Eurasian Magpie – Pica Pica


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Familiy: Corvidae
  • Genre: Pica
  • Species: Pica Pica  

Identification characters

The Eurasian Magpie is an easily recognisable bird, with black plumage with white on the shoulders and breast, and a very long tail with greenish iridescence that moves jerkily when raised. Body length is 40-51 cm, of which the tail alone is 20-30 cm. No sexual dimorphism. It flies with rapid flapping of the wings, flapping, in a straight, horizontal glide, and large white bands are seen on the short round wings.


The Eurasian Magpie is a widespread species in Eurasia, found from Portugal in the east to China, Korea and Japan, where it was introduced. It is absent from northern Russia, and in southern Asia from India and part of its northern countries. It is a sedentary species throughout the range. It can also be found in northern Africa, from Morocco to Tunisia.

The European population is between 7 500 000 and 19 000 000 breeding pairs.

In Romania, the population is stable at between 668,969 and 822,706 breeding pairs.

Living environment and biology of the species

The Eurasian Magpie is found mainly in the lowland regions, but also in mountain areas up to altitudes of 2 500 m. Some subspecies climb up to 4000 m. The birds of this species can live in different habitats, e.g. meadows, bushes, tree stands or forest edges, but also in heathland or reedbeds and even in forests. It prefers open, bright places such as parks, gardens, farmland and meadows near water. The Cotis start their activity before sunrise and stop before sunset. In the breeding season they form pairs. Outside the breeding season they live in groups that can form flocks of up to several hundred birds in winter. Maximum longevity is 21 years. Reaches sexual maturity at one year. The magpie generally feeds on the ground. It catches insects which it can regurgitate and deposit in a pit. It is an omnivorous species, feeding on invertebrates as well as seeds, fruit and even conifer seeds. Plant food is consumed mainly outside the breeding season. They enter the nests of other bird species, from which they take eggs and young. It also captures various reptiles and small mammals, even consuming detritus. Although it has a reputation for stealing shiny objects, especially valuable silverware, this seems to rarely happen in reality.

It is a monogamous species. The nest is built by both partners in 5-6 weeks. It consists of an earthen cup lined with roots, grass and hairs, held in a structure made of branches. The nest usually has two entrances. It is positioned in a tree or bush, a few feet off the ground. The female lays 4-9 grey-green eggs with brownish spots. Incubation is carried out by the female and lasts 16-21 days, during which time the female is fed by the male. Both parents feed the young, but it is the male that guards the nest. Juveniles fly from the nest after 25-29 days, but the family stays together until autumn.

Threats and conservation measures

Eurasian Magpie populations may be threatened by contamination by agricultural products, habitat alteration and loss due to land use change, loss and damage of breeding areas, mortality due to predators, hunting during the breeding season, other anthropogenic activities.

For conservation purposes it is recommended to maintain and enhance corridors between areas of spontaneous grassland including scattered trees, tree lines and groups of non-productive trees, to maintain stubble and prohibit its burning, to reduce the chemicals used in agriculture, to apply less toxic and persistent chemicals, to avoid the use of herbicides during critical periods such as breeding periods. In open agricultural areas it is good to maintain a mosaic of habitats with tree and shrub patches. Illegal bush fires should be prevented and, if committed, penalised. Importance should be attached to maintaining critical breeding areas, controlling and penalising nest destruction, and hunting should be limited.

Studies on various aspects of the species’ biology, especially those concerning demographic parameters, inventorying current and potential breeding areas and identifying important areas for the conservation of the species are useful and should be promoted.


  • Fântână Ciprian, Kovács Istvan, Benkő Zoltán, Daròczi Szilárd, Domșa Cristian, Veres-Szászka Judit (editors), 2022, Atlas of bird species of community interest in Romania, 2nd edition – Love birds, save nature!, Project financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme 2014-2020, Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests – Biodiversity Directorate, scientific coordination Romanian Ornithological Society and Association for the Protection of Birds and Nature Milvus Group, produced by EXCLUS PROD SRL, p. 522
  • Lars Svensson, Hakan Delin, 1988, Photographic guide to the birds of Britain and Europe, p. 202, Chancellor Press, London
  • Svensson (text and maps), 2017, Guide to bird identification. Europe and the Mediterranean area, translation and adaptation in Romanian: Romanian Ornithological Society, Emanuel Ștefan Baltag, Sebastian Bugariu, Alida Barbu, p.360;
  • Radu Dimitrie, 1983, Small Ornithological Atlas – Birds of the World, Albatros Publishing House, Bucharest, p. 250;
  • Ornitodata | Eurasian Magpie (
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