Magpie (Pica pica)


[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Corvidae | [latin] Pica pica | [UK] Magpie | [FR] Pie bavarde | [DE] Elster | [ES] Urraca de Pico Negro | [NL] Ekster


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range

Physical charateristics

Magpie is a black and white bird, with long tail. Adult has black head, chest, back and vent, with iridescent metallic blue-green wings and tail. It has large white patches on scapulars and white markings on primaries visible on extended wings. Belly is pure white. Tail is long, graduated, with a glossy purple band near the tip. Strong bill is black. Eyes are dark brown. Legs and feet are blacks. Both sexes are similar in plumage, but male is larger than female. Juvenile resembles adults with duller plumage, less glossy feathers and shorter tail.

wingspan min.: 48 cm wingspan max.: 58 cm
size min.: 43 cm size max.: 46 cm
incubation min.: 21 days incubation max.: 22 days
fledging min.: 24 days fledging max.: 22 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 8  


Eurasia : widespread, also Northwest Africa


Magpie lives in farmlands, thickets, open or lightly wooded areas, meadows and mountainsides, parks and gardens, even in town.
GEOGRAPHIC RANGE: Black-billed Magpie lives in Eurasia, from Western Europe to Japan, Northern Africa, and temperate regions of North America.


Magpies are monogamous and form long-term pair bonds. Pairs first form in the fall or winter within wintering flocks. They often nest in small, loose colonies, but this may be more a factor of the distribution of trees for nesting rather than true colonialism. Both sexes help build a huge nest in the branches of a deciduous tree. The nest is used in succeeding years by many other species, e.g., owls. The nest itself is enveloped in a large (up to three feet in diameter), dome-shaped, stick canopy, with entrances on both sides. Inside the stick canopy is a cup-shaped nest with a mud or manure base and a lining made from weeds, rootlets, hair, and grass. The female lays up to 9 eggs, but the typical clutch ranges from 6-7 eggs. The male brings food while the female incubates (for about 18 days). Both feed the young after they hatch. The young leave the nest at 3-4 weeks, and join with 2-8 other broods. The parents feed their own fledglings in these groups for another 3-4 weeks.

Feeding habits

Magpie is omnivorous, feeding mainly on insects. But it also consumes conifer seeds after breeding period. It may eat berries, nuts and other seeds in winter. They also eat carrion, chicks and eggs in other species nests, and small rodents.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Pica pica is a widespread resident across most of Europe, which accounts for less
than half of its global range. Its European breeding population is very large
(>7,500,000 pairs), and increased between 1970-1990. Although most European
populations-including the sizeable one in Turkey-were stable or increased during
1990-2000, key populations in France and Russia declined sharply, and the species
probably declined overall. Nevertheless, this recent decline is still outweighed by
earlier increases.
Black-billed magpie is still considered as a pest, and may be killed in some areas. They also are vulnerable to pesticides. However, populations are common and widespread.
Magpie status Least Concern


Sedentary, with limited dispersal, chiefly in north of range. Most ringing recoveries over 30-40 km involve birds from northern Europe, and show no preferred direction. Reluctant to cross sea.

Distribution map

Magpie distribution range map

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