Breeding Cissas and Other Asian Corvids


Of all the birds in the Corvid family, Cissas are perhaps the most sought after in aviculture.

There are three species of Cissas with 12 sub-species. The Green Magpie ( Cissa chinensis), also known as the Long-tailed Hunting Cissa in aviculture, comes from the Malay Peninsula up into Annam (Vietnam) and as far north as China. Four sub-species are on the mainland with one sub-species, C. c. minor, coming from the islands of Sumatra to Burma. We have the mainland sub-species, Cissa c. klossi, and Cissa c. minor, the island subspecies, which is smaller than the mainland birds.

The Short-tailed Hunting Cissa (Cissa thalassina) comes from two islands, Java and Borneo. We have a female of the Javan sub-species Cissa t. thalassina. The Short-tailed has quite a musical song much like a songbird's. The other species we keep don't seem to.

Three sub-species of the Yellow-breasted Magpie (Cissa bypoleuca) come from Annam (Vietnam), Laos, and Thailand. There are two isolated sub-species in China. The Yellow-breasted have a longer crest and display it far more often than the other species. The species we keep are the nominate Cissa h. hypoleuca.


Cissas live along the border of the subtropical and tropical forest from sea level to 1800 feet +/-. In their natural habitat, they spend most of their time in the lower shrubs and are generally not seen but heard. When not breeding they gather in small parties and move through the forest, joining forces with laughing thrushes. They feed close to or on the ground consuming small insects, small reptiles and birds.

They are solitary nesters, the nest being described as a "large, rather flat platform of twigs interwoven with leaves bamboo and roots, cup lined with finer plant material, built in low shrubbery, bamboo thickets, vine tangles in the canopy of a small tree."

Cissas are a little larger than the American Blue Jay 03-14 inches). They are a beautiful light green color with chestnut-red colored wings, a black mask and red-orange beak, feet and eye ring. The green color seems to fade to a light blue color in captivity if the birds are exposed to too much sunlight and perhaps not given enough caratenoids in the diet. The males seem to turn more bluish than the females. The young we have raised all had bluish or turquoise feathers. Interestingly, Lynn Hall, fruit dove breeder and expert, informed me of seeing recently caught birds that were entirely blue at bird markets in Singapore. They do seem to spend most of their time in the aviary shelter or in the shade of the plants in the aviary.

The word "hunting" does describe the method the pair uses to capture their prey. When the prey (usually a feeder mouse) is spotted in the grass; the pair of cissas will stalk it together (like a brace of dogs) on either side of the aviary until it is cornered. At that point the male will usually make the kill.


We live at an elevation of 1200 feet and the temperature gets below freezing at night during the winter (down to 15 degrees). The birds are...




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Dclacour, J.; 1936 Aviculture Volume I, Stephen Austin and Sons, LTD., Hertford.

Madge, Steve and Burn, Hilary, Crows and Jays, 1994, Houghton Mifflin Company.

Plasse, Chelle; 1992 AFA Proceedings. Corvids. Sunset Western Garden Book, Sunset publishing Woolham, Frank; The Handbooks of Aviculture, Blandford Press.