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A photo of a Red-billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa erythroryncha)
Red-billed Blue Magpie

Red-billed Blue Magpie

Urocissa erythroryncha

The Red-billed Blue Magpie, a member of the crow family Corvidae, is a striking bird comparable in size to the Eurasian magpie. However, it boasts one of the longest tails among corvids, measuring 65–68 cm (25.5–27 in) in length and weighing between 196–232 g (6.9–8.2 oz). Its plumage is a visual delight, with a black head, neck, and breast, subtly accented with bluish spots on the crown. The shoulders and rump display a more subdued violet-blue, while the underparts are a soft greyish cream. The vibrant violet-blue tail and wing primaries contrast beautifully with a broad, white tip. The bird's bill, legs, and feet are a vivid orange-red, matched by a ring around each eye, though this red may vary to almost yellow in some individuals.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Red-billed Blue Magpie, look for the long, bright violet-blue tail with a white tip and the distinctive orange-red bill. The bluish spotting on the crown and the greyish cream underparts are also key features to note.

Habitat

This magpie favors evergreen forests and scrublands, typically found in hilly or mountainous regions. It has shown remarkable adaptability, even thriving in urban environments such as Beijing and Hong Kong.

Distribution

The bird's range extends from the western Himalayas through Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, reaching central and eastern China and southwest Manchuria.

Behaviour

The Red-billed Blue Magpie is known for its varied diet, foraging in trees and on the ground for invertebrates, small animals, fruit, and some seeds. It is also known to raid nests for eggs and chicks. The species exhibits vocal mimicry, with a repertoire that includes a grating rattle and a high-pitched, flute-like whistle.

Song & Calls

Its calls are diverse, but the most common are a harsh rattle and a melodious high-pitched whistle, reminiscent of a flute.

Breeding

These magpies nest in trees and large shrubs, constructing relatively shallow nests. Clutch size typically ranges from three to five eggs.

Similar Species

While similar in size to the Eurasian magpie, the Red-billed Blue Magpie can be distinguished by its longer tail, brighter coloration, and the distinctive red bill.

Diet and Feeding

The Red-billed Blue Magpie has a broad diet that includes invertebrates, small animals, fruits, and some seeds. It is also known to engage in nest robbing, taking eggs and chicks.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies the Red-billed Blue Magpie as Least Concern, indicating that it currently faces no significant threats to its survival.

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