Taiwan, an island nation rich in culture and biodiversity, boasts a unique national bird that captures the essence of its lush, vibrant landscapes: the Taiwan Blue Magpie (Urocissa caerulea).
Also known as the “long-tailed mountain lady,” this stunning bird is a living testament to Taiwan’s natural beauty and the deep cultural connections that the local people share with their environment. With its striking blue plumage and distinctive long tail, the Taiwan Blue Magpie is not only a feast for the eyes but also a bird shrouded in folklore and tradition.
Join us as we delve into the world of this remarkable feathered creature and discover why it holds such a special place in the hearts of the Taiwanese people.
Quick Info About The Taiwan Blue Magpie
|Scientific Name:||Urocissa caerulea|
|Average Size:||63–68 cm (25–27 in)|
|Average Wingspan:||18–21 cm (7–8.2 in)|
|Average Weight:||254–260 g (9.0–9.2 oz)|
|Geographical Range:||Endemic to Taiwan|
|Habitat:||Broadleaf forests at elevations of 300–1,200 m (980–3,940 ft)|
|Conservation Status:||Least Concern (IUCN Red List)|
Meet The Taiwan Blue Magpie, National Bird of Taiwan
The Taiwan Blue Magpie boasts a striking appearance that is hard to overlook. Both the male and female share similar plumages, with a bold black head, neck, and breast complementing their vivid blue bodies. Their eyes shine a bright yellow, while their bill and feet stand out in a bold red.
The wings and tail feathers, predominantly blue, are adorned with white tips, adding to their overall allure. The underwing coverts are a dark grey, whereas the flight feathers take on a lighter grey hue.
The uppertail coverts are tipped in black, and the central pair of tail feathers outshine the rest in length. Juveniles display a greyish hue, shorter tails, and greyish-blue eyes, differentiating them from the adults.
As a scavenger and omnivore, the Taiwan Blue Magpie plays a vital role in maintaining the balance of its ecosystem. Its diet is diverse, ranging from snakes, rodents, small insects, and carrion to eggs, chicks of other birds, fruits, and seeds. By feeding on carrion and food waste, this bird helps in cleaning the environment.
In terms of its position in the food chain, the Taiwan Blue Magpie is a secondary consumer. It predates on smaller animals and insects but can also become prey for larger birds of prey and mammals. Its bold nature and gregarious behavior, often moving in groups of three to twelve, aid in its survival, as does its adaptability to different food sources.
Where Does The Taiwan Blue Magpie Live?
The Taiwan Blue Magpie is a bird species that is indigenous to Taiwan, thriving in its broadleaf forests at elevations ranging from 300–1,200 meters (980–3,940 feet).
These environments provide the perfect blend of dense vegetation and open spaces, allowing the bird to forage, nest, and live comfortably. The climate in these regions is typically subtropical, with mild to warm temperatures, ample rainfall, and high humidity levels.
Being endemic to Taiwan, the Taiwan Blue Magpie has not naturally occurred in any other geographic region. However, its adaptability has enabled it to thrive in various forested environments across the island, from lush mountainous regions to areas closer to human habitations.
Its presence near human residences indicates a level of adaptability and comfort in a range of settings, contributing to its prominence in Taiwanese culture.
Why and When Did The Taiwan Blue Magpie Become The National Bird of Taiwan?
The Taiwan Blue Magpie’s journey to becoming the national bird of Taiwan is a testament to its cultural significance and the admiration it commands among the Taiwanese people.
In 2007, the Taiwan International Birding Association organized a National Bird Voting Campaign, encouraging participation from both locals and international bird enthusiasts.
The campaign saw over a million votes cast from 53 countries, culminating in the Taiwan Blue Magpie’s victory over other native birds such as the Mikado Pheasant.
The bird’s vibrant plumage and bold personality symbolize the beauty, resilience, and spirited nature of Taiwan and its people. Its communal and cooperative behaviors reflect values held dear in Taiwanese culture, further solidifying its status as a national symbol.
Moreover, the Taiwan Blue Magpie holds a sacred place in the hearts of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, such as the Tsou, Thao, and Bunun communities, where it features prominently in local folklore and mythological sagas.
However, it is important to note that despite its overwhelming popularity and symbolic value, the Taiwan Blue Magpie’s status as the national bird of Taiwan has not been formally recognized. This has led to ongoing discussions and efforts by bird enthusiasts and cultural groups to gain official recognition for the bird.
Where is The Taiwan Blue Magpie Featured in Taiwan?
The Taiwan Blue Magpie has not found its way onto national flags or banknotes, but its image and influence permeate various other aspects of Taiwanese culture and branding.
In 2017, China Airlines, Taiwan’s flag carrier, unveiled a stunning Taiwan Blue Magpie paint scheme on an Airbus A350, celebrating the 100th A350 produced by Airbus. This move not only showcased the airline’s pride in its Taiwanese heritage but also helped in promoting the Taiwan Blue Magpie’s image on a global stage.
Additionally, the AIDC XAT-5 Blue Magpie advanced jet trainer is another instance where the bird’s name and image have been used, this time in the field of aerospace and defense. By associating the Taiwan Blue Magpie with innovation and excellence, Taiwan highlights the bird’s importance and its place in the nation’s journey toward progress.
