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Green-billed Malkoha?, Hainan (1 Viewer)

Hainan on the fly

Well-known member
I was out for a walk with my wife and son the other day and caught a quick glimpse of a dark colored bird in flight with an incredibly long tail. The tail must have been 150% of the birds body length. The only possible species I can come up with is the Green-billed Malkoha. Are there any other species that I am missing?


Hi again, Brian. Possibilities are almost endless, especially in Hainan as the climate would mean many cage birds could possibly survive for quite awhile in the wild. Caged birds escaping or being turned lose are quite common in China due to ancient tradition. Even when the trade is officially illegal it is common and ignored by the police. A decorative or especially unusual feature could make it more likely for cage trade. A long decorative tail or bright colors. I've even photographed a Red-Billed Leiothrix here in DongBei.

A White-Rumped Shama or Japanese Paradise Flycatcher are also possible for Hainan.

Striated or Hill Prinia possible in Hainan. Sometimes it is easy to somewhat misjudge something like tail length as your mind can exaggerate what you were especially impressed with. A common thing as any experienced birder will tell you.

A real possibility might be something as simple as an Oriental Magpie. I see quite a bit of variation in tail lengths here with some having tails long enough to attract a closer look. Now that I type this, it occurs to me that Red-Billed Blue-Magpie is a real likely candidate. https://ebird.org/species/rbbmag/ I've only seen three individuals up here, but their tail is exceptionally and noticeably long. Also a large bird that stands out.

And yes, it has been snowing, very cold or windy or any combination here for the last week and I am bored and itching to get out and bird, hence taking the time to look into this. Weather is better today, so I'm just waiting for the little sun we get to warm things up a bit to get out.

I've not been to Hainan before, but there is a fair bit of overlap with the birds in Guangxi, where I live. If the bird you observed was large in size, Green-billed Malkhoa or Red-Billed Blue Magpie are the two that come to mind. Both of these are big enough birds to really catch your eye (unlike a Yellow-billed or Hill Prinia which are not very large or eye-catching, and typically would be lower to the ground). Those two tend to be higher up in trees, so that would be another useful factor in thinking about what it may have been.

Hi Brian

What was the habitat?

Green-billed Malkoha is a bird of forests and Red-billed Blue Magpie of urban parks and more open country. Unless you were depp in the forst the magpie is more likely - and can definitely be surprisingly long.

Thanks guys! This is all great information! I think you guys are right, the Red-Billed Blue-Magpie is a very likely candidate. I saw the bird flying from tree to tree about 7 meters high. This was on the edge of a forest that bordered a farmers field. Hopefully I will get a better look in the future and can use the information you all have provided to make a successful identification.


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