Oriental Magpie

Little Owl mobbed by Oriental Magpie
Oriental Magpie Pica serica serica harassing Little Owl Athene noctua, near Tumuji, Inner Mongolia. (Craig Brelsford)

The Eurasian Magpie complex comprises distinctive, well-known, mainly black and white corvids, celebrated for their adaptability and intelligence. The various taxa range across Eurasia, including most of China, with Oriental Magpie Pica serica serica in eastern and southern China and Taiwan and P. serica anderssoni around Changbai Mountains in northeast China; Eurasian Magpie P. pica leucoptera around Hulun Lake in Inner Mongolia and northwest Heilongjiang and P. p. bactriana northern and western Xinjiang and northwest Tibet; and Black-rumped Magpie P. bottanensis Qinghai south through western Sichuan to southern and eastern Tibet. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Broad variety of habitats, basic requirement being presence of some trees (but is absent from thick forests). Common, at times abundant, around farmland, in towns, and even in biggest cities; present, but not abundant, in urban Shanghai. Makes messy stick nest in tree crown, atop utility poles, and in transmission towers. Often on ground, walking confidently with tail upraised. ID & COMPARISON All taxa have head, neck, and breast glossy black with light blue and purple sheen. Scapulars white; wings black, glossed blue or purple. Inner webs of primaries white (hidden when wing closed, conspicuous when open). There is a narrow greyish band on rump. Tail long (half the length of body in adult), black, glossed green and purple. Flanks and upper belly white; lower belly and undertail coverts black. Juveniles duller, with no sheen on black parts and buffish-white where adult is purer white. P. bottanensis has a black rump and is less glossy, P. pica leucoptera has yellow sheen on tail, P. pica bactriana has white rump, P. serica serica is relatively small, and P. serica anderssoni resembles P. serica serica but is larger. BARE PARTS Bill pointed, black; feet black. VOICE Call a well-known, clattering chak-chak-chak. — Craig Brelsford

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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