Magpie

Pica pica

44-46cm

Appearance

The magpie is black and white with a bluish shine to the tail and wings. The belly is white along with a patch on the rounded wing, and when flying, the outside of the wings show white. Male birds are marginally bigger than females, and juveniles have less of a sheen, with the white sections appearing more buffish.

Habitat

Prefers farmland and moors, but frequently calls cities home as well.

Character

Often seen alone, hopping or walking along the ground, with its tail sharply angled upwards; may also socialise in pairs or big groups. Territorial nester. Has a habit of storing food in times of surplus.

Food

Magpies have a very flexible diet, eating what’s available and making the most of carrion and food scraps. Will scavenge on roadkill, forage for berries, hunt small mammals, raid other bird nests, or chase insects.

Breeding

Female lays 5 or 6 eggs at the end of March and she incubates them for 20 days. Hatchlings depart nest at about 26 days old but rely on their parents for roughly 6 weeks more.

Population

Magpies of the region don’t characteristically travel far. There are approximately 600 000 pairs in the UK and between 20 000 and 100 000 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

Magpies are common and quite used to being in proximity to humans; in cities, look for them in gardens and parks, or beside roads as they feed on roadkill.

Voice

Has a gurgling, loud call used when in alarm, and a repetitive ‘chaka, chaka, chaka’ call.
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