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Rufous treepie

Rufous treepie
Pair in Udaipur
Rufuous treepie calling
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
Genus: Dendrocitta
D. vagabunda
Binomial name
Dendrocitta vagabunda
(Latham, 1790)

Dendrocitta rufa

The rufous treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda) is a treepie, native to the Indian Subcontinent and adjoining parts of Southeast Asia. It is a member of the crow family, Corvidae. It is long tailed and has loud musical calls making it very conspicuous. It is found commonly in open scrub, agricultural areas, forests as well as urban gardens. Like other corvids it is very adaptable, omnivorous and opportunistic in feeding.


The sexes are alike and the main colour of the body is cinnamon with a black head and the long graduated tail is bluish grey and is tipped in black. The wing has a white patch. The only confusable species is the grey treepie which however lacks the bright rufous mantle. The bill is stout with a hooked tip. The underparts and lower back are a warm tawny-brown to orange-brown in colour with white wing coverts and black primaries. The bill, legs and feet are black.[2]

The widespread populations show variations and several subspecies are recognized. The nominate subspecies is found in the northeastern part of peninsular India south to Hyderabad. The desert form is paler and called pallida, vernayi of the Eastern Ghats is brighter while parvula of the Western Ghats is smaller in size.[2] The form in Afghanistan and Pakistan is bristoli while the form in southern Thailand is saturatior. E. C. Stuart Baker describes sclateri from the upper Chindwin to the Chin Hills and kinneari from southern Myanmar and northwest Thailand.[3] The population in eastern Thailand an Indochina is sakeratensis.[4]

Distribution and habitat

The range of the rufous treepie is quite large, covering Pakistan, India and into Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand. It inhabits open forest consisting of scrub, plantations and gardens.[1] In the Garhwal Himalayas, it migrates seasonally between different elevations.[5]

Behaviour and ecology

The rufous treepie is primarily an arboreal omnivore feeding on fruits, nectar (of Bombax ceiba[6]) seeds,[7] invertebrates, small reptiles and the eggs and young of birds;[8] it has also been known to take flesh from recently killed carcasses. It is an agile forager, clinging and clambering through the branches and sometimes joining mixed hunting parties along with species such as drongos and babblers. They are known to be a cleaning symbiont of deer, feeding on ectoparasites of sambar which permit them to perch and position themselves to invite the birds to examine specific parts.[9][10] Like many other corvids, it caches food.[11] It is considered to be beneficial to palm cultivation in southern India due to its foraging on the grubs of the destructive weevil Rhynchophorus ferrugineus.[12] Its feeds on the fruits of Trichosanthes tricuspidata which are toxic to mammals.[13]

The breeding season in India is April to June. In Bengal, the peak is in April and May with heightened levels of pineal gland activity and serotonin production.[14] It builds its shallow nest in trees and bushes and usually lays 3-5 eggs.[15][16]

The rufous treepie has a wide repertoire of calls, but a bob-o-link or ko-tree call is most common.[2] A local name for this bird kotri is derived from the typical call while other names include Handi Chancha and taka chor (="coin thief").[13][17]

