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Asir magpie

Asir magpie
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
Genus: Pica
Species:
P. asirensis
Binomial name
Pica asirensis
Bates, 1936

The Asir magpie (Pica asirensis), also known as the Arabian magpie, is a highly endangered species of magpie endemic to Saudi Arabia. It is only found in the country's southwestern highlands, in the Asir Region. It occurs only in African juniper forest in well-vegetated wadis and valleys. It was formerly classified as a subspecies of the Eurasian magpie (Pica pica), and still is by many authorities.[2] This species is highly threatened by habitat destruction, as its native forests are not regenerating. Tourism development and climate change are also posing a threat. Only 135 pairs (270 mature individuals) are known to survive in the wild, and this number is declining.[1]

A molecular phylogenetic study published in 2018 found that the Asir magpie was a sister taxon to the black-rumped magpie that is found on the Tibetan Plateau.[3]

Description

Asir magpie observed in February 2023

The Asir magpie (Pica asirensis) is about 45–60 cm (18–24 in) long, and its approximate weight is 240 g (8.5 oz). Its head, neck, back, front chest, and feet are all black. Its shoulders and belly are milk white. Its tail is black with bronze-green metallic luster.[4] Compared to the Eurasian magpie, the Asir magpie has longer bill, darker plumage, and darker iris. Its vocalization is distinct, and it also gives harsh high-pitched calls.[5] There is no large difference between males and females, but young Asir magpies are duller than adults.[6]

Behavior

During breeding seasons, the Asir magpies often group in pairs and live in flocks. Each of the flock approximately contains 8 birds. However, the Asir magpies travel in small groups of 3-5 birds for daily activities. In order to protect themselves from predators such as hawks and owls, they build their nests in forests and valleys with plentiful vegetation covered.[7]

Compared to flying, the Asir magpies prefer walking and hopping sideways. Since their size is small and their wings are short, they fly with fast wing beats, and they rarely glide.[6]

Habitat

The Asir magpie primarily lives above 2,150 m (7,050 ft) in thick shady juniper forests or dense mixed forests. It usually lives on south-facing slopes and avoids living on slopes larger than 30 degrees or near a human site. Sometimes, the Asir magpie is also observed foraging on roadsides or living at 1,800 m (5,900 ft) and higher.[8]

Diet

The Asir magpie is omnivorous. Its diet varies according to the changes in seasons and environments. When it is summer, the Asir magpie mainly feeds on animal-based food such as invertebrates, lizards, and frogs. During the other three seasons, it relies on the seeds and products of plants.[6] The Asir magpie's food source is not limited, and it just eats the food which is available and abundant in the living environment. It even steals and eats the eggs of other birds, which gives the species the name “nest predators”.[7]

Status

As a highly endangered species, there are only 270 Asir magpie estimated to exist, and the extent of occurrence (breeding/resident) has shrunk to 42,700 km2 (16,500 sq mi).[2] When Bates(1936) first recorded the Asir magpie, the bird's living range extended from Tayif in the north to at least Abha in the south - a distance of 400 km (250 mi).[9] Today, the great majority of the population appears to be confined to pockets of mixed juniper and acacia forests within a 37 km (23 mi) strip of highlands, primarily between An-Namas and Billasmar.[10] A high degree of habitat fragmentation from tourism development and urban expansion poses a great threat to its existence by restraining the exchange of genetic materials between groups from different habitats. Moreover, the Asir magpies suffer from malnutrition as a result of feeding on human food wastes, which potentially leads to extinction of the species.[8]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2022). "Pica asirensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2022: e.T103727136A216936460. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2022-2.RLTS.T103727136A216936460.en. Retrieved 1 December 2023.
  2. ^ a b Madge, S.; Kirwan, G.M. (2018). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "Asir Magpie (Pica asirensis)". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  3. ^ Song, S.; Zhang, R.; Alström, P.; Irestedt, M.; Cai, T.; Qu, Y.; Ericson, P.G.P.; Fjeldså, J.; Lei, F. (2017). "Complete taxon sampling of the avian genus Pica (magpies) reveals ancient relictual populations and synchronous Late-Pleistocene demographic expansion across the Northern Hemisphere". Journal of Avian Biology. 49 (2): 1–14. doi:10.1111/jav.01612.
  4. ^ "Asir Magpie". movementoflife.si.edu. Retrieved 2021-03-15.
  5. ^ "Asir Magpie - eBird". ebird.org. Retrieved 2021-03-15.
  6. ^ a b c "Asir Magpie - BirdForum Opus". BirdForum. Retrieved 2021-03-15.
  7. ^ a b "Magpie Bird Facts | Pica pica". AZ Animals. Retrieved 2021-03-15.
  8. ^ a b Boland, Christopher R. J.; Burwell, Bruce O. (2020-10-01). "Habitat modelling reveals extreme habitat fragmentation in the endangered and declining Asir Magpie, Pica asirensis, Saudi Arabia's only endemic bird (Aves: Passeriformes)". Zoology in the Middle East. 66 (4): 283–294. doi:10.1080/09397140.2020.1833471. ISSN 0939-7140. S2CID 225068157.
  9. ^ Bates, G. L. (1936). On interesting birds recently sent to the British Museum from Arabia by Mr H St JB Philby. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, 57, 17–21.
  10. ^ Babbington, J. (2016). Update on the status and occurrence of Arabian magpie Pica pica asirensis in Saudi Arabia. Sandgrouse, 38, 146–151.
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Asir magpie
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