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Last updated date: 16th May 2024
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Magpie Robin Bird - The Tiny Songbirds

Having the Binomial name as Copsychus saularis, the magpie-robin bird is a small passerine bird which was formerly categorized as a member of the thrush family Turdidae. However, it is now considered an Old World flycatcher. These birds are distinguishing black and white birds having an elongated tail that is held upright as they forage on the perch or ground clearly. Transpiring across parts of Southeast Asia and most of the Indian subcontinent, they are common birds in greenwoods and urban gardens. They are especially known for their songs and were once quite popular as cagebirds.

Magpie robin birds become quiet during the non-breeding season. However, during the breeding season, male magpie robins are found indulging in cumbersome puffing out of the chest, pointing bill skyward, and strutting in front of rivals. The male robins strenuously protect their territory during the breeding season.

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Etymology - History of Origin and Development of Magpie Robin

The Indian name of dhayal has resulted in various confusions. It was initially incorporated in 1737 by Eleazar Albin ("dialbird"). Having to think that it referred to a sundial and he called it Cadran. Moreover, Linnaeus, thinking it had some link with a sun-dial, called it solaris. This was however discovered by Edward Blyth as an inappropriate interpretation and that it was a Catholicisatioon of a Hindi term saulary which means a "hundred songs' '. A male bird was consigned from Madras by surgeon Edward Buckley to James Petiver with this Hindi name, who then first described the species of magpie robin bird. 

Physical Identification of Magpie Robins - Wondering How They Look?

1. Adult Magpie Robins

A medium-sized robin (doel) sports a broad white wingbar that runs from the shoulder to the tip of the wing, and outer tail feathers, especially when in flight. Males parade about a black-and-white plumage while the females are brownish greyish, white.

2. Juvenile Magpie Robins

Juveniles typically resemble females but consist of a scaly head and upper parts. They have an excellent repertoire of euphonious calls and are well established to imitate other bird calls. The frequently heard call is a whistle given at dawn. Frequently observed singing from a high exposed perch. These birds are frequently spotted in gardens, open woodlands, and cultivated areas.

They are bulbul-sized, long-tailed bird. The upper part of male Copsychus saularis is glossy blue-black, having blackish brown wings with a notable long white patch. They have a blue-black throat and breast; the rest of their underparts are white. The tail is black with a white outer quill feather. Black portions are put back by brown and slaty grey in the female. They are found both in solitary or pairs; feed hugely on grounds, and are generally not frightened of human habitations.

Interesting Facts about Oriental Magpie Robin Bird

  • The oriental magpie-robin is regarded as the national bird of Bangladesh.

  • It is acknowledged as the mystery bird or an Old World flycatcher

  • These birds were once among the top three common garden birds in the 1920s.

  • By the late 1970s, magpie robin birds became virtually extinct in Singapore and were only seen on some offshore islands because of illegal trapping for the trading of the cage-bird

  • The magpie-robins or also referred to as shamas are medium-sized birds.

  • They belong to the genera Copsychus and Trichixos

  • They typically eat insects.

  • Some magpie robins also eat berries and other fruit.

  • These are Asian and African garden and woodland dwelling species.

  • Magpie Robins are still quite common and are not protected by law In Malaysia. They are continued to be trapped for the caged-bird trade.

  • Magpie-robin (doel) black-and-white have a varied diet of fruits and animals but are especially fond of insects and worms.

  • They forage in trees and on the ground, where they jump with their tail raised.

  • Magpie-robin bird sips nectar.

  • These birds favour open areas such as gardens, mangroves, and cultivated areas. They are not found in lush, deep forests.

  • They have their own distinctive, delightful song and are known to mimic the calls of other birds. They are capable of singing melodious songs; a remorse rising whistle; and raucous raspy alarm notes.

  • They are easily seen as they are not shy and sing from unmasked perches. At times, they may sing at night!

  • Males sing loudly from the top of trees or higher perches in the breeding season.

  • Magpie robins make nests almost anywhere using thick shrubs, in the palm, hollow trees, forks of branches of small trees, and even closer to human habitation: under a patio, of a hole in the wall, an old tin can, and in reservoirs.

  • Robin’s nests are huge, shallow, cluttered cups loosely composed of grass, dried leaves, twigs, roots or moss.

  • The breeding season of magpie robins is from January to June.

  • Magpie robins lay 3-5 eggs, greenish or pale blue with purple or brown spots. The female incubates, but both participate in raising the young.

  • Magpie Robins are not migratory birds 

Scientific Classification - Take a Roundabout of Magpie Robin Scientific Circle















Other Name Of Magpie-Robins

White-rumped shama, Straits Robin and Magpie, Oriental Magpie Robin


Species List

Specie Name

Scientific Name

Oriental Magpie-robin

Copsychus saularis

Madagascar Magpie-robin

Copsychus albospecularis

Black Shama

Copsychus cebuensis

White-rumped Shama

Copsychus malabaricus

White-browed Shama

Copsychus luzoniensis

White-vented Shama

Copsychus niger

Rufous-tailed Shama

Trichixos pyrropyga

Seychelles Magpie-robin

Copsychus sechellarum

Distribution of Magpie-Robin - Distinctively Widespread

This bird is an insectivorous species which is a localized breeder in India and Sri Lanka east to Indonesia, tropical southern Asia from Pakistan, South China and the Philippines.

