Species group: Exotic Songbirds
Other common names: N/A
Scientific name: Leiothrix argentauris
The Silver-eared Mesia is a spectacular old world babbler with a very large natural range from the Indian subcontinent and into China and Southeast Asia. In the wild, it lives in small flocks, mates for life, and sings loud and melodious songs. They are highly respected aviary birds because of their confidence, their willingness to sing, and their ability to get along in a mixed species exhibit. Sadly, because they can be somewhat challenging to breed, they may be disappearing from aviculture.
This colorful songbird is a widespread, fairly common forest species that can be encountered in small flocks or family groups over a broad region in Asia. They are bold and confiding, able to use different habitats ranging from lowlands all the way up to altitudes of around 2,600 meters.
You can easily distinguish the Silver-eared Mesia from its better-known cousin, the Red-Billed Leothrix, by taking note of the Mesia's dramatic silvery ear patch. Overall, the bird gives the impression of being a more colorful version of the more popular species.
24 - 36 grams (0.8 - 1.3 oz.)
16 centimeters (6.3 in.)
8 - 15 years
Behavior / temperament:
Silver-eared Mesias don't know their own size. They have a bold, curious nature, and they will learn to fly to the hand to take their favorite treats like mealworms or blackberries. They are confident singers, although they may not care to sing in a dead silent house. They are social so, if you lack the ability to spend much one-on-one time with your pet, you should probably pair the bird with a companion, even if you don't want to set them up in a breeding situation. Because they are so bold, be cautious in an aviary situation because they may interfere with another pair's nesting attempts.
Considering the size of the bird, the song can be surprisingly loud as well as tuneful. Don't assume that the male will be content to provide the background music. Sometimes he will be able to sing loud enough to drown you out.
Although they are small, Silver-eared Mesias need large flights or aviaries. They cannot exercise by climbing. They need to fly. Choose a long flight, with plenty of area to include bird-safe green hanging plants. Since they have soft feces, keeping the area around the flights clean can be a consideration. You can use absorbent litter and scoop out any lumpy, damp places in the bottom every day, with a major cage cleaning at the end of each week. Many people house the birds in an outdoor flight or conservatory with a concrete floor that's easy to hose off each day. Half-inch wire mesh is recommended, because these small, agile, active birds will find a way out if you don't watch out. All outdoor birds need protection from mosquitoes, so make sure the aviary or conservatory is properly screened.
These curious birds will sometimes be seen picking up seed, but they cannot digest hard seed. They are true softbill birds, although they seem to be low risk for iron storage disease. A popular diet that works well is to mix the softbill pellets of your choice with chopped fruits and maybe a little bit of fruit juice to moisten the pellets. Any modern low iron mynah pelleted diet is probably fine. They love mealworms, but to keep the diet from becoming unbalanced, feed a non-breeding adult no more than 10 small mealworms a day. Give the mealworms to the bird by hand, to keep your pet tame and interested in you. You can also offer waxworms and/or small crickets. Never give more small crickets than the bird will clean up immediately, because crickets that get loose can make a lot of noise. You can allow the breeding and young growing birds to eat significantly more live food, up to 40 small mealworms a day, since they have a much higher need for protein.
Written by Elaine Radford