Mystery Bird: Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Calocitta colliei

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[Mystery bird] Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Calocitta colliei,, photographed in Mexico [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]
Image: Rick Wright.

This mystery bird quiz has a twist: Name ten other bird species that share this mystery bird’s habitat. Or, to put it another way, if you see this species while out birding, what other species are likely to also appear on your bird list for this area? Hint: to answer this quiz, you have to correctly identify this bird, learn where its range is and identify the type of habitat it lives in, and then you can name at least ten other bird species that you will likely find in the same area.


Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
No doubt there’s a bird in there, but it’s a bit hard to see against the evening sky. But once we’ve picked it out, it’s a straightforward identification: a lanky, strong-footed creature with a powerful, “generalist” bill — and a crest that would make a peacock proud. A really careful look will reveal an extravagantly long tail with a generous dollop of white on the edge.
This is a Black-throated Magpie-Jay, a bird that breeds commonly within 9 hours’ drive of the US border (and can be seen as escaped cagebirds in southern California). The identification is not much of a challenge, so let’s vary the question: What other species does this dramatic bird share its tropical deciduous forest habitat with? What other birds are lurking just beyond the edges of the photo? The question is important. If you don’t know what to expect when you enter a new habitat, you’re that much less likely to leave it having seen anything.
So name, say, 10 other species that inhabit this jay’s home forest, and give yourself extra credit for each one with a range as restricted as the magpie-jay.
Review all mystery birds to date.
GrrlScientist comment: here are my guesses:
White-throated Magpie-jay, Calocitta formosa
Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Empidonax difficilis
Costa’s Hummingbird, Calypte costae
Black-chinned Hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri
Hairy Woodpecker, Picoides villosus
Streak-backed Oriole, Icterus pustulatus
Yellow Grosbeak, Pheucticus chrysopeplus
Blue Grosbeak, Guiraca caerulea
Varied Bunting, Passerina versicolor
Turquoise-browed Motmot, Eumomota superciliosa
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Camptostoma imberbe
Common Ground-Dove, Columbina passerina
Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Picoides scalaris
Verdin, Auriparus flaviceps
Bell’s Vireo, Vireo bellii
Abert’s Towhee,

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About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
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0 Responses to Mystery Bird: Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Calocitta colliei

  1. Black-throated magpie-jay, a bird I only recognized because I’ve always admired the painting of it on the cover of my copy of A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America.
    That book gives the habitat as “arid to semihumid woodland, semiopen areas with scattered trees and forest patches.” It also mentions that white-throated magpie-jay can be found in the same habitat in part of its range, so there’s one of the ten species, at least, though I don’t think I have time at the moment to try to identify more. Maybe someone who’s more expert (by which I mean, familiar at all) with Mexican birds can help?

  2. Sharon Chester says:

    Mystery bird — Black-throated Magpie-Jay (formerly considered a subspecies of the White-throated Magpie-Jay?)
    Sharing arid to semi-arid woodland and cactus scrub habitat in w Mexico: Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Black-vented Oriole, Thick-billed Kingbird, Lesser Roadrunner, Harris’ Hawk, Crested Caracara, Gilded Flicker, Rufous-backed Thrush, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Rufous-naped Wren, Black-chested Sparrow, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Colima Warbler, Russet-crowned Motmot, Canyon Wren, Orange-fronted Parakeet, Rose-throated Becard, Ruddy Ground Dove, Squirrel Cuckoo.

  3. JPS says:

    There are a few parts to the question in the post. I’ll try to answer in parts.
    First, considering that the earlier series of posts had pictures from Arizona and there are outlines of large cactuses (saguaro?) and a bush (mesquite?) I’m going with desert/scrub habitat in Arizona.
    The outline of the bird is not completely clear. I can’t tell if that a crest at the back of the head and how long the tail is. I’ll check guide books for the rest of my answer.

  4. arby says:

    Tree kangaroo. rb

  5. apikoros says:

    arby, I’m right there with you! I immediately identified it as the Australian Tree Wallaby but I suspected I might be wrong, glad to have confirmation. I don’t know the birds of Australia, so I’ll let that part pass.

  6. Darrell Lee says:

    I saw the Black-throated Magpie Jay near Mazatlan, Sinaloa. Other birds seen in Sinaloa on our trip (which continued into Nayarit, Jalisco, and Colima) were Collared Forest Falcon, Rufous-bellied Chachalaca*, Elegant Quail*, Military Macaw, Lilac-crowned Parrot*, Berylline Hummingbird, Plain-capped Starthroat, Mountain Trogon, Golden-cheeked Woodpecker*, White-striped Woodcreeper, Eye-ringed Flatbill (I know, but I saw it), Tufted Flycatcher, Greater Pewee, Pine Flycatcher, Nuttings Flycatcher*, Sulfur-bellied Flycatcher, Gray-collared Becard, Golden Vireo, Yellow-green Vireo, Tufted Jay, Purplish-backed Jay*, Sinaloa Crow*, Sinaloa Wren*, Brown-backed Solitaire, Russet Nightingale-thrush, White-throated Robin, Rufous-collared Robin, Blue Mockingbird, Gray Silky-Flycatcher, Tropical Parula, Spot-breasted (Crescent-chested) Warbler, Red Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Golden-browed Warbler, Red-headed Tanager, Scrub Euphonia, Elegant Euphonia, Rusty-crowned Ground-sparrow, Rusty Sparrow, Gray Saltator, Yellow Grosbeak*, Blue Bunting, Varied Bunting, Streak-backed Oriole*, (Yellow-winged) Mexican Cacique*, Black-headed Siskin, and White-collared Seedeater*. The asterisks mark species which were seen in the same Sinaloa thorn forest habitat near Mazatlan with the Black-throated Magpie Jay. Many of the other Sinaloa species were seen in more mountainous habitat.
    Darrell Lee
    Alameda, CA

  7. Rick Wright says:

    Here’s a partial list of the birds in that same southern Sonora forest that afternoon:
    White-fronted Parrot
    Mexican Parrotlet
    Gila Woodpecker
    Lineated Woodpecker
    Thick-billed Kingbird
    Social Flycatcher
    Purplish-backed Jay
    Rufous-backed Thrush
    Black-capped Gnatcatcher
    Streak-backed Oriole
    Hooded Oriole
    I’d planned to return to that very road week after next, but Norbert put paid to that by washing out roads and bridges and destroying houses in the area, so think we’ll head for Yecora instead, where we’ll see a different suite of high-elevation birds.

  8. Nancy Carson says:

    A black throated magpie jay is living in BLue Diamond, Nevada.