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Magpies

Key Features of Magpies

There are technically several species of magpie, all within the crow family, but the species native to the UK is the Eurasian Magpie. The Eurasian magpie is nearly unmistakable. Its black and white plumage is a common sight in both urban and rural areas all over the country.

They have long tails, dark grey or black legs and black beaks. In Asia, you would be hard-pressed to recognise their magpies as the same species as ours due to their bright blue, green and red feathers.

Biology

Magpies tend to prefer living in open countryside with nearby trees but have been found in high numbers in suburban areas like parks and gardens, particularly during breeding season. Their eggs are pale blue or green with brown-green specks and are ordinarily laid in clutches of five or six. They hatch after around three weeks.

They are omnivorous and have been observed eating anything from acorns to other young birds. They generally do not migrate but those living in particularly harsh climates with severe winters (such as Sweden or Russia) will move south for the winter.

Magpies are the most intelligent birds in the planet. At present, they are the only non-mammals to have successfully recognised themselves in the mirror test. As such, they are very social creatures and will form large, noisy flocks.

With their predatory nature and penchant for stealing shiny things, magpies have been demonised by humans in the past and became the basis for many superstitions, signifying alternatively, sorrow and joy.

Avid birdwatchers may also find magpies unwelcome near their homes due to their ability to drive out other species of bird. They are also known to feed on the young of songbirds.

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