Robin - Muscicapidae
Return to Index Page Robin Shama

 

The Robin in this page comes under a section on birds which are neither Flycatchers nor Warblers. They too, could be classified as Thrushes. This is a large grouping for birds with rather long legs, rounded head and large eyes. Stands upright with tails that are cocked periodically. Almost all of them terrestrial feeder for insects and small fruits near ground level. Very vocal and many are accomplished songsters

There are approximately 55 species and subspecies in this genus named as Copsychus. Small passerine insectivores with weak songs and harsh calls. Sometimes they are refer as "Magpies". So called, as they are believed to be so noisy that the term ‘magpie’ is used for humans who chatter too much is hence applied to them. Contrary to this "hear-say" term, the real Robins are rather shy and unobtrusive birds. Here are some names which are no strangers to many birders.

Rufous-headed Robin Luscinia ruficeps
Siberian Blue Robin Luscinia cyane
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis
White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus
Rufous-tailed Shama Trichixos pyrropygus
White-tailed Robin Cinclidium leucurum

The names in bold, are the species that I have chosen to be featured for this page.

 While preparing the pages on birds, sometimes it would be good to mention birds sharing close traits with those birds featured in this page. That's why the Shama are mentioned. Though having mentioned their names and the co-relation, Shama are posted as separate pages.

So this page, exclusively is one on Robin.

 

Oriental Magpie Robin  Copsychus saularis mallopercnus

 
 

Size -diagnostic markings:- 20 Cm

The Oriental Magpie Robin is a fair size bird. Conspicuous white rumped like the Shama.  Glossy black head. Also black on the upper part then on the under part, the upper breast is also black. The rest of the under part, i.e. the belly is white. Long broad bar along the wing. The female has much less gloss on the black.

 Distribution :-  

 It is found in the Indian sub-continent, southern China and South-east Asia. As it known for its songs, I have recorded a repertoire of 7 tunes, particularly active in the early morning. The female has dull grey breast. Do you know that this is the National Bird of Bangladesh?

Habitats & preferences:-

I don't know much about his habits elsewhere. In Malaysia, noticed this is the most hardy birds. First appearing in domestic gardens, public parks. Then all the way up to the open country in the montane forest. Much more common in the lowlands. It is an open country bird.

In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- 

As just mentioned. Anywhere - Urban, rural, lowland and highlands, this bird can be found and mingling around the surroundings with human presence. More like a situation of the birds following human rather than the scene of birders on a look out to meet up with the bird. "You cannot miss seeing the bird!" type of situation.

 

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


 

 More pictures of the Magpie Robin

 

Oriental magpie Robin   # 1

Oriental magpie Robin   # 2

Oriental magpie Robin   # 3

Oriental magpie Robin  # 4

 Robin   # 5

juvenile Robin   # 6

juvenile Robin   # 7

Oriental magpie Robin   # 8

juvenile Robin   # 9

juvenile Robin   # 10

pair of  Robin   # 11

Omale & female Robin   # 12

Oriental magpie Robin   # 13

sub-adult Robin   # 14

sub-adult Robin   # 15

Oriental magpie Robin   # 16

sub-adult Robin   # 17

female Robin   # 18

sub-adult Robin   # 19

sub-adult Robin   # 20

sub-adult Robin   # 21

 

 My personal jottings on the Magpie Robin :-

I grew up seeing the Oriental Magpie Robin as a familiar garden bird. Later I get to know that the bird as a "Magpie". Together with new friends from the birding circle, I got the name "Magpie Robin". With that 2 common names, I was stuck with that long lasting confusion of the bird's actual name. Is the bird a Magpie or a Robin.

Malaysia, an ex-British Colony should be familiar with the Robin. A National bird! But Magpie  is synonymous with the "pied" color. Finally with more knowledge on birds, the topic becomes transparent. Our Oriental Pied Robin and the European Robin comes from the same family of Muscicapidae [Old World Flycatcher]. Oriental Pied is 19cm long, including the long cocked tail while having same shape as the smaller European Robin at 14 cm. That is where the similarity ends as the former with a longer tail is from genus Copsychus and the latter Erithacus

It is a very good song bird. It's melodious song is strong and varied, with discordant notes and mimicries. During the breeding season that the males would be singing heartily. At dawn the Oriental Magpie-Robin utters beautiful clear whistles, repeated on short phrases. Otherwise rather shy and silent outside of breeding season.

