihiro Gamo

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