by - Ragoo Rao
A neat black and white bird, the size of a bulbul with cocked tail, hopping around home gardens is sure to have been noticed by many urbanites. The female is of the same size but the black color of the male is replaced with brown
and grey. It is a common bird in India except in very arid regions. Minor colour and size differentiates the four races we have in India .
Normally a shy bird but the male could be quite aggressive during mating and nesting season. Any intruder like a person or a dog is not tolerated by the male. They dive-bomb with a loud kkrrrrrrrr... call to ward them off. The
males are lusty singers. One can hear them as early as 4 in the morning. They sing beautifully, from their favourite tree-top or a fence. The songs are punctuated with the upward flicking of their tails. Sometimes the male mimics other birds too. A very territorial
bird, will chase away any intruding males with puffed-up feathers and a loud chhuuuurrr... sound. If one could observe these birds for some time it is very easy to understand their body language and also their vocalizations.
The main food of the magpie-robins is insects mainly picked up from the ground from lawns and mud heaps. Sometimes it is noticed they try to break open the hard shell of beetles by slamming them frequently to the ground.
Erythrina flower nectar is also liked by them in season.
The main breeding season is from April to July. The nest usually a hollow in a tree and lined with feathers and rags picked up locally.3-5 pale blue-green blotched eggs are laid and both parents take part in incubation and all domestic
chores. The female does more of the incubation while the male stands sentinel on a nearby branch and feeds her also during this time. In about three weeks of continuous feeding the chicks grow up and fledge.
A wonderful bird, which can be invited to your garden with water-troughs and non-intrusive ways of observing them.
( Magpie Robin on nest –Photo by Ragoo Rao)