Urocissa erythroryncha (Boddaert, 1783) sec. Corvids of the World

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Urocissa erythroryncha (Boddaert, 1783) sec. Corvids of the World


Editorial Status

Ongoing collection of data, unrevised text, last update: 2017-01-02.

Common Name

English: Blue MagpieA, Chinese Blue MagpieB, Occipital Blue PieC, Red-Billed Blue MagpieD,E, Red-Billed MagpieE; German: FasanenelsterF


Asia-Temperate China (China North-Central nativeG,H, China South-Central nativeF,G,H,1, China Southeast nativeG,H,I,2, Hainan (Hainan nativeG), Inner Mongolia nativeG, Manchuria (Liaoning nativeG,3)), Asia-Tropical Indian Subcontinent (Assam (Assam nativeJ,K,4, Mizoram nativeG, Tripura nativeG,H,5), Bangladesh (Bangladesh native: presence questionableK,6), East Himalaya native: doubtfully nativeK,L,7, India (Bihar nativeH, Jharkhand nativeH, West Bengal nativeH), Nepal (Nepal nativeG,K,L,8), West Himalaya nativeG,H,K,L); Indo-China nativeG,H,M (Myanmar (Myanmar nativeL))
1. common in Hsifan mountains (western Sichuan) and the Sichuan Basin (see Schäfer 1938), 2. Common all over Fujian [Fohkien] (La Touche, 1900), 3. S Liaoning, 4. disjunctly in S Assam hills, at least Nagaland and Manipur; no specimens traced Cachar, confirmation needed (Rasmussen), 5. south of the Brahmaputra, 6. sight records in NE and SE Bangladesh, no specimens available, confirmation needed (Rasmussen), 7. absence from E Himalayas, old 'Sikkim' specimen(s) of uncertain provenance (Rasmussen); present in E Himalaya (Ali), 8. E Nepal (Rasmussen)


, 53-64cm, male: 145-192g, female: 106-155gN,O About size of Magpie or Pigeon, length 65-68cmA,P , with a much longer and less rigid tail.


In wooded country, open forest, gardens and cultivated country with cover, in the plains of in hilly or mountainous country.H Hongkong: Where the amount of woodland is far in excess of anything to be found on the adjacent mainland, and where also there is practically no molestation.B 350-2200m. Locally common in tropical and subtropical broadleaved evergreen forest (sometimes lower edges of temperate forest in summer, overlapping with U.flavirostris), including remnants, scrub, cultivation and large gardens (SE, E Asia).K


Omnivorous; small reptiles and mammals, insects, caterpillars, various fruits and berries, and even rubbish from human habitations, form its very mixed dietary.
Robbing the nests of smaller birds of eggs and young on every possible occasion, and even attacking those of such large birds as its relative, the Common Magpie, which it was several times observed to do with success.
The Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis) will dash at the Blue Magpie even when at a distance of fifty yards from its nest, invariably driving it away. At times, all the three species of Hongkong Bulbuls combine and mob the would-be robber, and even the Chinese Dove (Turtur chinensis) attacks this bird, dealing very severe blows with its powerful wings in mid-air.
A treepie was seen to chase and catch a young Tailor-Bird (Sutoria) which was well able to fly.L,Q
I have seen them hopping about near bungalows, picking up kitchen scraps. They seldom miss a chance of joining the mescellaneous mob of birds in the slaughter of winged ants emerging from the ground.L

Biology And Ecology

Breeds in the plains.R Breeds commonly at Hongkong, though from the extent of the woods and the flimsy nature of its construction, the nest is very hard to find.
From the habit of going about in small parties it is difficult to say when pairing takes place, but the earliest nests are built at the end of March or the beginning of April, and breeding goes on through May, June, July, and August. It is undoubtedly double-brooded in most cases.
The earliest date at which eggs were found was April 10th; in this case the eggs were well incubated.S
It is a common bird at all the West Himalayan hill-stations. Pairs, or familiy parties of 5 to 7 - sometimes two or more such parties banded together - are usually seen flying from tree to tree in follow-my-leader fashion, hunting among the branches of hill oaks, rhododendrons and pines for food. They are mainly arboreal, but frequently descend to the ground, where they hop among the fallen leaves with the tail partly cocked and held well off the floor.
The flight, rather noisy, is slow and undulating - a few wing beats followed by a glide. The long tail is spread, and a party on the wing makes a charming spectacle.
The breeding season generally is from April to June, but the principal month for eggs seems to be May.L
Breeding season April to June in HimalayasK


