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Red-billed Blue Magpie - BirdForum Opus

Alternative names: Blue Magpie; Red-billed Magpie

Photo © by mikemik
Beijing, China, November 2005
Urocissa erythroryncha


53 - 64cm (20¾-25 in). A highly distinctive blue magpie with a very long tail:

  • Black head, neck and breast
  • Blue spotting on crown
  • Dull blue shoulders and rump
  • Grey-cream underparts (white in some subspecies)
  • White tipped brighter blue tail and primaries
  • Bright orange-red bill, legs, feet and eye ring

Sexes similar. Juveniles are duller than adults.

Similar species

Gold-billed Magpie is similar, but Blue Magpie is bluer and whiter in appearance, has a red bill and extensive white speckles and spangling over most of crown and nape.

Subspecies U. e. occipitalis
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Almora, Himalayas, Alt.5200 ft., India, 15 October 2016


Found in the Himalayas from northwest India to Nepal, Bhutan and east to Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Also in south and central China up north to Bejing and Inner Mongolia.
Widespread and locally common.



There are 5 subspecies[1]:

  • U. e. brevivexilla in south-western Manchuria and northern China
  • U. e. erythroryncha from central China to southern Yunnan, northern Laos and northern Vietnam
  • U. e. alticola in south-western China (northern Yunnan) and north-eastern Myanmar
  • U. e. occipitalis in the Himalayas (Punjab to Sikkim)
  • U. e. magnirostris from the Hills of Assam (India) to Indochina
Subspecies U. e. occipitalis
Photo © by Alok Tewari
Kainchi Ashram, Dist. Nainital, Uttarakhand Himalayas, Alt. 4500 ft., India, 28 October 2011


Evergreen forest and scrub, hilly or mountainous country. Recorded from sea-level up to 2200m. Where ranges meet with Gold-billed Magpie replaced by the latter in higher elevations.



The diet includes invertebrates, small animals, fruit and seeds. It takes eggs and chicks from nests.
Mostly seen in small family groups. Generally a rather shy bird.


Breeding season April to June in India and China. They build a shallow nest in trees or shrubs and 3-5 eggs are laid.


A resident species with altitudinal movements in the Himalayas.


Recording © by Alok Tewari
Five types of calls given by two individuals, sitting in a Chir Pine tree, in this early morning recording.
Dwarahat, Alt. 4800 ft., Dist. Almora, Uttarakhand Himalayas, India, Nov.-2016.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, and D Christie, eds. 2009. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8496553507

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