Birding Highlights of Taiwan 2017 Series
“Formosan Magpie or Taiwan Blue Magpie (Urocissa caerulea) as is known by, caught my attention as it repeatedly flew in and disappeared behind a Taiwan Giant Bamboo (Dendrocalamus latiflorus) clump, alongside a forest trail.
“Having found best view position along the ‘Bamboo Trail,’ named in my notebook, many observations were made and substantiated with photo/ videography.
“A pair of scavenging, adult Formosan Magpie appeared to be in discussion over a fresh kill – a green snake, clamped between their bright, red bills. (above, below).
“I recognised the non-poisonous reptile to be a Rein snake (Rhadinophis frenatum) and known to be extremely rare in Taiwan ROC.
“In obstructed partial view, it appeared to be approximately six feet long (below).
“I suspect the ill fated snake was an accidental drop by a potential sub-endemic Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela hoya) – a bird perhaps came under siege in same habitat/ foraging area it shared with the Magpies.
“With sharp claws sank deep to anchor its prey, Cissa – the Formosan Magpie wasted no time to partake a feast of breakfast snake sushi (above).
“The decapitated reptile having lost all sight had its last breath taken away by a ruthless extraction of its windpipe (above).
“The strong and chunky bill acted like a clamp-retractor and with hook on upper end, enabled Cissa to dissect and prise opened reptilian’s leathery, scaled skin. The flesh was hollowed out and devoured (above).
“For extra servings, Cissa wasted no time to tug and tug… skin and all (above)!
“Nictitating membrane went into pleasurable action mode as taste of fresh flesh and entrails were simply divine (above)!
“‘What’s next?’ (above).
“The long tail of the Rein Snake was not ignored but was given a strong tug for good measure. It was like giving out a loud ‘burp’ over a hearty meal in formal dining (above).
“Perhaps a coincidence – a well matched snake and bird sharing similar tail descriptions; the latter named by 19th century biologist-Robert Swinhoe as the ‘Long-tailed Mountain nymph’.”
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
2nd October 2017
Copyright article and all copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund