Scientific Name: Dendrocitta vagabunda
Name: Rufous Treepie
This noisy bird is found across India. It is an arboreal species, often feeding in treetops with great agility. The adult of nominate race has sooty blackish head, breast and upper mantle, with darker face and throat. The upperparts are rufescent-brown turning orange-buff on uppertail-coverts. On the upperwing, secondary wing-coverts and tertials are silvery-grey, contrasting with the black rest of wing. The long graduated tail is pale grey with wide terminal band. On the underparts, the lower parts are deep buff-rufous, turning orange-buff on undertail-coverts. The bill is blackish-grey. The eyes are deep red to reddish-brown. Legs and feet are dark grey. Both sexes are similar. The juvenile is duller with brown hood and mantle, whitish-buff rump, uppertail-coverts and underparts. The wings are brown instead black, and the pale grey wing panel is tinged creamy-buff. The outer rectrices show narrow pale buff tips. There are nine subspecies which differ in size and colour tones.
Size in cm:
Size in Inch
gray (Bird may have more colors)
The Rufous Treepie is omnivorous and feeds on numerous insects and their larvae such as Orthoptera, Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera and Isoptera. It also takes spiders, snails and small vertebrates such as small birds, rodents, bats, snakes, frogs and lizards. Plant matter such as fruits and nectar are consumed, and carrion too.
Habit and habited:
The Rufous Treepie frequents all types of open deciduous woodlands, dry forest, mixed deciduous forest, secondary growth and sometimes cultivated areas with scattered trees. It can be seen in urban parks and large gardens. This species is visible mainly in lowlands, and usually below 1000 metres, but according to the range, it can be found up to 2100 metres of elevation.
The Rufous Treepie gives loud, metallic, flute-like koku-lii or ko-ki-la. This advertising call is very familiar in India. The pairs utter loud kuki-uii-akuak and also ekhekhekh calls. Alarm calls are harsh herh-herh-herh-herh hah-hah-hah herh-herh-herh… These birds have wide repertoire of harsh calls, squawks and musical notes.
The Rufous Treepie is omnivorous like most Corvidae species. It feeds primarily on large variety of insects and their larvae, spiders, snails and small vertebrates such as young birds, small birds, rodents, bats, snakes, frogs and lizards. It may kill small birds.
This species scavenges near villages for food waste. It feeds on carrion too. But it also consumes plant matter such as wild figs from Ficus, and a variety of other fruits from several plant species, and cultivated fruits in orchards. Nectar is also taken at flowering trees.
The Rufous Treepie is opportunistic and may take food from the hand at picnic areas. They usually occur in pairs or in small family groups. However, they may gather in great numbers at abundant food sources.
It takes advantage of disturbed insects from tree trunks or leaf litter by other bird species such as drongos and woodpeckers. It follows domestic cattle and wild large mammals to feed on ectoparasites and all invertebrates flushed by the large animals.
The Rufous Treepie feeds on the ground where it performs short hops with raised tail. But when feeding in trees, it is very agile. It clings and clambers among branches while searching for food.