Frugivory by Oriental Magpie Robin

on 5th May 2016

MagpieRobinO-M giantea fr [AmarSingh]

“I came across another fruiting Giant Mahang (Macaranga gigantea) with numerous species feeding on the fruit. This tree is located between secondary and primary forest at the fringe of the forest reserve. As such it had a large mix of common bird (Asian Glossy Starlings, Yellow-vented Bulbuls) as well as birds coming out from the primary forest.

“I was surprised to see two Oriental Magpie Robins (Copsychus saularis musicus) at the foot of the tree (alongside two Emerald Doves Chalcophaps indica) feeding on fallen Mahang fruit.

“In the past I have reported one episode of frugivory by Oriental Magpie Robin in July 2011 where an adult female and a juvenile were seen taking the fruit of the Madras Thorn tree (Pithecellobium dulce, Manila Tamarind). On that occasion also they were eating fruit fallen from the tree.

“Wells 2007 (The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 2) only reports animal/insect prey. Note that Robinson 1927 (Birds of Malay Peninsula Vol 1) say that ‘food is almost completely insectivorous, but spiders and worms are sought for, and in captivity … bananas are readily devoured.” While Phillipps 2014 (Phillipps’ Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo, 3rd edition) says of the Borneo race that “… also eats berries in trees’.

“I can now safely say that fruit comprises a part of the diet of the adult Oriental Magpie Robin in my region.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
8th August 2015

Location: Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Fringe of the forest reserve

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

One Response

  1. Almost every avicultural book will advise that both the Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis) and the Shama (Copsychus malabaricus) should be fed on fruit. In over half a century of involvement with these popular songbirds and their fanciers, my experience has been that these species only eat fruit when they have no other options. It is never their first, second or even third choice.
    Yes, I have seen shamas pecking hungrily at slices of papaya and banana. But these were birds kept in mixed aviaries by inexperienced hobbyists who had bought them on a whim without clear ideas about their proper nutrition.
    Every well-cared for Shama or Magpie Robin that I have ever come across never took fruit.
    This doesn’t mean that vegetable matter is not necessary for such birds. Experienced aviculturalists raise the best Shamas and Magpie Robins on gut-loaded insects. Fresh grasshoppers, with their stomachs full of grass, used to be available from the fields in the old days. Today, these are, to all intents and purposes, extinct in Singapore. But farmed crickets are readily available. These are fed on fresh fruits for about a week before being offered to the birds.
    The difference in the health and singing abilities of birds fed on gut-loaded crickets as compared to those that only get crickets straight from the vendors is very, very noticeable.

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