Magpie Birds

Return to Index page Jay Crow Treepie

From the family of Corvidae


Magpies are passerine birds sharing the same family line with the crow - they are Corvidae. The name "Magpie" and "Jay" usually refer to the same bird but used at different time by different people naming the bird. To some extend, you can call the terms interchangeable.

As for the origin of the word "Magpie"? The bird was referred to as a "pie" until the late 16th century when the feminine name "Mag" was added to the beginning. Mag is a shortened form of the name Margaret. Pie comes from the Latin name for the bird, pica. The words 'piebald' and 'pied' (meaning of two colors, especially black and white) both come from the word 'magpie'.

In modern days, with more awareness on birds found world wide, today's Magpie, the naming can be divided into 2 groups. 1] The Holartic species - they are black/white as close resemblance to Crows and Jays. 2] The second group more colorful Magpie from the Far east - mainly in Blue and Green.

The stable diet of Magpie are worms, slugs and small insects. Occasionally Frogs and Snails. So it is not unusual to see Magpie scratching the ground looking for spiders or worms. They hunt by daylight as well as in the night. That's make them more carnivores than herbivores.

Like Crows, Magpie are large birds and their loud calls sounded more like cry. Not musical notes which is pleasant to human ears.

The "pied" Magpies are so common in many countries that tales and studies have revealed many traits. Magpies are known to steal other young birds away from their nests. They can be taught to say words in the manner of a parrot. Magpies, like all crows, have a reputation for liking shiny objects, and will reputedly steal jewellery, earning them the name 'The Thieving Magpie'.

Crested Jay Platylophus galericulatus
Black Magpie Platysmurus leucopterus
Green Magpie Cissa chinensis
Racket-tailed Treepie Crypsirina temia
House Crow Corvus splendens
Slender-billed Crow Corvus enca
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos

Lastly, in Chinese fork lores, Magpies are symbols of good luck in China, in contrast with their relatives the crows, which are portents of bad omens. Perhaps all these are irrelevant to the Magpies seen in Malaysia. The few Magpies that we have over here, are forest birds and hardly seen. Their population is not that large whereby the mischief done by some could be of public knowledge.


1. Black Magpie Platysmurus leucopterus


Size & diagnostic markings:- 41 Cm.

This is a completely black colored bird with a white band across the wing.. the long tail and this white band makes it apart from the House Crow which are quite often in the forest edge. Though the eye is reddish as can be seen here is not that noticeable.

 Distribution :-  

This is a bird from the island of Borneo and Sumatra. In certain months the bird makes it presence in Peninsula Malaysia.

Habitats & preferences:-

This is more lowland forest bird in Malaysia, though at times not often can also be seen in the hills. It prefers forest edge with some human presence.

Show little concern for human presence.

In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- 

The birds have been seen in a variety of habitats. Most common to me would be Congkak. Dense forest and forest edge to the Park. Then up a small hills, the Black Magpie would wanders. A change of habitat in Kemensah where it is the edge of plantation and nearly open country. But the birds remain on tall trees at the forest edge.

Yet another open environment was in Bidor. This is an open country with few trees at the edge. There the Black Magpies were constantly seen at the forest edges on these trees.


Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-


My personal jottings on the Black Magpie:-

The Black Magpie is a bird of the lowland forest.  A noisy and boisterous bird that move around in pair. This species is has heavy dependent on forests. Within frequent deforestation going on in a large scale in recent years, I begin to see the birds at forest edge. Monitoring the presence, the International Community has considered this species as Near Threatened. Originally seen in dense lowland evergreen forest, swampy woodland, tall secondary forest, forest edges and mangroves, up to 800 m.

The only dense forest I met up with the birds in family at the Rengit & Congkak area, both primary forest. Otherwise, I had also seen them in open area. Such as a family at the beach in Cherating. Open forest and road side in Bidor, then in Ampang Recreation Park. Lately in the open fields in Kemensah.

Though a large bird, it is not easy to spot them as they move in stealth. Need not wary, they would give away their presence by the continuous loud calls when they move. Stay put, in a little while they would come out of hiding.

Looks like a slim crow at first glance. What separate this Magpie from a Koel or  a Crow in appearance? the white stripe on the wing. Very prominent, you could miss it from any angle you look. Of course Crow do not have red eyes, but the Koel has!

Pictures of the Black Magpie


Black Magpie  # 1

Black Magpie  # 2

Black Magpie  # 3

Black Magpie  # 4

Black Magpie  # 5

Black Magpie  # 6

Black Magpie  # 7

Black Magpie  # 8

Black Magpie  # 9

Black Magpie  # 10

Black Magpie  # 11

Black Magpie  # 12

Black Magpie  # 13

Black Magpie  # 14

Black Magpie  # 15

Black Magpie  # 16

Black Magpie  # 17

Black Magpie  # 18


2. Common Green Magpie  Cissa chinensis robinsoni


Size & diagnostic markings:-

40 Cm. This is a much slimmer bird when compared to the Black Magpie and appeared much small. The tail is longer. Mostly pale but bright green plumage on the upper and under part. The wing has a clearly reddish brown patch across. the broad black band across the eyes and a red bill. Also significant is the red eye ring and legs.

