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Eurasian Magpie

From Opus

Photo © by henkdikkersNuis, The Netherlands, January 2007
Photo © by henkdikkers
Nuis, The Netherlands, January 2007

Alternative Names: Common Magpie; Pied Magpie

Pica pica

Formerly included: Asir Magpie; Oriental Magpie; Black-rumped Magpie; and Maghreb Magpie


[edit] Identification

Nominate subspeciesPhoto © by Joe52Bournemouth, Dorset, October 2018
Nominate subspecies
Photo © by Joe52
Bournemouth, Dorset, October 2018

Length 46–50 cm (18-19¾ in); weight 187-268 g (male), 161-240 g (female)

  • Black head, neck, breast and back
  • Prominent white side patches and belly
  • Wings and tail, whilst looking black in certain lights, are actually blue-green and purple
  • Very long tail, diamond-shaped when spread out

Sexes are similar. Juveniles are duller than adults.

[edit] Distribution

Found across most of northern Eurasia from Europe to the Russian Far East and south to Asia Minor and northwest India. Birds ranging in Africa, Arabia and Southern Asia now considered to belong to other species. Widespread and common in most of its range.

[edit] Taxonomy

This species was formerly considered conspecific with Black-billed Magpie P. hudsonia.

Subspecies P. p. bactrianaPhoto © by Rajiv LatherLeh, India, October 2006
Subspecies P. p. bactriana
Photo © by Rajiv Lather
Leh, India, October 2006

[edit] Subspecies

Six subspecies are recognised[1]:

  • P. p. melanotos:
  • P. p. pica:
  • P. p. fennorum:
  • P. p. bactriana:
  • Western and southern Siberia (east to Lake Baikal) and central Asia, south to the Caucasus region east to Pakistan and northwestern India
  • P. p. leucoptera:
  • Southern Transbaicalia to eastern Mongolia and Altai Mountains
  • P. p. camtschatica (Kamchatka Magpie):
  • Northern shores of Sea of Okhotsk to Kamchatka Peninsula
Juvenile, subspecies P. p. bactrianaPhoto © by Mohamad KamraniNahavand, Iran
Juvenile, subspecies P. p. bactriana
Photo © by Mohamad Kamrani
Nahavand, Iran

P. p. galliae of Western Europe to Balkans is a junior synonym of P. p. pica and no longer recognized.[1]
P. p. hemileucoptera of Western and southern Siberia to Outer Mongolia is considered to be a junior synonym of P. p. bactriana and no longer recognized.[1]

The following former subspecies have been split into full species[1]

[edit] Habitat

Farmland and open country. Also town gardens and parks.

[edit] Behaviour

Walks and will hop sideways.

[edit] Flight

Quick, with deep, fast, even wing beats. Short glides.

[edit] Diet

Omnivorous. Feeds mainly on invertebrates, small mammals, lizards, frogs, bird eggs, nestlings and carrion. Often caches food.

[edit] Breeding

Builds a domed nest in tall trees, or hedgerows which often contains shiny objects

[edit] Vocalisation

Harsh "chack, chack, chack".

Listen in an external program

[edit] References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from
  2. Gill, F & D Donsker (Eds). 2018. IOC World Bird List (v8.2). doi : 10.14344/IOC.ML.8.2. Available at
  3. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, and D Christie, eds. 2009. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8496553507
  4. Birdwatchers Pocket Guide ISBN 1-85732-804-3
  5. Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds 1966
  6. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
  7. Madge, S., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2018). Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 17 August 2018).
  8. Song, G., Zhang, R., Alström, P., Irestedt, M., Cai, T., Qu, Y., Ericson, P.G.P., Fjeldså, J. & Lei, F. (2018) Complete taxon sampling of the avian genus Pica (magpies) reveals ancient relictual populations and synchronous Late-Pleistocene demographic expansion across the Northern Hemisphere. J. Avian Biol.49(2):

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