Today’s bird is it one that is fairly common throughout the forests of Madagascar, but which I haven’t been able to get a good picture until now: the Madagascar magpie-robin. Although these birds occur in rainforest as well as deciduous forests of the type we had here in Anjajavy, the density of growth in the rain forest and the lack of light can make them hard to see.
But here in the deciduous forest, most of the leaves have fallen from the trees, letting lots of sun through. Plus, we have a reforestation nursery right next to our lodge, full of native species’ seedlings. The Madagascar magpie-robins seem to love the low growth, where they hop around the dusty, leaf-strewn frown in search of spiders and insects.
Male and female Madagascar magpie robins have distinct coloration. The males, with their black upper body and white bellies, are easier to identify from a distance. That I prefer the coloration of the female, which has wonderfully subtle rainbow of browns, from rusty orange-brown to bluish gray-brown. back in the early 2000 I went through a phase of dying all my clothes with black walnut husks, and every piece would turn out a different shade of brown depending on the fabric type and previous color. The female Madagascar magpie-robin makes me want to give a go of dying everything brown again, because she proves just how not-boring brown can be.
Why are Madagascar magpie-robins called “magpie-robins”? My guess is that some Europeans came up with the name because they were reminded of birds back home. The male’s black-and-white coloring is reminiscent of the Eurasian magpie‘s black-and-white pattern, and the female looks a bit like the brown-and-rust European robin if you squint.