Composed of twigs and tough tendrils, lined with roots and dead leaves or a little dry grass.R Slight structure, composed of thin twigs and tendrils.T The nest is a slight affair, made of thin twigs and lined with the aerial rootlets of the Fals Banyan tree adn with finer twigs. Almost always it is possible to see through the nest in every direction. IN construction it is very flat and the central hollow containing the eggs is very shallow. A favourite nesting-site is the topmost twig of a thin sapling, but not infrequently the extremity of a horizontal bough is selected, and only once was the nest found in a strong fork near the main trunk. Firs are, perhaps, the favourites with this species, but a variety of deciduous trees has also been noted as used.
Both birds assist in building the nest, which is usually about twenty feet from the ground, and the young of a previous brood have been observed sitting round a nest in process of construction.U
The nest is a smallish, flimsy, shallow, rough cup of twigs, leaves and coarse roots. it is usually place 10 to 20 feet up - sometimes higher - in trees either on forested slopes or in opener country near hill cultivation.D Building small or large cup fairly low in dense-leafed tree, commonly an oak.K


A clutch of five eggs taken on the 25th April 1898 from a nest placed on a tree in the valley below Kuatun (China). These were much incubated. The colour is a pale yellowish or greenish clay, with spots and longitudunal splashes of somewhat pale and dull reddish brown and reddish grey (underlying). The markings on four eggs are concentratetd on the larfe end, where they form a well-marked crown or cap, and where the underlying splashes are confluent, the rest of the egg being but sparsely marked. In the fifth egg there is a broad ring round the small end, the rest of the egg, as in the others, being but lightly marked. IN shape these eggs are ovate, inclining to oval, one being almost oval. They measure 1,27x0,93, 1,26x0,92, 1,26x0,91, 1,25x0,91 and 1,23x0,92 inch.
On the 28th April following another clutch of five eggs was taken from a nest placed on a bamboo at a height of about 20 feet from the ground. These eggs, which were very slightly incubated, have a lighter ground-colour than the aboie, one egg markedly so. The spots are much more numerous and much smaller. Three of them have a rough ring of reddish-grey underlying blotches under the reddish-brown spots, which are larger there than on the rest of the egg. In the fifth and light-coloured egg this ring is very slight, and the surface and underlying markings are small, there being only three or four underlying blotches. They are all broader eggs, with a tendency to being oval, except one, which is a broad ovate. They measure 1,22x0,95, 1,21x0,93, 1,20x0,96, and 1,18x0,93 (two eggs) inch. T
Usually five in number, two varieties require to be menitoned: one of these has the usual greenish-yellow ground thickly speckled all over with closely-set dark green spots of small sire; the other has the specks distributed in the same fashion, but they are of a rusty-red colour, so that the general appearance of the specimen is rather like that of certain eggs of Merula merula.
Eggs vary in length from 1,22 to 1,04 inch. and in breadth from 0,87 to 0,81; they average 1,16x0,83. See Plate V, Figure 17.V
The normal clutch consists of five to six eggs. They are clay- or stone-coloured, boldly marked with blotches of dark brown or reddish-brown, often dense and forming a ring round the broad end.L

Brood parasite


A bird "shewing off" to its mate watched by Rickett, as they sat in a tall tree. It puffed out the feathers of the head and neck, raised its tail which was spread like a fan, and turned its body slowly from side to side.R On the island of Hongkong this species is not only abundant, but exceedingly tame and easy of observation. On the adjacent mainland, although it is present in the better wooded parts, it is never plentiful and very shy and wary.
This species is one which almost invariably goes about in small parties of four or more, and even in the breeding-season this arrangement holds good to some extent.B
The flight is very graceful, especially when descending, the long tail streaming out behind seems to accentuate the gentle curves, which are its peculiar characteristic. When hopping about the branches of a tree the Blue Magpie looks rather clumsy, as if much incommoded by the inordinate length of its tail. On the ground this bird invariably advances by a series of clumsy hops, apparently it never walks, like the Common Magpie. When at rest in a tree or on the ground the tail is well folded, but on the wing the outer and shorter rectrices are invariably spread out, much to its advantage.U Unless the eggs are very hard-set, the bird usually slips from the nest without any demonstration, and then sometimes chatters from a distance or flies overhead scolding. When young are present, on the contrary, it may be very bold, swearing and scolding and coming so close that it could easily be struck with the hand.S


