Since it appears that the pandemic is taking a long time to settle it has taken some of the urgency out of getting through the Corvid-19 series. In fact if I do it too fast I might have to make up the time with a Cervid-19 series and I am far from sure I can find things to talk about for 19 of the Cervidae. It is proving a challenge even for the Corvids and there are about 45 of those to select a representative 19 from.
This time we see a more exotic corvid which most Europeans or American readers won’t know at all, while given the fact it is not at all rare in South Asia, my readers from India and the surrounding countries will be very familiar with this bird.
As usual the information is being put together in a table for so as to allow an easier summary at the end of the series. I am still thinking about publishing a fine “Corvid 19” wall chart in time for the end of the pandemic.
|Common Name||Rufous treepie|
|Other names||Indian treepie. A local name in India is taka chor, or “coin thief”.|
|Russian||Индийская древесная сорока|
|Scientific Name||Dendrocitta vagabunda|
|Number of species in the genus||7|
|Number of subspecies in this species||7|
|Literal meaning of Scientific name||Wandering tree jay. An earlier species name “rufa” as well as the common name “rufous” refers to the cinnamon red coloration of the mantle.|
|Described by||English ornithologist John Latham in 1790|
|First attested in literature||Not known in earlier Western literature.|
|Length bill to tail (cm)||37|
|Distribution||Most of southern Asia, from Afghanistan to Southern Thailand, with subspecies of slightly differing appearance appearing in different parts of the range.|
|Remarks||A fairly common, small bird which is conspicuous both because of its handsome red white and black plumage and also its loud musical calls, with a broad vocal range. There are a number of diffferent Dendrocitta species or treepies, effectively a treepie is a tree magpie, as pie is the original name for a magpie (see the note on the common magpie earlier in the series).|
|Migrations||The migrations are not wide-ranging despite the name of wanderer, as the bird likes to cache food stores.|
|Sexual dimorphism||Barely noticeable|
|Close relatives||Six other Dendrocitta members, of which the most similar is the grey treepie D. formosae from Taiwan.|
|Not close relatives thought to be close||The Dendrocitta are one of four genera in the Crypsirininae, which means “hidden nostrils”, and the other genera also contain birds called treepies, including the ratchet-tailed treepie, the racket tailed treepie (two completely different birds from different genera, Temnurus and Crypsirina respectively) as well as the black magpie, which is a treepie despite its name. Magpies proper are not closely related.|
|Cultural significance||All the treepies got their name from the fact that they stay in the trees almost all the time, rarely coming down to the ground to feed, and therefore known to humans more though the calls which they have and also the flashes of rufous plumage that can be seen, on the white and yellow and black of the handsome white bellied and collared treepies. They mainly eat the fruits and leaves of trees, some have a particular affinity for certain trees or are adapted to eat the fruit of trees poisonous to most other birds and mammals, such as Tricosanthes tricuspida. It is loved by palm farmers as a natural predator on the palm weevils Rhynchophorus among other arboreal insects.|