Oriental Magpie Robin: the song of Hue’s Citadel

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  • Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis)

Everywhere I go there is one distinctive birdsong that I associate with the location. I recently spent the day exploring the Ancient Citadel and Royal Forbidden City in Hue, Vietnam.

Constantly hunted as food or for caged pets, the birds of Vietnam and quite shy. The Magpie Robin’s beautiful song however, carried throughout the Citadel.

Hue is a beautiful city and the Citadel tranquil and beautiful…..hard to imagine that it was the scene of a ferocious battle in 1968. The North Vietnamese army and Viet Cong occupied it during their Tet holiday assault on the city.

The Forbidden City of Hue's Citadel

After several weeks of fierce fighting, the U.S. Marine Corps retook both the city and the Citadel. They used great restraint to save this historic place…refusing to use bombs or artillery. Today it is a major tourist attraction, and a peaceful respite from a busy city in a developing nation.

U.S. Marines fighting at Hue's Citadel. UPI photo

Forty some years ago, the bird population of Vietnam was all but eliminated by years of constant shelling and bombing.

Since then, the dietary habits of the Vietnamese have kept the avian popultation at a low level. There weren’t many birds to be seen at the Citadel, but the song of the Oriental Magpie Robin characterised the palace for me. It’s a beautiful song, and it isn’t hard to imagine ancient Emperors and Mandarins hearingthe same notes on warm breezes.

Oriental Magpie Robin...often hidden in the trees

A resident breeder throughout tropical Asia, the Oriental Magpie Robin can be found both in the forest and in urban gardens.

One of the many pavilions of the Citadel

Emperor Gia Long began the building of the Citadel in 1804. Hue and the Citadel served as Vietnam’s capital until the nation’s independance in 1945.

Singing the song of Tropical Asia

Golden Dragon inside the Ngo Mon gate

One cannot help but appreciate the serenity of the ancient palace, temples and pavillions.

Guarded by golden dragons and serenaded by hidden birds.

Steven Scott

Steven Scott

Steven Scott is a photonaturalist blogger based in Florida and Maine. He has surveyed butterflies with Earthwatch Institute in the mountains of Vietnam, tagged juvenile snook with Mote Marine Laboratory in the mangroves of Florida and filmed a BioBlitz insect survey in Acadia National Park. A registered nurse and retired Army officer, Steven believes man is an integral part of nature and travels annually to Vietnam with humanitarian medical teams from Vets With a Mission.

Steven Scott

Steven Scott

Steven Scott is a photonaturalist blogger based in Florida and Maine. He has surveyed butterflies with Earthwatch Institute in the mountains of Vietnam, tagged juvenile snook with Mote Marine Laboratory in the mangroves of Florida and filmed a BioBlitz insect survey in Acadia National Park. A registered nurse and retired Army officer, Steven believes man is an integral part of nature and travels annually to Vietnam with humanitarian medical teams from Vets With a Mission.

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Glenn Bartley

Steven, birding in Vietnam is a not very well known and this is an informative and interesting introduction with some great shots of the Forbidden City – also the Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis) – this is a new species for me.