A blood parasitic protozoan Trypanosoma corvi[18] and Babesia has been reported from this species.[19] Trematode parasites, Haplorchis vagabundi, have been found in their intestines.[20] An acanthocephalan parasite Centrorhynchus lancea is also known.[21] A species of quill mite Syringophiloidus dendrocittae is known to live in the feathers of rufous treepies.[22]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2018). "Dendrocitta vagabunda". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T22705836A130381668. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22705836A130381668.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Rasmussen, P.C. & Anderton, J.C. (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley guide. Vol. 2. Smithsonian Institution & Lynx Edicions. p. 595.
  3. ^ Baker, EC Stuart (1922). "Dendrocitta rufa". The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Birds. Volume 1. London: Taylor and Francis. pp. 48–52.
  4. ^ Dickinson, E.C.; Dekker, R.W.R.J.; Eck,S. & Somadikarta, S. (2004). "Systematic notes on Asian birds. 45. Types of the Corvidae". Zoologische Verhandelingen, Leiden. 350: 111–148.
  5. ^ Naithani, A. & Bhatt, D. (2012). "Bird community structure in natural and urbanized habitats along an altitudinal gradient in Pauri district (Garhwal Himalaya) of Uttarakhand state, India". Biologia. 67 (4): 800–808. doi:10.2478/s11756-012-0068-z.
  6. ^ Raju, A. J. S.; Rao, S. P.; Rangaiah, K. (2005). "Pollination by bats and birds in the obligate outcrosser Bombax ceiba L. (Bombacaceae), a tropical dry season flowering tree species in the Eastern Ghats forests of India". Ornithological Science. 4: 81–87. doi:10.2326/osj.4.81. S2CID 86586782.
  7. ^ Sharma, S. K. (1992). "Tree Pie Dendrocitta vagabunda (Latham) feeding on aril of seeds of Pithecellobium dulce". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 89 (3): 374.
  8. ^ Begbie, A (1905). "Curious ferocity of the Indian Tree-pie Dendrocitta rufa". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 16 (3): 502–503.
  9. ^ Bharucha, E.K. (1987). "An observation on the relationship between a Sambar and a Tree-Pie". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 84 (3): 675.
  10. ^ Sazima, I. (2011). "Cleaner birds: a worldwide overview" (PDF). Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia. 19 (1): 32–47. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-10-18.
  11. ^ de Kort, S. R. & Clayton, N. S. (2006). "An evolutionary perspective on caching by corvids". Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 273 (1585): 417–423. doi:10.1098/rspb.2005.3350. PMC 1560201. PMID 16615207.
  12. ^ Krishnakumar, R.; Sudha, G. (2002). "Indian tree pie Dendrocitta vagabunda parvula (Whistler and Kinnear) (Corvidae). A predatory bird of red palm weevil Rhynchophorus ferrugineus (Oliv.)". Insect Environment. 8: 133.
  13. ^ a b Ali, S. & Ripley, S.D. (1986). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. Volume 5 (Second ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 216–221.
  14. ^ Chaudhuri, S.; Maiti, B.R. (1989). "Pineal activity during the seasonal gonadal cycle in a wild avian species, the tree pie (Dendrocitta vagabunda)". General and Comparative Endocrinology. 76 (3): 346–349. doi:10.1016/0016-6480(89)90128-7. PMID 2583467.
  15. ^ Whistler, H. (1949). "The Indian Tree-pie". Popular Handbook of Indian Birds (Fourth ed.). Gurney and Jackson. pp. 12–14.
  16. ^ Hume, A. O. (1889). "Dendrocitta rufa (Scop.) The Indian Tree-pie". The nests and eggs of Indian birds. Volume 1. London: R. H. Porter. pp. 19–22.
  17. ^ Finn, F. (1904). "The Magpie". The Birds of Calcutta. Calcutta: Thacker, Spink & Co. pp. 10–13.
  18. ^ Nandi, N. C. & Bennett, G. F. (1994). "Re-description of Trypanosoma corvi Stephens and Christophers, 1908 emend Baker, 1976 and remarks on the trypanosomes of the avian family Corvidae". Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz. 89 (2): 145–151. doi:10.1590/S0074-02761994000200005.
  19. ^ Peirce, M.A. (2000). "A taxonomic review of avian piroplasms of the genus Babesia Starcovici, 1893 (Apicomplexa: Piroplasmorida: Babesiidae)". Journal of Natural History. 34 (3): 317–332. doi:10.1080/002229300299507. S2CID 85053646.
  20. ^ Baugh, S.C. (1963). "Contributions to our knowledge of digenetic trematodes VI". Parasitology Research. 22 (4): 303–315. doi:10.1007/BF00260191. PMID 13966962. S2CID 11066470.
  21. ^ Duggal, C. L.; Solomon, S. & Ambardar, S. (1986). "On some acanthocephalans parasitizing birds of Punjab". Research Bulletin of the Panjab University (Science). 37 (3–4): 25–31.
  22. ^ Fain A; Bochkov, A. & Mironov, S. (2000). "New genera and species of quill mites of the family Syringophilidae (Acari, Prostigmata)". Bulletin van Het Koninlijk Belgisch Instituut voor Natuurwetenschappen - Entomologie. 70: 33–70.
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Rufous treepie
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