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Asian Fairy-bluebird Picture

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Male taking off from Peepal (Ficus religiosa) at Jayanti in Buxa Tiger Reserve

The Asian Fairy Bluebird, Irena puella, is a medium-sized, arboreal passerine bird.

This fairy-bluebird breeds across tropical southern Asia from the Himalayan foothills, India and Sri Lanka east to Indonesia. This species is found in moist hill-forest. Two or three eggs are laid in a small cup nest in a tree. It was described by British ornithologist John Latham in 1790. The only other member of the genus is the Philippine Fairy-bluebird I. cyanogastra.

The adult Asian Fairy Bluebird is about 27 cm long. The male has glossy, iridescent blue upperparts, and black underparts and flight feathers. The female and first year male are entirely dull blue-green.

The Asian Fairy Bluebird eats fruit, nectar and some insects. Its call is a liquid two note glue-it.

Description Male on Peepal Ficus religiosa at Jayanti in Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal

The Asian Fairy Bluebird measures around 10.5 cm long, with the tail measuring 4.2 cm, the wing 5.1 cm, and tarsus 0.85 cm; the bill is 1.2inches from gape. The iris is crimson and eyelids pinkish; the bill, legs and claws are black, and mouth a flesh- colour. Marked sexual dimorphism is evident. The male is a shining ultramarine-blue with lilac reflections on its upper plumage, lesser wing-coverts, and under tail-coverts, while the sides of its head and the whole lower plumage are deep black; greater wing-coverts, quills, and tail black, and some of the coverts tipped with blue, and the middle tail-feathers glossed with blue.

The upper plumage, the lesser wing-coverts, and the lower tail-coverts of the female are brownish blue, with the edges of the feathers brighter. The middle tail-feathers and the outer webs of all the others, except the outer pair, like the upper plumage, and remainder of tail dark brown ; primaries and secondaries dark brown. The greater wing-coverts, primary- coverts, and tertiaries dark brown, with a blue tinge on the outer webs ; sides of the head and whole lower plumage blue, very similar to the upper parts. The young resemble the female. The male changes into adult plumage in March, the change taking place without a moult. The feathers of the upper parts first become fringed with bright blue ; the tail-coverts next become changed ; the lower plumage takes the longest to change, and young birds may frequently be met with having the lower plumage mixed black and dull blue, hut the upper plumage that of the adult.

I. cyanea, from the Malay peninsula, differs in having the under tail-coverts longer, nearly reaching to the tip of the tail.

Distribution and habitat

Sri Lanka; the western coast of India from Travancore up to the latitude of Belgaum and Sawantwadi; Sikkim and the lower ranges of the Himalayas to Dibrugarh in Assam; the Khasi Hills; Cachar ; Manipur ; Arrakan ; Bago and Taninthayi Division in Burma; the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This species is confined entirely to the evergreen forests of the hills and plains, and it is found up to about 4000 feet of elevation. It extends some distance down the Malay peninsula and into Siam.


This bird is common in most of the tracts it frequents, going about in small parties or in pairs.

Calls (whiplash) along with some Iole indica calls


It feeds principally on fruit and is generally found on the larger forest-trees.


It breeds from February to April, constructing a shallow cup-shaped nest, sometimes of moss and sometimes of small twigs, in a sapling or small tree. The eggs, which are generally two in number, are greenish white marked with brown, and measure about 1.14 cm by .77 cm.

Male and female Cotigao NP, Goa, India




Male in the Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens

Female feeding on Peepal (Ficus religiosa) at Jayanti in Buxa Tiger Reserve

Male feeding on Peepal (Ficus religiosa) at Jayanti in Buxa Tiger Reserve

Female feeding on Peepal (Ficus religiosa) at Jayanti in Buxa Tiger Reserve

Male feeding on Peepal (Ficus religiosa) at Jayanti in Buxa Tiger Reserve

  1. ^ Oates, E. W. (1889) Fauna of British India. Birds. Volume 1.

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