Oriental Magpie Robin nesting in a mailbox

on 5th July 2011

“Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis musicus) nests are not easy to identify as they are intelligent and alert birds.

“We find that cycling a good way to watch birds as they tend to pay less attention to a cyclist than a pedestrian. Spotted this pair visiting a mailbox when out cycling this morning near my home and went back to have a look (below).

“They were putting the finishing touches to their nest; in the process of lining the interior. There was no food being brought and no incubation activities. Both parents were involved in nest building but female brought more material, although the male accompanied these visits as well. All nest visits I observed were together by both partners.

“This is the third time I have seen Magpie Robins consider or use a mailbox for nesting. I suspect this bird is open to nesting in artificial nesting boxes if provided by the community.

“Disclosure: Most pictures were taken from the car as a hide. Visited nest when parents flew away to get material. Spent 40-60 seconds at the nest and used flash twice for interior of nest. I obscured the address on the box as do not want the nesting birds disturbed.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Canning Garden Home, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
24th April 2011

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

6 Responses

  1. I did deploy one many years ago, did not work after a number of years hanging on the wall, maybe they prefer BTO nest boxes …. ; ) anyways will try again soon …

  2. The problem with the Oriental Magpie Robin is that it is valuable, and one of the easiest birds to poach. With bird flu, Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority has banned the import of many songbirds.

    Dealers have turned to trading in the locally available Magpie Robin, so poachers target it. Being highly territorial, all that is needed is a decoy, or even a recording of the song, to bring a resident male charging into a mist net.

    What is needed is strong enforcement action. I urge all bird lovers to call the police whenever they see any bird-trapping activities – which are technically illegal in Singapore. If the policemen are unfamiliar with the regulations, inform them. If they remain indifferent, report them to higher authority.

  3. Like K.C. Tsang, I have left a couple of old mailboxes in various places in the garden, after seeing Oriental Magpie Robins successfully nesting in the mailbox of a neightbour’s house years ago, but somehow the birds prefer working mailboxes of their own choosing!!

  4. I have no experience breeding the Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis) but have these observations about the breeding of the related Shama (Copsychus malabaricus).

    Aviculturalists do not provide closed nest boxes for shamas, as they would for parrots and parakeets.

    With a shama nest box, only the lower half of the front is enclosed. Access for the adult birds will be through the open upper front.

    Shamas (and some parrots) do not always use a box for nesting. Any fairly deep depression high up a tree will do. Parrots will excavate and deepen the hole but shamas have no way of doing so.

    A mating pair of shamas once escaped from my aviary. They stayed in the neighbourhood and continued to come to me for food. They raised their brood in the tall broken-off stump of a very big and old papaya tree.

    Papaya trees have soft cores. In this case, while the outer wood still formed a cylinder, the central part had rotted to create a depression about four or five inches deep.

    Luckily, the hole had adequate drainage and did not become waterlogged.

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