Magpie Robin
PO  Box 126 Mitcham Vic 3132 ( Victoria, Australia )

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. magpie robin
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  • A Softbill
  • Scientific Name: Copsychus saularis
  • Sub Species in country / area of origin: 17
  • Origin / Distribution: South China, Indonesia and India.
  • Habitat In Wild:  Has adapted to urban areas and feeds in the open.
  • Status In Wild:  Common in some areas, but threatened in others due to loss of suitable habitat and trapping for the bird trade.
  • Status In (Australian) Captivity:  Rare, but numbers are improving.
  • Age To Sexual Maturity: ?
  • Adult plumage: attained at about  6 months  
  • Best breeding years (estimate):  2nd - 7th year, but may breed till 10 years.
  • Lifespan (estimate): approx. 10 years, but with good husbandry (and luck) may reach 15 years of age.
  • Sexing: Monomorphic / Dimorphic (Similar but visual sexing is possible at about  4 - 5 months of age)
  • Colour mutations:  No
  • Availability:  Specialist breeders.
  • Temperament:  Good singer, but not as good as the Shama. Active bird in the aviary and less likely to become "tame" like the Shama.
  • Cost (Victoria) Per Pair: - Normal colour (Approx.) About $3000 - $4000
  • Description Of Adults: They look like small Magpies.
  1. Length: Approx. 190 mm (or approx. 7.5 inches)
  2. Colour ("normal" colour): Refer photo/s above if available.
  3. Weight: Approx. ? gms (or approx. ? ozs)

Magpie Robin = Copsychus saularis.  Shama = Copsychus malabaricus indicus

There is a wide variation between the sub-species in the plumage. The proportion of black and white varies with one sub-species being all black except for the wing barring.

Aviary Notes:

Level Of Knowledge Required: Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced / Specialist Breeders Only.

Government Regulations & By-Laws:  Refer to "Government Laws" web page.

Housing Requirements:  Click on "Softbills" web page for general details on the housing of  Softbills or read on for specific details for this finch.

Although they can be housed in a large cage it is best to house them in a planted aviary.  The birds benefit from having a well planted aviary as it provides a degree of privacy and security for the birds.  The young will use the lower portion of the planted area after they have fledged.  Aviary size should be about 3 metres ( 10 feet) long and at least 900 - 1000mm wide (about 3 - 3.5 feet).  A "typical" planted softbill aviary of up to 1500mm (about 5 feet) wide could be beneficial.

To maximize breeding results, the Magpie Robin should not not be housed with any other birds.

May be kept with other finches in a very large planted aviary but with their rarity in Australian aviaries it would be best to give each pair an aviary of their own.
Two aviaries are required for each pair as it is recommended by some breeders that the cock bird is removed to another aviary during the non-breeding season.  The cock bird is reintroduced prior to the commencement of the breeding season.

Overseas, a single bird is often kept in an indoor cage for its singing qualities.

Diet / Feeding:  Click on "Softbills" web page for general details on the nutrition of  Softbills or read on for specific details for this finch.

Natural diet includes crickets, beetles, ants and a variety of other insects.

They require a good quality finch seed mix.

Provided the adults have access to sufficient insects, they are generally very good parents and have a high fledging rate.  As with most larger softbills, the insects are killed and fed whole to the young.

The young grow very fast and require a variety of insects for good breeding results.  Mealworms, crickets, locusts, grasshoppers, cockroaches/woodroaches, slaters, silk worms, fly larvae and other suitable insects should be offered to the birds.
The mealworm larvae, pupa and beetle stages can be offered.
Some breeders capture moths and release the moths into the aviary.  The adult birds will "hawk" or catch some of the moths while the moth is flying around the aviary.  The other moths will be hunted down at a later time.
These birds are large softbills and may require 2 kilograms of insects to raise each clutch of young.

Magpie Robins generally don't consume much fruit but some birds housed with or near other finches, softbills or other fruit eating birds will often copy the other tenants and eat some fruits.

Quality commercial softbill food mixes can be a supplement to the livefoods.

Nesting:  A basic overview only.

  • Roosting nest:  No
  • Nesting months:  September/October till about February
  • Nesting receptacles:  Will build a cup shaped nest.  May use a half open nest box.  The half open nest box to have a landing platform of about 100mm wide at the front.
  • Nest:  They build a cup shaped nest out of grasses, twigs, coconut fibre, short pieces of teased hessian and other materials.  Nest may be lined with feathers, soft materials and soft fine grasses.  Coconut fibre is a favourite for many birds.  Like the Red crested Cardinal nest, the Magpie Robin nest is not large compared to its body size.
  • Who incubates the eggs: Hen / cock / both share. Both share during the day and the hen incubates during the night.

Adequate new nest material must be available for the birds to refurbish the old nest or build a new nest for the next clutch.

The parent birds generally maintain good nest hygiene by removing the faeces sac from the nest.

Nest inspection should be kept to a minimum and done with great care.  As with other expensive/rare birds, the instillation of a small modern colour camera may be of great benefit and make observation safer and easier.  Most modern cameras are relatively inexpensive and most have infrared capability.  Most can be attached to a recording device such as a computer or video recorder.

The installation of a mini colour observation video camera should only be done during the non-breeding season.  This would allow the nest to be monitored without disturbing the parent birds while they are nesting.

More details on finch nests and a selection of finch nest photos can be located on the "nests", "finch nests" and "finch nest photos" web pages.  Click on "Up" then "nests" then "finch nests" and "finch nests photos" in the navigation bars.

Breeding: Egg Colour.. pale blue - green with brown speckles.  Clutch/s per year 2 - 3.  Eggs per nest 3 - 6.  Incubation approx. 12 - 13 days.  Fledge approx. 14 - 21 days.  Independent approx. another  2 - 4 weeks.

The cock bird shares the feeding of the young.  The young are fed by both parents for up to 2 weeks after they have left the nest.  The adults are protective of the young and may resent the intrusion of the keeper into their aviary.  The young are fed entirely on insects for the first few weeks.

Young should be removed from the parent birds as soon as they are fully independent so as to avoid possible aggression from a parent.  This will also allow the hen to start another clutch.
Two aviaries are required for each pair as it is recommended that the cock bird is removed to another aviary during the non-breeding season.  The cock bird is reintroduced prior to the commencement of the breeding season.

In the wild, Magpie Robins do not nest in close proximity to other breeding birds.  Separation of breeding pairs in an aviary situation may be beneficial to achieve optimal breeding results. i.e. one pair at each end of a multi-flight aviary complex.

After the birds have finished their breeding they will go into a heavy moult.

As with many birds, pairing up young birds should maximize the breeding results.

Some birds will have large clutches of young and allowing the adult birds to raise more than 3 clutches per season may result in the birds having a poor subsequent season.

Artificial incubation, hand rearing or fostering will not be covered on this web site.  It is too complex and diverse in nature to be attempted here.  Refer "Specific References" as listed below and "General References" listings.

Health Issues: Refer "Avian Health Issues" web page for information and references.

  • Worming and parasite control and Quarantine requirements of new birds or sick birds are considered to require veterinary advice and therefore not covered on this web site. Refer above option - "Avian Health Issues" web page.
  • Avian medicine is advancing at a rapid pace. Keep updating your knowledge and skills.

General References: Refer to references listed on "Book References" web page.

Specific References:

  • Australian Aviculture

  • A/A Vol 15 No. 9 Sept 1961 Page 114-115 (Inc colour plate).
  • Australian Birdkeeper

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