What is a Magpie?

Magpies are small to medium-sized birds that belong to the crow family and live in a variety of habitats including meadows, grasslands, woodlands, farmlands, hedgerows and on the edges of dense forests. Magpie inhabits can be also frequently found in the parks and gardens in the urban and suburban areas. There are 15 species of magpie that are found in Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe. Despite recurrent friction with humans, magpie is infinite and widespread in the wild (not recorded as endangered species).


Magpies are easily identified as black-and-white-colored birds. These birds are omnivores and consume insects during the summer, small rodents during the spring, nuts, berries and fruits during the winter. They build huge nests often with two entry passages. Magpies are well-recognized for a wide variation of chirps, squeals, whistles, warbles, and other sounds they make. They reside in flocks, or murders.

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Amazing Facts about Magpie Bird

  • Males and female magpie birds look alike.

  • The magpie bird is in the same family as crows and jays.

  • A magpie bird’s tail is as long as its body.

  • Magpie birds sometimes eat ticks found on elk, deer, and other huge mammals.

  • This bird lays 6 to 9 eggs that are brown/green in color.

  • Magpie can reach up to 16-18 inches in length and weighs about 7 to 9 ounces.

  • A speck of white feathers on their wings make them stand out when taking flight.

  • Upper parts of the body and wings are black-colored with glittering and twinkling blue, green, and purple sheen.

  • Belly, parts of wings, flanks and ramp are encapsulated with white plumage.

  • It is an average flier, but credits to its long tail it can easily exercise through the air and quickly change direction of flight when required.

  • Magpie is often categorized as a pest since it produces damage in the fields and gardens where it searches food.

  • Magpie likes to store and stockpile shiny objects and jewelry in the nest, though they are actually scared of shiny items.

  • It is a very intelligent bird and one of the rare animals that can perceive its own image in the mirror (only a few apes, Asian elephant and bottlenose dolphin are able to recognize themselves in the mirror).

  • It is a sedentary bird. It spends the majority of its life in the radius of 6 miles of its birthplace.

  • The bird is always been surrounded by superstition

  • Group of magpies is referred to as parliament. They interact with each other through loud rattling calls.

  • Magpie lives in loose flocks and in large groups of around 200 birds.

  • Natural enemies of magpies are cats, dogs, and birds of prey like goshawks.

  • Magpies are monogamous birds and their mating season takes place during the spring and mate for a lifetime.

  • Magpie numbers in Ireland and Britain have quadrupled in last 35 years, with increase specifically noticeable in suburban areas

  • Magpies can sustain about 5 years in the wild.

Magpie Nesting

Magpies nest in the trees. Though most nests are constructed in trees, where there are no appropriate trees they will build on the ground. Nest can be frequently shielded with a roof and facilitated with two entrances. Long-eared owls frequently adopt old magpie nests. Communal winter roosts may bear as many as 200 birds and generally depart before sunrise.


 Nest Tree sexes seem to select a nesting site together and each begin building separate nests in different locations. They build their dome nests in conifer trees, shrubs, utility poles, and even in deserted structures. They nest in open woodlands, farm fields, riparian thickets, and suburban areas. Magpie pairs build their domed nests, which vary widely in size typically about 20 inches wide and 30 inches high.


Nesting Facts


Description

Measurement

Clutch Size

1-9 eggs

Number of Broods

1 brood

Egg Width

0.8-1.0 inches

Egg Length

1.2-1.5 inches

Incubation Period

15-19 days

Nestling Period

25-30 days

Egg Description

Olive-brown with differing amount of dark brown speckles

Condition at Hatching

Naked with pink skin. Eyes are closed for the initial 7 days.


Scientific and Physical Facts


Characteristics

Description

Kingdom

Animalia

Family

Corvidae

Scientific Name

Pica Pica

Genus

Pica

Class

Aves

Order

Passeriformes

Type

Bird

Lifestyle

Solitary

Habitat

Open grasslands, woodland, and savannas

Diet

Omnivore

Main Prey

Insects , Fruit, Nuts and Seeds

Distinctive Feature

Black and white specks and long wedge tail

Wingspan

20in - 24inches

Predators

Cats, Foxes, Coyote


Magpie Physical Characteristics

Magpie characteristics are as follows:-

Characteristic

Description

Color

Black and White

Skin Type

Feathers

Highest Speed

20 mph

Length

16 - 18inches

Weight

200g - 250g

Physical Feature

Prolonged, pointed beak, short, rounded wings and wedge-shaped, long tail.

Lifespan

8 - 15 years


About Magpie Bird Appearance

  • Magpies have tiny dark eyes which are always searching the environment.

  • Two dark feet with three thin toes pointing forward and one pointing backward.

  • These birds have a side shot having a faded background

  • When magpies move, take long, slow steps and appear to be strutting instead of just walking, earning them a reputation of being aggressive birds.

  • Black-billed magpie bird has a collection of black and white feathers. Moreover, its wings feature feathers that are a sparkling bluish/green.

  • The Eurasian magpie is quite identical to the Black-billed magpie.

  • The Australian magpie has black and white bill and feathers too. But on the contrary to the other two, it consists of white feathers running up the back of its neck.

Magpie Habitat

Magpies make their home in different places throughout the world, including Asia, Africa, North America, parts of Europe, and also in the southeastern Asian islands. They require a temperate climate to survive. For example, a Black-billed magpie residing in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado may walk up to a lower elevation if the weather turns cold. But, being a non-migratory bird they don’t stray far year-round from home. 


