The Red-billed Blue Magpie. How’s that for a bird name?
On every Rockjumper trip, the subject of bird names arises at some point. Often we joke about how poorly-named some birds are. In certain cases, it seems almost as though ornithologists purposely celebrate a bird’s least visible or useful feature within the bird’s name. You may spend hours, or even weeks or years without success, trying to see the ring around the neck of a Ring-necked Duck. The Rough-legged Tyrannulet seldom seems to offer up its legs for inspection. And then, of course, there is the Olive Warbler, which is neither olive nor a warbler. With only a little more thought, these birds might have sported snazzier names. Imagine instead that they were the Ring-billed Pochard, the Burmeister’s Phyllomyias and, simply, the Peucedramus. Now we are cooking!
But every now and then they get it right. Golden Pipit. Sandy Gallito. Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. Now those are some well-named birds! And every spring in North America, as the photoperiod lengthens and wetland birdlife comes alive, non-birders ask their birding friends: “Hey, what’s that black bird with the red wings?” And when we reply with: “That is a Red-winged Blackbird”, they think we are getting smart with them. But in fact, it’s just a good name. And so it is too with the Red-billed Blue Magpie. It is perfectly, as its name implies, a magpie that is blue with a bright coral bill. Gold star.
And if you are lucky enough to visit China, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam or Northern India, then you may see this striking, noisy, and social species. Conspicuous in patches of evergreens in foothill forest throughout much of Asia, these birds romp about in family groups of six or a dozen, searching for large invertebrates or small vertebrates, but also taking fruit and scavenging carrion. They can even be found hitching a ride the backs of livestock or wild animals! Like so many corvids, they have utilitarian bills, which allow them to take a good variety of food.
Perhaps the longest-tailed member of the family Corvidae, (which includes crows, ravens, jays, magpies, and others), these magpies make an impressive array of sounds, and this species is known also as a mimic. They imitate a variety of raptor sounds, and even capably conjure impressions of giant squirrels (Ratufa). Corvids are among the most intelligent animals on the planet (on par with some apes), and the strong social network exhibited by the Red-billed Blue Magpie, along with its adaptable feeding habits and their array of sounds, dictate that this too is a smart bird, and not only by its appearance.
Join us on one of these Asian adventures today! Blue Magpies, Green Magpies, Treepies, and other great Asian corvids await!
THAILAND – NORTHERN & CENTRAL II 2017:
15 Nov – 02 Dec 2017 (18 Days)
Tour Price: USD5,450 *GBP4,284 *EUR4,863
Viable, Spaces Remaining
INDIA – NORTHERN: BIRDS & TIGERS II 2017:
04 – 21 Dec 2017 (18 Days)
Tour Price: USD5,600 *GBP4,356 *EUR5,007
3 Spaces Until Viable
MYANMAR – ENDEMICS OF REMOTE ASIA 2018:
03 – 16 Mar 2018 (14 Days)
Tour Price: USD4,600 *GBP3,646 *EUR4,131
VIETNAM – MEGA 2018:
07 – 31 Mar 2018 (25 Days)
Tour Price: USD7,250
CHINA – SOUTHEAST IN SPRING 2018:
27 Apr – 08 May 2018 (12 Days)
Tour Price: USD3,975 *GBP3,138 *EUR3,561
3 Spaces Until Viable
CHINA – SICHUAN BIRDING 2018:
21 May – 08 June 2018 (19 Days)
Tour Price: USD5,600 *GBP4,420 *EUR5,016
Viable, 3 Spaces Remaining