prefer open areas such as mangroves, gardens, cultivated areas. They are
not found in the deep forest.
Oriental Magpie Robin, Straits Robin,
Murai/Murai Kampung/Cerang (Malay)
Magpie Robin's sad story is a parable of near extinction in Singapore.
Magpie Robins were once widespread and common in Singapore, as they
still are in Peninsular Malaysia. But they were nearly wiped out in
Singapore. Happily, they have made a slow comeback through reintroduction
efforts, although their status remains vulnerable (see details below).
Sungei Buloh Nature Park is among the few strongholds on the main
island for this delightful bird.
Magpie Robins have a varied diet of fruits and animals but are particularly
fond of insects and worms. They forage in trees as well as on the
ground, where they hop with their tail raised. They also sip nectar.
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
features: Large (20-23cm); bill black; legs grey.
Male: Black head, breast
and upperparts; underparts white; tail black with white
outer feathers; bold white wingbars.
Female: Back upperparts and breast replaced by
dull dark grey.
Juvenile: As in the adult
but with mottled brown breast
Call: Described as a melodious
song; a mournful rising whistle; and harsh raspy alarm
Status in Singapore: Rare resident on the main
island, uncommon resident in offshore islands.
World distribution: Pakistan
across the Asian subcontinent to the Philippines, Borneo
Classification: Family Muscicapidae
(which also includes Thrushes, Flycatchers, Chats). World
449 species, Singapore 19 species.
Magpie Robins have a delightful varied song and are said to be able to imitate
the calls of other birds. They are sprightly and lively, often cocking their
long tails. They are easy to spot as they are not shy and sing from exposed
perches. Sometimes, they may abruptly sing in at night!
Breeding: Magpie Robins breed in January
to June. Males court females with hearty song, usually at dawn and dusk,
moving their tails up and down in tune. They can be very territorial during
breeding. They build their nests almost anywhere from thick shrubs, in the
fork of branches of small trees, palms (at the base of the palm frond),
hollow trees and even near human habitation: under a veranda, in a hole
in the wall, in an old tin can, and in stables. Nests are usually built
low. Their nests are large, untidy, shallow cups loosely made from grass
or dried leaves, twigs, moss, roots. These are lined with fibres or grass.
3-5 eggs are laid, pale blue or greenish with brown or purple spots. The
female incubates, but both raise the young.
Migration? Magpie Robins don't migrate.
Status and threats: The Magpie Robin
was once among the top three most common garden birds in the 1920's. By
the late 1970's, it became virtually extinct on Singapore and was only found
on some offshore islands. This was caused mainly by illegal trapping for
the cage-bird trade, competition from the better-adapted Mynas (Acridotheres
spp.) and loss of their favoured habitats: mangroves and rural areas.
In the 1980's, C J Hails initiated a reintroduction programme of the birds
to protected areas. This, combined with increased public awareness of the
Magpie Robin's plight, resulted in a slow increase in numbers. Magpie Robins
are still considered vulnerable in Singapore. In Malaysia, Magpie Robins
are still common and are not protected by law. They continue to be trapped
for the caged-bird trade.
- Morten Strange,
"A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including
Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000
(p. 296: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
- Morten Strange,
"Tropical Birds of Malaysia and Singapore", Periplus
Editions, 2000 (p. 52: habits, habitat, photo).
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore",
Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay
- Morten Strange,
"Birds of Southeast Asia: A photographic guide to the birds
of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia",
New Holland, 1998 (p. 81: photo, facts).
- Lim Kim Seng and
Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds
of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 102: identification,
status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of species).
- G W H Davison
and Chew Yen Fook, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular
Malaysia and Singapore", New Holland Publishers Ltd., 1995
(p. 94: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, photo).
- Morten Strange
and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the
Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing,
1993 (p. 56: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
- Clive Briffett,
"A Guide to the Common Birds of Singapore", BP Science
Centre,1992 (p. 113: habit, habitat).
- Christopher Hails,
"Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times
Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 129: habits, description, status in
Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Vanishing Birds of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore),
1992 (p. 15, 46-47: status in Singapore).
- M W F Tweedie,
"Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970
(p. 47: description, distribution, habits, habitat, drawing).
- G C Madoc, "An
Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947
(p. 168-167: description, habits, habitat).
- Sir John A S Bucknill
and E N Chasen, "Birds of Singapore and South-East Asia",
Tynron Press, 1927, edition 1990 (p. 190-191: identification, status
in Singapore, distribution, field notes on habits, drawings).
- Prof. Dr. Yong
Hoi Sen (ed.), "The Encyclopedia of Malaysia: Animals";
Songbirds by Siti Hawa bt Yatim, Editions Didier Millet, 1998 (p. 46:
- Dr. Harold G Cogger
(et. al), "Encyclopedia of Animals"; Dippers and Thrushes
by C. Perrins, 1993 (p. 406-407: habits, habitats).