The Oriental Magpie Robin is typically found in open greenland, cultivated areas and human habitation.

Nestin/Breeding Distribution of Magpie-Robin

It shelters in a hole, commonly in a wall, laying 3-6 eggs which are incubated by both male and female robins.

Behaviour and Ecology - Yes! They are Socialites

The breeding season for Magpie-robins is mainly from March to July in India while it is from January to June in south-east Asia. During courtship, males tend to sing from high perches. The exhibition of the male involves raising the bill, fanning the tail, puffing up the feathers, and strutting. They shelter in hollows in the trees or holes in walls or structures, often adopting nest boxes. Robins border the cavity with grass. The female is a standalone builder in most of the nest making that takes about a week before the eggs are laid. Three or five eggs are laid at an interval of 24 hours and these are oval in shape and generally pale blue-green with brownish specks which match the colour of hay. For a period of 8 to 14 days, the eggs are incubated by the female alone. The nest is said to have a peculiar odour.

Characteristic Role of Male and Female Magpie-Robin

Compared to males, females spend more time and energy on feeding the young. In the breeding season, males tend to be quite hostile and will do whatever to defend their territory. Males respond to the singing of trespassers and even their reflections. Males generally spend more time on nest protection from intruders and fragmentation. Studies of the bird song reveal dialects with neighbours differing in their songs. The calls of other species may be imitated as an element to their song. This may also be an indication that birds strew and are not philopatric. Females may sing in short notes in the presence of a male. Besides their song, they employ a range of calls including emergency calls, threat calls, territorial calls, roosting calls, anxiety calls, begging calls and submissive calls. 

How Do Magpie Robins Sing - Melodious and Merriment

A magpie robin bird sings melodiously with its wings partly drooping and tail down casted. Its song is clear, lively instead of thin and varied whistling, and is split into short phrases/notes repeated frequently, occasionally insinuated with mimicry of calls of other birds.

Diet of Magpie Robins - Vermin

The diet of magpie-robins typically includes insects and other invertebrates. Although insectivorous, they are established to sometimes take geckos, leeches, flower nectar, and even fish.

The bird consumes a range of insects, vermin, worms, snails, centipedes, small lizards, and some vegetable matter. The peak breeding season of magpie-robins is in April and May.

They are most commonly active late at dusk. They occasionally shower under rainwater gathered upon the leaves of a tree.

Status of Magpie Robins - Least Concern

This species is regarded as one of the "least concern" worldwide, but in some regions, it is declining. In Singapore and Hong Kong (Malay names Cacing/Murai Kampung), they were quite popular in the 1920s, but saw a plumage in the 1970s, supposedly because of competition from introduced common mynas. Poaching and Hunting for the pet bird trade and habitat alterations also caused them and they are domestically safeguarded by law.

Robin birds have few avian predators. A few parasites and pathogens have been reported. Avian malaria parasites are secluded from the species while H4N3 and H5N1 infection has been reported in a few cases. Parasitic nematodes of the eye have also been described amongst the species.

Magpie Robins in Culture

Oriental magpie-robins were extensively reserved as cage birds, particularly for their singing capabilities and for fighting in India in the past. in parts of Southeast Asia, They continue to be sold in the pet trade and are hugely commercialized.

Apart from being recognized as the national bird of Bangladesh, the oriental magpie-robin bird is common and well recognized as the doyel or doel. It is an extensively used symbol in the country Bangladesh, appearing on currency notes. It also makes a mark as a landmark in the city of Dhaka which is named as the Doel Chattar (implying: Doel Square). This bird is called Polkichcha In Sri Lanka.

FAQs on Magpie-Robin

Q1. How Do We Physically Describe a Magpie Robin Bird?

Answer: A magpie robin is 19cm long, including the long cocked tail. It is quite identical in shape to the smaller European Robin, but is longer-tailed.

The male magpie robin consists of a black head, throat, upper parts, besides a white shoulder patch. The sides and the underparts of the long tail are white. Females’ counterparts are grey above and greyish white. Young birds have scaly brown heads and upper parts.

The Oriental Magpie Robin is a tame bird that is also very common. It is terrestrial, jumping along the ground and perches with a cocked tail. During the courtship period, the male sings a few melodic notes, you must know why, of course, to woo the female boon.

Q2. What are Magpie Robin Birds Like in Singapore?

Answer: This is actually an indigenous species in Singapore, where it is commonly recognized by the Malay names Kampung/Cerang. Once quite popular in the 1920s, it was thrust to near extinction by the 1970s, mainly subjected to illegal poaching, and the withdrawal of its natural habitat in the face of fastidious urbanization. Attempts to reintroduce the bird were carried out in the 1980s, but the species remains endangered and thus protected by law.

Q3. What are Magpie Robin Birds Like in Hong Kong?

Answer: Magpie Robin is the most frequently found bird species in Hong Kong. As per birdwatchers, it is generally observed in the countryside and vast urban parks, such as Kowloon Park, Tai Tam Country Park, Mai Po Marshes, and Victoria Peak. Like all wild birds, Magpie Robin is strictly safeguarded by law in Hong Kong.