A high-pitched whistle or repeated grating rattle marks the presence of the Red-Billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa erythrorhyncha), a 65-68 cm length bird mostly found in broadleaf forest areas and trees.
It is always a delight to see this bird flying from one tree to another, flapping its bright blue long tail with a white tip. Its majestic flight becomes more attractive in hills and among pine trees.
The Red-Billed Blue Magpie was categorised as a residential bird in the Inter State Chandigarh Region (ISCR) and can easily be spotted in the semi-hilly and hilly areas, including Kasauli Hills, Morni, Nepli forest, Pinjore and Kalka.
The male and female are alike. This bird is mostly found in pairs and they frequently change their location.
The Red-Billed Blue Magpie’s identification is the head, neck and breast are black with a bluish spotting on the crown. Shoulders and rump are in duller blue with greyish cream underpants. The long tail is brighter blue with a white tip and the bill is orangish-red as are the legs and feet. It weighs between 196 and 232gm.
It nests in trees and large shrubs, in a relatively shallow nest, and usually lays three to five eggs.
The Red-Billed Blue Magpie’s diet comprises invertebrates, small animals, fruit and some seeds. It looks for food both in the trees and on the ground. It also robs nests of eggs and chicks.
Vocal mimicry is very apparent in this species and its calls are very varied, but the most usual is a grating rattle and a high-pitched whistle, somewhat like a flute.
Descending from Karol Ka Tibba (2240m above sea level), a peak situated in Himachal Pradesh’s Solan district, gave me an opportunity to observe a pair of Red-Billed Blue Magpies closely in a semi-forested area last week. It was dusk and the pair was shifting from one pine tree to another. It was difficult to identify which one was male and which was female but one of them was particular about collecting food from trees.