Closely related to crows, these Javan green magpies are known to have an extensive vocabulary

By Saryn Chorney
May 02, 2018 04:24 PM
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Newquay Zoo

A pair of exceedingly rare and incredibly beautiful songbirds have just arrive at the Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, England.

According to a release from the zoo, the Javan green magpie is one of most endangered songbirds in the world, and the Cornish charity zoo is one of only five collections in Europe where they can be viewed (and listened to). This fact now makes them the rarest species in the entire zoo.

The zoo’s exhibit, called “Gems of the Jungle,” was created to highlight issues surrounding the trade of caged birds.

The birds — which some say resemble pretty little Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! — are native to Java, in Indonesia. The birds owe their vibrant green feathers to a diet rich in vitamins and pigments like luteins (not pizza, sorry). This species of magpie is omnivorous, preferring to eat a bit of ripe papaya along with their diet of insects and mice.

Newquay Zoo

“The most important challenge in caring for the green magpies is making sure the insects they eat are loaded with the correct amount of luteins and nutrients to keep their feathers that lovely green,” said Senior Bird Keeper Gary Ward in a press release.

Closely related to crows, these Javan green magpies are known to have an extensive vocabulary. Unfortunately, this makes the bird a prime target for the songbird trade.

“I hear a different call from them every day, they’re amazing, noisy birds,” Ward shared.

Sadly, due to ongoing trapping from the songbird trade and habitat loss, the population of this species is dropping fast. Worse yet, this stunning species may already be extinct in the wild. The future of this rare bird population is likely to be within zoos.

Newquay Zoo

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Newquay Zoo aspires to aid and advance the Javan green magpie population by breeding this pair. While they’re not old enough to mate yet, according to Ward, there have been courting signs.

“I’ve noticed them beginning to dance around one another, a sign of courting, so hopefully they could breed soon,” says Ward. “We will provide her with the materials she needs to build a nest in the hope that we can begin to play our part in the conservation of this magnificent species. It is imperative that we learn about these birds to prevent their extinction.”