© The Ubiquitous Formosan Magpie of Taiwan

on 12th October 2017

Birding Highlights of Taiwan 2017 Series

“Robert Swinhoe – a 19th century English consular biologist called this bird, the “Long-tailed Mountain Nymph’ (below).


“Taiwan ROC needed a national bird identity – a mascot bird to promote its tourism industry. The endemic bird a.k.a. Taiwan Blue Magpie (Urocissa caerulea) (below) went on to claim the winning title in an international voting campaign over another endemic hot favourite – the Mikado Pheasant (Syrmaticus Mikado).


“With a graduated, upper blue tailed length of 34-42cm long, 20cm winged length embellished with broad and white tips, striking red bill to match feet, an undercarriage of grey shades, an upper body of mostly blue hues to contrast with a black head, neck and breast; it is little wonder why in flight, this enchanting bird is top draw for quick action photographers: for the Formosan Magpie (Urocissa caerulea) is at its most beautiful in flying pose- floating like a nymph-fairy – (Google for Formosan Magpie images)

“Living in habitat of broadleaf forests 300-1200m a.s.l., opportunities were had observing pairs/small family group populations along forest trails, bamboo groves and forest edge of residential/ villages (below).


“While population is suspected to be stable and currently does not meet the vulnerable IUCN criteria, its status as an endemic bird of Taiwan ROC, puts Taiwan Blue Magpie under protection by Taiwan’s Wildlife Conservation Act.

“Placed in the genus Cissa, it forms a superspecies with the Yellow-billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa flavirostris) and the Red-billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa erythroyncha).


“In addition to size and good looks, the intelligence of Formosan Magpie with excellent foraging skills and antic demeanour puts the raucous bird a class above (above).

“These monogamous birds are highly protective and defensive of their nests. They make good parenting birds, sharing nesting duties and have juvenile helpers from previous broods in attendance.

“Formosan Magpie (Urocissa caerulea) is also known to sometimes cache leftover foods under leaves on ground or in tree branches like Butcherbirds of Australia.


“‘Look into my eyes…’ says Cissa (above). Behind those starry, yellow eyes and hooked upper mandible tip, Cissa’s family bloodline is a Corvidae – a crow scavenging family with huge appetite for food varieties. In addition to feeding in the wild as omnivores, Formosan Magpies’ diet includes foods thrown out by human beings; making these bold and gregarious birds- scavengers.
Having such versatile and with defining chameleon like behaviour, a befitting bird choice winner had to be the Formosan Magpie aka Taiwan Blue Magpie (Urocissa caerulea)


“Do join me next to read Avian Writer’s 200th contributing article to BESG on how Cissa and partner took on a … sushi extravaganza in ‘Bamboo Alley,’ down country way in New Taipei.

“See if readers too can ‘wow’ at ‘Long tailed mountain nymph.’”

Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Penang Malaysia

Copyright article and all copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund

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.

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