Magpie Population - How Many Magpie Birds Are Left?

There are approximately over 5 million Black-billed magpies residing in North America. The status of official conservation is of least concern. Their population is possessing balance though these birds face some threats. For example, they are considered pests by some farmers since they steal seed and grain from across barnyards. A farmer may put poison to kill magpies that have intruded their property.

The Australian magpie population is increasing and has a conservation status of Least Concern.

A few magpies in some parts of the world are classified as Endangered. For example, the population of Asir magpie birds is decreasing because of loss of habitat. The Juniper forests in Africa where magpies live are being cleared.

Moreover, the Javan Green magpie is extremely endangered. The magpie population in Southeast Asia is reducing as they are trapped by humans to be sold as pets.

Scientists thought there are approximately 19 million breeding pairs of Eurasian magpies. 


Magpie Predators

Magpies have a few predators including domestic dogs, cats, owls and foxes. In addition, they can have eggs and chicks stolen out of their nest by hawks, minks, raccoons, and weasels.


Magpie birds are bold birds that are not frightened from spending time around humans and domestic neighborhoods. They run off with food from trash cans and try to eat from a bird feeder. This activity makes them susceptible to cats and dogs in the region.


Magpie Reproduction and Life Cycle

The Black-billed magpies breeding season runs from March to July. Male magpies seek the attention of females by advertising the glowing white feathers on their wings.


Once a female and a male become a breeding pair, they are together till one of them dies. When one amongst the pair dies, the other magpie may search for another mate, but that’s not mandatory.


These male and female magpies build an unusually vast nest out of grass, hair, string, sticks, mud and vines. Amazingly, the nest of a magpie consists of a canopy, or roof, constructed of sticks as well as two entrances. Magpies sometimes make their nest as high as 30 feet up in the tree branches.


Magpie Juvenile

A baby magpie is known as a chick. A female magpie lies from up to 9 eggs per group. Hatching takes 16 to 21 days for the eggs. While the female sits on the eggs, the male looks for food to feed his mate. Once a magpie leaves the nest and starts to explore its environment, it is called fledgling.


Interestingly, these birds are born blind and with NO feathers. In the first week after birth, the chicks develop a layer of downy feathers. Their eyes open around day 10. The chicks leave the nest when they get about 25 days old.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What is a Magpie Known For?

Answer: These birds are known for their bold personality and brilliance. They are quite prominent for their songs and calls. Many birds consist of a song or a few calls, but magpies babble, whistle, warble and peep. These birds have even been recognized to imitate sounds around them such as dogs barking or wind chimes. As was foreseeable, when flocks or murders of magpies start to call to one another it can get very loud!


As per bird symbolism in western culture, magpie birds speak of bad luck. But, in the bird symbolism embraced by eastern cultures, magpies characterize good luck. However, it could be that they don’t represent either one!

Q2. Are Magpies Dangerous?

Answer: Magpies are not harmful; but, they are territorial birds. This implies that they don’t like other animals to proceed towards their nest. Time and again, when a predator like a hawk or a raccoon attempts to steal eggs from a magpie’s nest, a flock of magpies will try to drive away the intruder. If an individual ever gets too close to a magpie’s nest, the bird may flit and beat its wings trying to agitate the individual away. The magpie would do this in an attempt to safeguard its young even if the individual meant no harm.

Q3. What is the Difference Between a Magpie and a Crow?

Answer: Following are the differences between the crow and a magpie:-

  • Magpies and crows belong to the same family and they are both wise birds. In spite of many similarities there are a few differences between them.

  • Magpie birds are larger than Crows. A magpie consists of a tail that reckons half of its body length. 

  • A magpie’s tail is long making it larger than a crow.

  • Magpies are not migratory whereas crows migrate during the fall season.

  • Black-billed magpie has a mix of black and white feathers along with green blended in. Alternatively, a crow’s body is blanketed in black feathers without any markings. Several other species of magpie have feathers that are much brighter in color.

Q4. Are Magpies Herbivores, Omnivores, or Carnivores?

Answer: Magpies are Omnivores, indicating they consume both plants and other animals.

Q5. What are the Different Types of Magpies?

Answer: Either the Korean, North American, and remaining Eurasian forms are undertaken as three or four separate species, or only a Pica pica exists.


A. Holarctic (Black-and-White) Magpies

  • Black-billed magpie, Pica hudsonia 

  • Yellow-billed magpie, Pica nuttalli 

  • Oriental (blue and green) magpies

  • Genus Pica

  • Eurasian magpie, Pica pica

  • Korean magpie, Pica sericea 

  • Asir magpie, Pica asirensis 

  • Black-rumped magpie. Pica bottenensis 

  • Maghreb magpie, Pica mauritanica 

B. Genus Cissa

  • Azure-winged magpies

  • Bornean green magpie, Cissa jefferyi

  • Green magpie, Cissa chinensis

  • Indochinese green magpie, Cissa hypoleuca

  • Javan green magpie, Cissa thalassina

C. Genus Cyanopica

  • Azure-winged magpie, Cyanopica cyanus

  • Iberian magpie, Cyanopica cooki

D. Genus Urocissa

  • Red-billed blue magpie, Urocissa erythrorhyncha

  • Sri Lanka blue magpie, Urocissa ornata

  • Taiwan blue magpie, Urocissa caerulea

  • White-winged magpie, Urocissa whiteheadi

  • Yellow-billed blue magpie, Urocissa flavirostris