Be Your Own Birder

Bird of the Week: Silver-Eared Mesia

Today we continue our salute to fall-inspired featured birds with a bird that reminds us to look beyond our own backyards and borders to appreciate the full world of avifauna. The silver-eared mesia may not be a bird we’ve all seen or even heard of (I hadn’t until a few weeks ago), but its stunning plumage couldn’t be more perfectly reminiscent of autumn.

Silver-Eared Mesia

Silver-Eared Mesia – Photo by JJ Harrison

Name: Silver-Eared Mesia
Scientific Name: Leiothrix argentauris
Scientific Family: Leiothrichidae (Laughingthrushes)

Habitat: Prefers cool, moist tropical forests, including plantations and gardens, ideally with broadleaf trees or mixed vegetation to provide suitable insect habitat and a range of fruits for abundant foraging. Hardy and sturdy, often staying at higher elevations even in winter.

Range: Found year-round throughout suitable habitats from Nepal into southern China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia. This bird’s colorful plumage makes it popular in the pet trade and it is subject to poaching, with escaped birds possible far away from its native range.

From brilliant foliage to harvest fruits and vegetables to colorful costumes, fall is a riot of reds, yellows and oranges with every shade of brown and green in the mix, accented with bits of gray, black and white for dramatic effect. The silver-eared mesia is the same – a stunning bird that includes all these autumnal hues, on both genders. The black face starkly contrasts with the silver-white cheeks that give this bird its name, but the name doesn’t do justice to the olive-green back, bright red-orange throat and nape (on males; females are yellow), gray tail with yellow outer feathers, yellow wings with gray wingtips, bright red wing patch and rump (females have an orange-red or yellowish rump), pale legs or yellow bill. Different subspecies have slightly different color variations, but all are just as beautiful with the autumn colors they sport.

I haven’t yet been privileged to see these birds, but I hope to one day – no matter what the season. They are relatively common in their range, but because they prefer forests and higher altitudes, they may be more difficult to find. In some areas, however, they readily come to feeders where fruits, seeds and mealworms are offered. Many local resorts know just how attractive and popular these birds are, and set up feeding stations to attract them and other local specialties. Fortunately, they are also somewhat social, and where one silver-eared mesia is seen, others are likely to be nearby, except in very sparse or isolated areas, where all birds tend to be more solitary.

Even if I – or you – never manage to see this bird in person, we spread our wings just a bit further and expand our appreciation of all the amazing birds in the world when we learn more about the species and other birds we may never have known about before. Happy birding!

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