The Magpie Robins do mimic other bird calls with great accuracy. Perhaps, it is this reason that the Oriental Magpie Robin was popular with the straits Chinese as a caged bird. At one time, in the 70's the bird was driven to near extinction. Partly by bird collectors and by competition from the Mynas. It was re-introduced in the 80's in Singapore and hence obtained its protected bird status.

The Oriental Pied Robin has a tail that is tilted upwards as a normal posture then the tail is also frequently lowered and fanned. They hunt for insect on the ground. May be living solitary but often seen in pairs around human habitations.

Oriental Magpie Robin do not migrate as an interesting observation. This is one bird that is most often seen in Malaysia. Unexpected to see it's presence as an urban dwelling bird - as in the most remote part of the country and in places on high mountains. Where ever there are humans, the Oriental Magpie Robin in variably will the first bird I will get to see or the only bird I would meet up with. Such phenomenon could only suggest that the bird is not very picky about its food or it can fight off competition to breed in a large varieties of habitats. Alternatively put, this species is very tough in gathering food and very versatile in its lifestyle. It is not a shy bird as well, you can get very close.

Another name that is hardly used is Straits Robin.

 

Siberian Blue Robin  Luscinia cyane

 

 

Size -diagnostic markings:- 14 Cm

 The name "Robin" is not a familiar sounding word in Malaysia. Particularly this one - a small bird of only 14Cm.

The upper part part is dull dark blue and the under part is white. There is broad black line stretching from the lores, across the cheek to the breast side.

 Distribution :-  

The bird breeds in the Arctic, north-eastern China, Korea and Japan. Then it winters in South China, Sumatra and Borneo. Now in Malaysia, we are getting the birds in places with very cool climates.

Habitats & preferences:-

 In Malaysia, this is a shy migratory bird seen only in that season. Its number to this country is small plus the fact that it is a very shy bird. Though knowing that this is a sub-montane forest bird as a winter visitor, seeking it is new impossible.

In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- 

So far, sightings of the birds were a result of tip-off from the local residents of the area. They had accidental encounters with the birds. Its whereas uncovered and the crowd rushed to the spots to domesticate the birds. So seeing the birds having to be in the inner circle of the birding group. In Bukit TInggi both the adult and the juvenile had appeared simultaneously. But in Frasers Hills and Gunong Ulu kali, only the adult males were recorded.

 

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

More pictures of the Siberian Blue Robin

 

Male -First winter  Robin  # 1

Male -First winter   # 2

Male -First winter   # 3

Male -First winter Robin  # 4

Male -First winter Robin   # 5

Male -First winter Robin   # 6

Male -First winter Robin  # 7

Male -First winter Robin   # 8

Male -First winter Robin   # 9

Male -First winter Robin  # 10

Siberian Blue  Robin   # 11

Siberian Blue  Robin   # 12

Siberian Blue Robin  # 13

Siberian Blue Robin    # 14

Siberian Blue Robin    # 15

Siberian Blue Robin   # 16

Siberian Blue Robin    # 17

Siberian Blue Robin   # 18

Siberian Blue Robin   # 19

Siberian Blue Robin    # 20

Siberian Blue Robin   # 21

 

 
 My personal jottings on the Siberian Blue Robin :-

I am trained to add on a new Robin, the White-tailed Robin to my collection. So that bird has much similarity with the very common magpie Robin.  So Robin in my mind is a medium size bird. The Siberian Blue Robin when I first saw it came as a surprise. The first look disappointed it was that tiny at 14 cm. and seen from afar. Nothing like looking at the actual bird to get that impression. It was a male waiting to return north, at that time the bird was well fed but at the same time still very shy. The next season, didn't see that same bird again but that second encounter it was a much paler colored male. Coming here for the first winter.

