The Azure-winged Magpie can be seen year round in forests or residential areas in the northern half of Honshu. It is difficult to distinguish the watery blue of its tail and wing against the light or from a distance but its head, which looks like a black beret, and long tail are unmistakable even from a distance. It most often lives in a flock, and likes to exchange calls in a hoarse voice.
Play birds singing
Avifauna, which includes about 10,000 species, is classified into 30 orders and 200 families. The largest order is Order Passeriformes in which more than half of families and species are included. Characteristic features of Order Passeriformes are diminutive size and males that sing in the breeding season. However, Family Corvidae to which the Azure-winged Magpie belongs is the exception. There are 130 species of Family Corvidae worldwide and 11 of those species are found in Japan. Among them are some that are large in size and males that do not sing.
Since the Azure-winged Magpie looks noble and elegant, people often say, ”It would be better if it didn't make the call.” Its hoarse calls of “Ge-y!” or “Ge-y, Kyu-kyu-kyu!” sound very similar to those of crows. It is also said to sound like “A gentleman with a hoarse voice” or “A lady with bad voice,” but its sex cannot be determined by its appearance or voice.
Its sex is deduced from differences in behavior, such as incubation by a female or courtship offerings by a male.
The Azure-winged Magpie is observed in gardens or parks around the Kanto region. But since it appears to live in flocks with an established territory, if you are outside its territory, you will not come across it even in Kanto. Depending on location, the frequent topic of population increase or decrease could be due to indistinct territorial boundaries. If you are in a flock's territory, you may think the population is increasing since you see a flock; however, if you are outside a territory, you will likely feel the number has decreased.
The Azure-winged Magpie is found in eastern parts of Asia as well as the Iberian Peninsula, the western tip of the European continent, but nowhere in between. Since the Common Magpie has wide distribution throughout the Northern Hemisphere, one explanation for the separated distribution of the Azure-winged Magpie is the dominance of the Common Magpie, however, the reason for this is not understood.
Although its length is close to 40cm due to its long tail, it is on the smaller side for Family Corvidae whose average size is larger than that of pigeons. Its body size, excluding its long tail, is almost same as a White-cheecked Starling.
The Common Magpie has wide distribution throughout the Asian continent, and is the “National Bird” of South Korea. Its population is small in Japan, and there is a theory that it was brought over from the Korean Peninsula in the 16th century.