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Magpie (Pica pica)


Clickhere for the bird's sound.

Magpie ekster Magpie

The Magpie is one of the only two relatively colourful representatives of the Crow family in my garden. The other one, the Jay, has a striking colourful pattern. The Magpie's colours show in the sunlight when the black feathers shine slightly green and blue, just like the Starlings. It has a bad reputation for destroying other birds' nests and eating both eggs and chicks. It's an intelligent bird that keeps away from people. The pirating of birds' nests is done in the early morning hours when people are still asleep. In the past farmers sometimes tamed Magpies in the same way they tamed Jackdaws.

Don't worry, magpies do NOT steal your jewelry! If the precious objects go missing do not put the blame on Magpies any more!

A common belief in the whole of Europe (or perhaps elsewhere as well) is that, like other Crows, such as the Jackdaws, Magpies steal glittering objects and hide them in their nests. Well, a recent research by the University of Exeter (UK) has proven that Magpies are not attracted to shiny objects at all. It turns out that they are actually afraid of them!

The researcher Dr Toni Shephard said: "We did not find evidence of an unconditional attraction to shiny objects in magpies. Instead, all objects prompted responses indicating neophobia - fear of new things."
She adds: "We suggest that humans notice when magpies occasionally pick up shiny objects because they believe the birds find them attractive, while it goes unnoticed when magpies interact with less eye-catching items. It seems likely that the folklore surrounding them is a result of cultural generalisation and anecdotes rather than evidence."
There goes the myth of the 'thieving magpie' down the drain! The Tintin comic "The Castafiore Emerald" should perhaps be rewritten as the story goes about a precious gem being nicked by a magpie. ;-)

This bird belongs to the family of Crows (Corvidae). It is an infrequent visitor to my garden although it is a common bird in Holland which can be seen here all year round. The bird is 21" and weighs 210 grams. It lives in rural areas, woodlands, parks and city edges mostly. It eats worms, snails, insects, seeds, eggs and young birds. The sexes do not differ from one another. Magpie builds its nest in the branches of trees from March until May. After laying about five to sometimes eight eggs, the breeding lasts some 17 days. The young are fed in the nest for well over three weeks.


The Magpie is not among the best flying birds and usually flies over short distances only.

Name of this bird in various other languages
Dutch German French Polish Scientific
Ekster Elster Pie bavarde Sroka Pica pica

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