The Fascinating Oriental Magpie Robin

With its statue of two birds with outstretched wings, Doyel Chatwar in Dhaka is a tribute to the national bird of Bangladesh – the Magpie Robin, or more specifically the Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis) of the family Muscicapidae, order Passeriformes. Referred to locally as doyel or doel, this attractive little bird is displayed on the currency notes of Bangladesh and is a common sight throughout the country, in both rural and urban settings.

Known for its wide range of distinctive songs and its ability to imitate other bird-calls, the doel was at one time a popular caged bird, and is still sometimes kept as a pet – although they are at their best in the wild. The male’s upper part, throat and breast are shiny blue-black in color, with white under parts and brown tinged wings featuring a long white patch. Its black tail has white outer flight feathers (rectrices). The white parts of the female are similar to the male, but instead of the glossy blue-black color, females are brown-grey. Their preferred food is insects, although they are known to eat geckos and even fish at times.

When breeding season arrives – generally between February and July – male birds become very vocal, chirping and singing loudly, while puffing up their feathers, fanning out their tails and strutting around in an attempt to attract a mate. They are very territorial at this time and will bravely fight off any would-be intruders. The female constructs the nest, with favored positions being in tree hollows. In an urban setting they are fond of building in niches in walls or under the eaves of a roof. Four or five pale blue-green eggs with speckles are laid and incubated by the female until they hatch between eight and fourteen days later, when the female does most of the feeding of the chicks. Throughout this breeding process the male’s primary job is to protect the nest and its new little occupants.

Bangladesh has some superb birding destinations, with a wide variety of birds to make the experience very rewarding. The Oriental Magpie Robin is a fascinating bird to watch, no matter where you travel in this beautiful country.