Pica pica - Pie bavarde
- Size: 50 cm
- Wingspan: 56 à 61 cm.
- Weight: 145 à 240 g
No need to describe the Eurasian Magpie which is immediately recognisable by its silhouette and plumage. All one has to do is look at the photos to the right. Everyone can immediately identify this long-tailed bird. Its name even refers to black and white animals, such as a piebald horse. So there is no need for an elaborate description - images alone are enough. Note the characteristic 'corvid' features - great size, robust beak and feet. The sexes are alike. In good light, the adult's black plumage shows blue, indigo, violet and green-bronze tints to stunning effect. The juvenile has a shorter tail, black plumage like soot with muted tints, and white feathers tinged slightly with russet, with a pale eyering making the eye stand out. Currently, six subspecies are recognised, differing slightly in size and the relative proportions of white and black in the plumage, mainly in the primaries and rump. Previously, there were more, but four have been raised to the status of full species.
Subspecific information 6 subspecies
- Pica pica pica (British Isles and s Scandinavia to e Europe and Asia Minor)
- Pica pica fennorum (n Scandinavia and nw Russia)
- Pica pica melanotos (Iberian Pen.)
- Pica pica bactriana (c Russia to Iran, n India and Mongolia and w, s Siberia)
- Pica pica leucoptera (se Russia and ne China)
- Pica pica camtschatica (Kamchatka Pen.. ne Siberia.)
Voice song and cries
It is said that Magpies jabber and, with what this word evokes in our minds, this is justified. The Eurasian Magpie is indeed very talkative. The most common cry is a harsh, isolated kiak or a doubled ka-yak or "tcha-iak". But the cry we are used to hearing and noticing because it is the loudest is a rapid succession of 4 to 8 dry notes tcha cha cha cha cha chak. It is uttered on all occasions and more often than we would like. It is probably this cry that earned it the nickname of agasse or jabbering. When it is anxious, it utters the same cry but the phrase lengthens and the tone hardens. Otherwise, there are proximity and contact cries that birds exchange, for example in the intimacy of the couple, short cries, often harsh and grating, for example reeeh or krah.
The Eurasian Magpie occupies all open and semi-open terrestrial habitats. The condition of its presence is that there are at least some woody plants for nesting.
Behaviour character trait
The Eurasian Magpie is easy to observe, for example when it strides across a lawn or garden with a bouncy gait. Its body motions are quite comical. When it wants to go faster, it can hop on both legs at once. It can also be seen probing the ground for prey with its beak as it is essentially a predator. Vegetable gardens do not risk much from it, and in fact it helps keep potential vermin populations in check. On the other hand, its nest robbing of small passerines can be feared, as it has no problem spotting their nests. This may be why it is classified as a pest in France and can be hunted as game. However, the Eurasian Magpie is just playing the role that nature has assigned it. It has natural enemies to limit its population, such as the Accipiters, or hawks and sparrowhawks. In Mediterranean regions, its nests may be parasitized by the cuckoo. As seen before, the Eurasian Magpie feels quite at home in cities. Overall, it frequents areas around human activities. It is both brave and very wary. It may approach dwellings closely but remain very suspicious and always on guard. Any wrong move and it is off in a hurry. In this it resembles other corvids, like the crow, which is known for its high level of intelligence.
With its short, rounded wings, the Eurasian Magpie isn't built for speed records. It has a direct, albeit slow, flight, with rapid, jerky wingbeats that create an illusion of irregularity and sudden changes in rhythm.
The Eurasian Magpie feeds almost exclusively on the ground. It can be classified as omnivorous, but it is primarily a predator.
The breeding season begins early due to the species' sedentary lifestyle and the permanent pairing of mates. A few displays at the end of the winter are enough to solidify the couple and nesting can begin. Nest building is a labour-intensive operation that requires the couple to work for long weeks, up to 5-6. This monumental nest, despite its relatively permanent nature, is only used once for reproduction. Usually, the couple builds a new nest every year. The nest is usually built in the upper part of a young tree, at the terminal fork of the trunk for a leafy tree, at the level of one of the last verticillos for a conifer, usually at a height of 10 metres.
The Eurasian Magpie's range stretches across all of Eurasia, from the British Isles and Spain to Anadyr in the far east of Russia. All of Europe is occupied, from the Mediterranean to northern Scandinavia. In the Mediterranean, the magpie is present in Sicily but not in Corsica nor Sardinia, and in Cyprus but not in Crete. Further east, the range follows Siberia, but with an interruption north of the Sea of Okhotsk. To the south, it passes through Asia Minor (Turkey), northern Middle East, Central Asia, Pakistan, and just touches the extreme north of India. 6 subspecies share this vast domain. 4 close species, formerly assigned to Pica pica, occupy the peripheral zones: P. mauritanica in North Africa, P. asirensis in the Arabian Peninsula, P. bottanensis in Bhutan and western China, and P. serica in Russian Ussuriland, both Koreas, a large part of eastern China including Taiwan, and finally in northern Myanmar and Indochina.
Threats - protection
IUCN conservation status
in the Wild
The Eurasian Magpie is a common to very common species throughout most of its range. It is not threatened. In fact, it is locally on the rise. It is categorized as Least Concern by global organizations. Its problem is that it has a bad reputation in France, for no scientifically proven reason, and is therefore labeled as nuisance and can be shot without restriction. Despite this, its populations are in good health, as it is clever and therefore not easy to shoot. It is also possible that mindsets change, even in the hunting world, that the concept of nuisance evolves in people's minds and behaviours evolve in a positive direction. Its proximity to humans has favourably aided its success. In urban areas, it is better protected from predators. In rural areas, cultivated areas provide it with food opportunities.
Sources of information
- IOC World Bird List (v13.2), Gill, F and D Donsker (Eds). 2023.
- Les passereaux d'Europe, tome 1, P. Géroudet, M. Cuisin
- Avibase, Lepage Denis
- HBW Alive,
- xeno-canto, Sharing bird sounds from around the world,
Translation by AI Oiseaux.net
published: 11-03-2020 - Updated: 11-04-2020
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