April 19, 2021

The Silver-Eared Mesia—A Bird That Resembles All Of The Beautiful Autumn Colors

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.

With autumn knocking at our doors already, this beautiful bird named the Silver-Eared Mesia, comes as a very welcome treat that beholds all of this season’s color.

The silver-eared mesia (Leiothrix argentauris) is a beautiful bird blessed with a plethora of stunning colors. It’s a songbird of the babbler family called Timaliidae and can be found in several countries across Asia.

Luke Seitz

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.

Vincent Wang

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.

Frank Thierfelder

Most of us have neither seen nor heard of Silver-Eared Mesia. These species are found throughout southern Asia, particularly in Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Laos. They are fond of moist, tropical forests of southern China and will sometimes migrate to down to India in the winter.

Anonymous eBirder

This colorful bird is named for the unique silver patches around its ears, although the entire body is highlighted with a range of lovely autumnal hues. With a tiny black face, that contrasts sharply with its silver ears, gray tail, yellow feathers, bright red wing patch, yellow wings, gray wingtips, and the sweetest olive-green back, this bird is one of nature’s most adorable designs (and yes, that was a mouthful) [1]

Instagram | @kinlfong

It’s also one of the few bird species where there’s not much of a distinction between the males and females. The most obvious difference is that the males have red-orange throats while the females have a yellow color.

Instagram | @patrick.tanch

With an adult size of about 15.5–17 cm (6.1-6.7 in) and an average weight of 22–29g (0.75-1oz), these birds are extremely tiny and not always that obvious – despite the barrage of colors. Thankfully, they travel in noisy flocks and often prefer cool, moist typical climates. While mostly found in Hong Kong and Pakistan, they can also be found year-round in gardens and bushes in Southern China, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Malaysia.

Instagram | @hasanuddinahamid

True songbirds

These birds may be noisy but they beautifully so. They travel in groups of 6 to 30 and have a characteristic sweet, whistling song that’s often belted out in relaxing tunes. For this reason, along with their adorable colors, these birds are subject to relentless poaching in the area and are usually kept as cage birds. However, the bird is currently categorized as “least concern” on the IUCN red list, but they still need to be protected and regulated [2].

Experts believe there are about 7 subspecies under the argentauris species since color patterns tend to shift and change in ratios.

The females lay a clutch of four eggs at once in a tiny cup-shaped nest. Their diet consists mostly of insects, seeds, and fruits, and they can often be found poking under nests and leaves searching for critters and fallen berries. Despite being somewhat social, the birds are not always that easy to spot. Local resorts and gardens appreciate the burst of cheerful color they add to the scenery, so they would often leave out feeders with the birds’ favorite snacks at strategic locations to attract them and other local species.


  1. Amy Pilkington. The Silver-Eared Mesia Is A Riot Of Autumnal Colors. Diply. https://crafty.diply.com/132777/the-silver-eared-mesia-is-a-riot-of-autumnal-colors  Retrieved 13-06-2020
  2. Silver-eared Mesia. IUCN. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/103878477/94498105  Retrieved 13-06-2020
  3. Mesia. Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/animal/mesia  Retrieved 13-06-2020