Family: The Rufous Treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda) belongs to the crow family Corvidae.
Range: The bird is native to the Indian Subcontinent and adjoining parts of Southeast Asia. The range of this bird is quite large, covering all of mainland India up to the Himalayas and Pakistan, and southeasterly in broadband into Bangladesh, Burma, Laos, and Thailand in an open forest consisting of scrub, plantations, and gardens.
Vocalizations: Rufous Treepie is long-tailed, with loud musical calls making it very conspicuous. This species has a wide repertoire of calls, but a bob-o-link or ko-tree call is most common.
Size: Rufous treepie size measures between 45-55 cm, including the tail, and the weight of the adult bird is between 80-140 grams.
Habitat: The bird is normally found in open scrub, agricultural areas, forests, and urban gardens. However, it is very adaptable, omnivorous, and opportunistic in feeding. The bird is an agile forager, clinging and clambering through the branches and sometimes joining mixed hunting parties along with species such as black drongo’s and babblers. The Rufous Treepie is not the most remarkable, the grandest, or the most ornate. But it is a lovely and confident little bird.
Identification: Males and females are very similar. But the only main color of the body is cinnamon with a black head, and the long, graduated tail is bluish grey and tipped in black with the wing having a white patch. The only confusable species is the grey treepie, which lacks the bright rufous mantle. The bill is stout with a hooked tip, and the underparts and lower back are a warm tawny-brown to orange-brown color with white wing coverts and black primaries. The bill, legs, and feet are black.
Behavior: This is a very noisy bird with great agility that can be seen in urban parks and large gardens. This species is visible mainly in lowlands, usually below 1000 meters. According to the range, it can be found up to 2100 meters of elevation. It appears that being highly intelligent and an opportunistic feeder has been a recipe for success in the treepie’s ability to live alongside humans. The Rufous Treepie has a distinctive dipping flight during which each dip ends in an upward jerk.
Other Names: A local name for this bird, kotri is derived from the typical call, while other names include Handi Chancha and taka chor “coin thief.”
Flight: The treepie flight is undulating swift, noisy flapping, followed by a short glide on outspread wings and tail.
Diet: The Treepies are arboreal omnivorous, and they feed on Insects, caterpillars, lizards, frogs, centipedes, young birds, small birds, rodents, bats, snakes, frogs, lizards, Fruits, both wild and cultivated, are eaten. Moreover, they are notorious for feeding on the fruits of Trichosanthes tricuspidata, which are toxic to mammals. They also hunt systematically for birds’ nests and are highly destructive to the eggs and young of the smaller species. The bird has also been known to take flesh from recently killed carcasses. Normally, the breeding season starts in March and ends in June. The Rufous Treepie has been observed feeding on the ectoparasites of wild deer. Like many other corvids, they are recognized for their ability to cache food. They have been considered to be helpful to palm cultivation in southern India due to their foraging on the grubs of the destructive weevil Rhynchophorus ferrugineus. The quill mite, Syringophiloidus dendrocittae, is found to inhabit rufous treepie feathers.
Nesting and Breeding: The nest is built in trees and bushes and is habitually a shallow platform. The nest consists usually of 3–5 eggs laid. The inner cup is lined with rootlets and small twigs. It is placed about 5 to 8 meters above the ground in an isolated or prominent tree or in the bush. Both sexes share in the building, incubation, and care of the young.
Similar Species: Similar to the Eurasian magpie in the United Kingdom. The bird’s widespread populations show variations, and numerous subspecies are recognized. The nominate subspecies are found in the northeastern part of peninsular India, south of Hyderabad. The desert form is paler and called pallida; vernayi of the Eastern Ghats is brighter, while parvula of the Western Ghats is smaller in size. The form in Pakistan and Afghanistan is bristoli, while the form in southern Thailand is saturatior. E. C. Stuart Baker describes sclateri from the upper Chindwin to the Chin Hills and kinneari from southern Myanmar and northwest Thailand.
Status: The Rufous Treepie is usually common and widespread in its range, except in Vietnam, where it is more local and uncommon. There are many thanks to the large number of insects that it consumes; hence, it is not considered a pest in spite of some damage caused to orchards and cereal crops. The species is not currently threatened.