This bird from the northern part of China , Korea and Japan winters in the South China, Sumatra and Borneo. It is a passage migrant through the Peninsula. So it was told. During its migration it may passes through the area of lowlands and even stop by the Mangrove forest but still prefers dense forest in the cooler climate. But now, with a third season encounters, it can be confirmed that the birds were not passing through as a passage migrant. Those spotted had remained here for the whole winter season. Habits changed!

The bird hunts on the ground and quivers its tail at a rate faster than the Wagtails. Good point is that the bird very often stopped and investigated on the periphery of its hunting ground in the open. But don't be too happy about its dauntless presence in the open. I had being taken back by the bird standing in unexpected points for long time without its presence being undetected. It is small, except for the tail quivering. The bird doesn't move to attract attention.

Beside what I mentioned, I cannot say the likely type of environment where the bird would be sighted as there is no guarantee that the bird returning to its old haunts.

 

White-tailed Robin Cinclidium leucurum

 

 

Size - diagnostic markings:- 19 Cm

The male of White-tailed Robin appears large perhaps due to the broad long tail. The bird appears black throughout but it is a heavy tinge of blue. The forehead and the shoulder patch would shine in pale blue.

The under part in slightly blue tinge. Also diagnostic would the long white line on the outer tail. The female is brown in color

 Distribution :-  

Resident in north-eastern India, South-west China, and Taiwan.

Surprisingly though not widespread but the birds is found here in the Cameron Highlands.

Habitats & preferences:-

Only one environment known! This bird is found in sub-montane climate of Brinchang town and the montane climate in Gunong Brinchang both in Cameron Highlands

 

In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- 

 There were only reports of sightings in Cameron Highlands and also in the region near to Gunong Brinchang area. So this bird is never seen in other parts of the highland rolling hills.

 

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


 

More pictures of the White-tailed Robin

 

White-tailed Robin   # 1

female Robin Robin   # 2

female Robin   # 3

Male Robin  # 4

White-tailed Robin Robin   # 5

juvenile  Robin   # 6

female Robin   # 7

White-tailed Robin Robin   # 8

female Robin   # 9

Male Robin   # 10

White-tailed Robin  # 11

White-tailed Robin  # 12

female Robin   # 13

female Robin  # 14

female Robin  # 15

female Robin   # 16

Male Robin  # 17

female Robin  # 18

female Robin   # 19

Male Robin  # 20

female Robin  # 21

 

My personal jottings on the White-tailed Robin:-

The White-tailed Robin (Cinclidium leucurum) is a species of bird that prefers cool moist habitats. Found in eastern part of Asia. In the cooler countries, it descend to the lowlands in winter. While in tropical country like Malaysia, it stays in the montane or sub-montane region. Easily seen in Brinchang of the Cameron Highlands.

The bird prefers dense under growth, if possible near running water. Feeds on insects and berries and does its foraging on the ground. Best seen in the Telecom Tower where it retrieve fallen insects attracted by the flood lights in the night. Or other parts of Brinchang having identical environment.

The bird is almost black in outlook, except for the white on its tail. Good point is the tail keeps opening and shut revealing the white line to ID the bird. The down side, the birds is constantly in the shadows and difficult for watching or photography. In this page, there ere pictures of females, and sub-adults as well. Showing the birds in different hues.  Again best spotted along the mountain road to the Telecom Towers and the forested portion of the road. the birds would be foraging on the roadsides on this road with little vehicular traffic. So complacent with its feeding habits, that its feeding disrupted by an approaching vehicle that so often the bird would fly across the vehicle path. I think after identifying its favorite foraging spots, it is best to hide at such a location. Within a short time, allowing the birds to make its regular appearance.

 

 

This is an extreme situation when the Oriental Magpie Robin is the most common bird in Malaysia and seen in almost all environment. Then in contrast, there are the 2 other Robins which are hardly seen and needed much effort to locate.

So if you are visiting the country, the White-tailed is not that difficult. The Siberian Blue Robin, you need contacts locally to show you the spots.