Philopterus urocissae R.D. Price & Hellenthal, 1998X


Of all Hongkong birds the Blue Magpie possesses the greatest variety of notes; these range from a flute-like whistle to harsh guttural clickings, and at times almost amount to a song, being continued with various modulations for as much as five or ten minutes.
The birds is very noisy all through the year, though perhaps a little less so in May and June, whe the breeding-season is at its greatest period of activity.V
They are noisy birds and have a variety of loud, harsh, creaking and chattering calls. Some of these are strongly reminiscent of the "scolding" of the large jungle squirrel (Ratufa); others are almost identical with thoseof the Black-throated Jay which often inhabits the same localities. They are good mimics: I have heard them imitating to perfection the call of the Pied Crested Cuckoo - piu .. piu ... piu-piu-piu and so on - the Drongo-like challenging cries of the Shikra hawk, and the high-ptched screaming whistle - kek-kek-kek-keee - uttered by the Crested Serpent Eagle as it circles above the forest.L Calls include a piercing quiv-pig-pig; loud pink, pink, pink, currah; sharp chwenk-chwenk; soft repeated beeee_trik; chak; several liquid whistles followed by a short grating rattle and, in fight, an explosive, rapidly repeated, metallic penk, sometimes as a ringing chatter. Recorded calls include a series of rapid, gravelly, vehement, syncopated, rattling, descending strophes, KERRAK\RAK\ker-RAK (pitch 4-2 kHz, rate 5 elements/s, strophe d c. 1s, strophes delivered without or with short pauses; Nepal - BTA); may also give stray notes of same quality as above.K


A. Madge, S. & Burn, H. 1999: Crows and jays: a guide to the crows, jays and magpies of the world.: 105 [3798]
B. Vaughan, R.E. & Jones, K.H. 1913: The birds of Hong Kong, Macao, and the West River or Si Kiang in South-East China, with special reference to their nidification and seasonal movements. – The Ibis 10 (1): 17-76: 27 [2950]
C. Goodwin, D. 1976: Crows of the world: 195 [3]
D. Ali, S. 1949: Indian Hill Birds.: 3 [2945]
E. Rasmussen, P.C. & Anderton, J.C. 2012: Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide., 2nd edition, 1 and 2: 594 [8772]
F. E. Schäfer 1938: Ornithologische Ergebnisse zweier Forschungsreisen nach Tibet. – Journal für Ornithologie 86, Sonderheft: 1-349: 265 [45]
G. 2003: The Howard and Moore complete checklist of the birds of the world. 3rd Edition: 504-515
H. The birds of the Palearctic Fauna: Passeriformes.: 153 [2882]
I. La Touche, J.D.D. 1900: Notes on the birds of North-west Fokhien. – The Ibis 7 (6): 34-51: 40 [8771]
J. Ali, S. 1949: Indian Hill Birds.
K. Rasmussen, P.C. & Anderton, J.C. 2012: Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide., 2nd edition, 1 and 2: 595 [8772]
L. Ali, S. 1949: Indian Hill Birds.: 4 [2945]
M. The birds of the Palearctic Fauna: Passeriformes.: 153
N. Sharpe 1877: Catalogue of the Passeriformes or perching birds in the collection of the British Museum. vol. 3: 71 [6293]
O. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J. & Christie, D.A. 2009: Handbook of the birds of the world. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes To Old World Sparrows: 494-640: 595 [2]
P. Robson, C. 2008: A field guide to the birds of South-East Asia., 2nd edition: 415 [8728]
Q. Vaughan, R.E. & Jones, K.H. 1913: The birds of Hong Kong, Macao, and the West River or Si Kiang in South-East China, with special reference to their nidification and seasonal movements. – The Ibis 10 (1): 17-76: 27-28 [2950]
R. La Touche, J.D.D. & Rickett, C.B. 1905: Further notes on the nesting of birds in the province of Fohkien, S.E. China. – The Ibis 8 (5): 25-67: 26 [2948]
S. Vaughan, R.E. & Jones, K.H. 1913: The birds of Hong Kong, Macao, and the West River or Si Kiang in South-East China, with special reference to their nidification and seasonal movements. – The Ibis 10 (1): 17-76: 28-29 [2950]
T. La Touche, J.D.D. 1900: Notes on the birds of North-west Fokhien. – The Ibis 7 (6): 34-51: 41 [8771]
U. Vaughan, R.E. & Jones, K.H. 1913: The birds of Hong Kong, Macao, and the West River or Si Kiang in South-East China, with special reference to their nidification and seasonal movements. – The Ibis 10 (1): 17-76: 28 [2950]
V. Vaughan, R.E. & Jones, K.H. 1913: The birds of Hong Kong, Macao, and the West River or Si Kiang in South-East China, with special reference to their nidification and seasonal movements. – The Ibis 10 (1): 17-76: 29 [2950]
W. Makatsch, W. 1955: Brood parasitism in birds. [Der Brutparasitismus in der Vogelwelt.]: 192 [8672]
X. Price & Hellenthal: Taxonomy of Philopterus (Phthiraptera: Philopteridae) from the Corvidae (Passeriformes), with descriptions of nine new species. – Annals of the Entomological Society of America 91 (6): 782-799: 786, 791 [78]