 Distribution :-  

The range of this bird spread from the lower Himalayas towards south-west  China and then into Sumatra and also  the island of Borneo.

Habitats & preferences:-

In Peninsula Malaysia, this is a bird of the sub-montane to the montane region

Preferring very cold and forested environment.

In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- 

I find that the bird though not sighted easily but though is very common by the nature of hearing its call. So far the best bet of seeing this bird is in the Frasers Hills Resorts area. Though also seen in the summit of Ulu Kali, being a peak region, its visit to that spot would be very brief and irregular.

Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-


My personal jottings on the Green Magpie:-

Green Magpies about 38 cm long is also a slender bird. In Malaysia, the bird live in forest of high mountains, staying in the middle and lower storey. They have very harsh calls but also makes softer calls like whistles and chatters. Like other Magpies, the Green Magpies are shy birds and not easy to see. Once again, their presence are detected through their noisy calls.

Their diet consists mainly of large insects and other small animals, such as frogs, lizards or snakes. Breeding season is at the early half of the year.  It is during this time that the bird is hardly seen. So are the nest, said to be very basic platform and well hidden in the dense forest. The parent was hardly seen looking after the fledglings as well.

Since the Green Magpie is a sub-montane bird, they are seen in Frasers Hills and Old Pump House Road. Sometimes they do stray into the montane area like the Gunong Ulu Kali peak. I have seen the birds in pair, but in Frasers Hills I have seen them in a large group. I have  also seen a lone mother feeding a fledging in May.

There is no problem in ID-ing the bird as this is the only light green bird, large and with a prominent red bill and red feet.


Pictures of the Green Magpie [Peninsula Malaysia]

Green Magpie  # 1

Green Magpie  # 2

Green Magpie  # 3

Green Magpie  # 4

Green Magpie  # 5

Green Magpie  # 6

Green Magpie  # 7

Green Magpie  # 8

Green Magpie  # 9

Green Magpie  # 10

Green Magpie # 11

Green Magpie  # 12

Green Magpie  # 13

Green Magpie # 14

Green Magpie  # 15

Green Magpie  # 16

Green Magpie # 17

Green Magpie  # 18


3. Short-tailed Green Magpie Cissa jefferyi


This bird identical to the Green Magpie in many aspects but is shorter in measurement only. In fact the bird is closer in looks to the Javan Green Magpie  The bird is endemic to the Borneo Island found in the region of sub-montane to montane forest, but most times in the montane area

The birds feeds mainly on insects and fruits, spending their time foraging in thick coverage. They would get more food at ground level and at times in the upper storey when there are presence of humans.

I have little information on this Short-tailed Green Magpie and would not be fair to comment more.


Pictures of the Short-tailed Green Magpie

[East Malaysia]


Short-tailed Green Magpie  # 1

Short-tailed Green Magpie  # 2

Short-tailed Green Magpie  # 3

Short-tailed Green Magpie  # 4

Short-tailed Green Magpie  # 5

Short-tailed Green Magpie  # 6

Short-tailed Green Magpie  # 7


4. Bornean Treepie Dendrocitta cinerascens

This is another bird endemic to the Borneo Island. A fairly large bird at 40 cm, slim with long tails.

The bird is found in sub-montane to the montane region. Having said that, the bird prefers the lower edge of the montane forest or lowers parts such as areas inside the valley. This is a forest edge bird that has a preference for Bamboo thickets

The bird feed on fruits, insects and also seeds. Typical of birds of the forest edge, it's perch was in open area or bare branches of canopy. Perched alone most times but do gather and flies as a noisy group. I read that it could behave like crow scavenging food at small hamlets.


 Pictures of the Bornean Treepie

Bornean Treepie  # 1

Bornean Treepie  # 2

Bornean Treepie  # 3

Bornean Treepie  # 4

Bornean Treepie  # 5

Bornean Treepie  # 6

Bornean Treepie  # 7

Bornean Treepie # 8

Bornean Treepie # 9

Bornean Treepie  # 10

Bornean Treepie # 11

Bornean Treepie  # 12

Bornean Treepie  # 13

Bornean Treepie # 14

Bornean Treepie  # 15

In this page only the Magpies and one Treepie are featured. I cannot ignore the fact that I have mentioned that within this groups are Crows. Crows are not attractive bird at a time when these pages I am preparing feature manily  beautiful or colorful birds. In future update, a separate page on Crows may be created. But sad to say, these Crows are not popular birds, with little visitors to the page, I will accord the page low priority.

Birds like Short-tailed Magpie No.3 & No.4 Borneo Treepie are not omitted from the list above. I have used the list as prepared by Birdlife International as a standard. This is an example where the birds mentioned are not listed within.

There are few Magpies, especially the Green Magpies while nice and attractive birds - are hardly encountered. They are so difficult to meet up with, even with conscious attempts to track them down. So for those of you still waiting for the opportunity, be patience while you are at places where they likely to appear, the day will come unexpectedly.