Sri Lanka Blue Magpie

Sri Lanka Blue Magpie

The Sri Lanka blue magpie (Urocissa ornata) is a brilliantly colored member of the Corvidae family that is found only in Sri Lanka.

BY Palitha Weerawansa

This species has evolved to hunt in dense canopy areas, where it is highly active and nimble. Its flight, however, is very weak, and it is rarely used to travel long distances. Despite its ability to adapt to human presence, the Sri Lanka blue magpie is listed as vulnerable to extinction due to deforestation and loss of its dense primary forest habitat in southern Sri Lanka's west area.

The Sri Lanka blue magpie has a solid bill and is 42–47 cm tall, larger than a mynah but smaller than a crow. It has a bright blue plumage with a reddish-brown or chestnut head, collar, and wing. The blue tail is graduated and long, with a white tip. This species' bill, wings, feet, and featherless eye rings are all bright red. This definition applies to both the male and female of the species. The juvenile plumage of this species resembles that of an adult, but it is duller overall, with a brown eye-ring and a greyish hue to its blue feathers, particularly on the underside. From August to November is the molting season for Sri Lanka blue magpies.

The Sri Lanka blue magpie belongs to the class Passeriformes, which is part of the tribe Corvidae. This species is a member of the genus Urocissa, which contains five recognized species of Southeast Asian magpies. Cissa, another species of Asian magpies, has a new common ancestor with them. Both Urocissa and Cissa are genera native to the Oriental region, which gave rise to the diversity of corvid species. They are related to new world jays and magpies by a shared ancestor.


This species can only be found in Sri Lanka, where it can be found in a tall, undisturbed forest in the wet zone's mountains, foothills, and lowlands. It can be found at elevations ranging from 150 to 2150 meters. It is rarely seen in disturbed environments including gardens or plantations. Individuals of this species were present in 38 different forest patches contained within six forest complexes within its range in the wet zone of southern Sri Lanka between 2004 and 2006.


The Sri Lanka blue magpie tolerates and even loves the presence of humans, including their fear of human-damaged habitats. Unlike other birds, the number of Sri Lanka blue magpies increased in response to low and moderate levels of recreational disruption and small to medium-sized groups of human tourists. A group of people was often seen waiting along trails, hoping to be fed by human travelers.

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