Through these and other cultural representations, the Taiwan Blue Magpie continues to be a beloved and celebrated symbol of Taiwan, despite the lack of official recognition as the national bird.
Names of The Taiwan Blue Magpie
The Taiwan Blue Magpie (Urocissa caerulea), also widely recognized as the Taiwan Magpie or Formosan Blue Magpie, holds various names that reflect its cultural and geographical roots.
In Mandarin, it is called “臺灣藍鵲” (Táiwān lán què), while in Taiwanese Hokkien, it is referred to as “Tn̂g-boé soaⁿ-niû,” translating to “long-tailed mountain lady.” These names highlight its distinctive long tail and its strong association with the mountainous regions of Taiwan.
In terms of indigenous languages, the bird is known as Teofsi’za in Tsou, Fitfit in Thao, and Haipis (Isbukun group) / Kaipis in Bunun, reflecting its sacred status among these communities.
Is The Taiwan Blue Magpie Endangered?
The Taiwan Blue Magpie is not listed as endangered, and its conservation status is of least concern. However, this does not mean the species faces no threats.
Habitat destruction due to urbanization, illegal trapping, and potential diseases could pose risks to its population. Despite these challenges, the bird has shown resilience and adaptability, often being found near human residences.
Conservation efforts are ongoing to ensure the stability of their population and habitat preservation. Educational programs aim to raise awareness about the bird’s importance and the need for its protection.
Moreover, the bird’s cultural significance and popularity among the local population have played a crucial role in garnering support for its conservation.
Interesting Facts About The Taiwan Blue Magpie
- Cultural Significance: The Taiwan Blue Magpie holds a sacred place in the traditions of the Tsou, Thao, and Bunun indigenous peoples of Taiwan, appearing in various local myths and sagas.
- Communal Behavior: These birds are known for their gregarious nature, often found in groups of three to twelve. They showcase unique flying formations, sometimes referred to as “long-tailed formations.”
- Diet: They have a varied diet, including snakes, rodents, insects, carrion, and even food waste from humans, showcasing their adaptability and opportunistic feeding habits.
- Nesting: The Taiwan Blue Magpie is known to aggressively defend its nest, even attacking humans if they perceive a threat.
- Physical Attributes: With its impressive long tail, vibrant blue plumage, and striking yellow eyes, the Taiwan Blue Magpie is a sight to behold and easily distinguishable from other bird species.
Other Beautiful Birds Native To Taiwan
- Mikado Pheasant (Syrmaticus mikado): Endemic to Taiwan, this spectacular pheasant is known for its impressive plumage and is considered a national symbol of Taiwan’s wildlife.
- Swinhoe’s Pheasant (Lophura swinhoii): Another endemic bird, the Swinhoe’s Pheasant is notable for its vibrant colors and plays a significant role in Taiwan’s avian biodiversity.
- Taiwan Barwing (Actinodura morrisoniana): This bird is found only in the high mountain forests of Taiwan, recognized by its unique patterned feathers and strong association with the island’s pristine wilderness.
- Collared Bush Robin (Tarsiger johnstoniae): Known for its melodious song and striking appearance, the Collared Bush Robin is a favorite among birdwatchers in Taiwan.
- Flamecrest (Regulus goodfellowi): The smallest bird in Taiwan, the Flamecrest is distinguished by its fiery orange crest and is a vibrant part of the local avifauna.
What Is Another National Animal of Taiwan?
While Taiwan doesn’t officially have a national animal, the Formosan Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus formosanus) is often considered a symbolic animal of Taiwan.
This subspecies of the Asian Black Bear is native to the island and holds significant cultural importance. Characterized by a V-shaped white mark on its chest, the Formosan Black Bear is the largest land animal in Taiwan.
It plays a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance by dispersing seeds and controlling insect populations. Conservation efforts are ongoing to protect this species as it faces threats from habitat loss and illegal hunting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why was the Taiwan Blue Magpie chosen as the national bird of Taiwan?
The Taiwan Blue Magpie was chosen for its unique beauty, cultural significance, and strong association with Taiwan’s natural heritage. It reflects the vibrant spirit of the country and its people.
What does the Taiwan Blue Magpie eat?
The Taiwan Blue Magpie has a varied diet that includes snakes, rodents, small insects, carrion, eggs and chicks of other birds, as well as fruits and seeds. They are also known to feed on food waste from humans.
Are Taiwan Blue Magpies dangerous to humans?
While they are not generally dangerous, Taiwan Blue Magpies are known to aggressively defend their nests, and there have been instances of them attacking humans to protect their territory.
Where can I see the Taiwan Blue Magpie in Taiwan?
The Taiwan Blue Magpie is commonly found in broadleaf forests at elevations of 300–1,200 meters, and they are also known to venture near human residences in the mountains.
Is the Taiwan Blue Magpie the only bird featured on an aircraft in Taiwan?
No, but it is notably featured in a special paint scheme on an Airbus A350 operated by China Airlines, showcasing its significance and popularity in Taiwan.