The Magpie is 44-46 cm (17-18 in) in length?in the adult over 50% of this is tail?and a wingspan of 52-62 cm (20-24 in). Its head, neck and breast are glossy black with a metallic green and violet sheen. The belly and shoulder feathers are pure white. The wings are black glossed with green or purple, and the primaries have white inner webs, conspicuous when the wing is open. The graduated tail is black, shot with bronze-green and other iridescent colours. The legs and bill are black. The young resemble the adults, but are at first without much of the gloss on the sooty plumage. The male is slightly larger than the female.

Habitat and Distribution

It is a resident breeding bird throughout Europe, much of Asia and northwest Africa. it is the only magpie in Europe outside the Iberian Peninsula. It is found in the North Indian Districts of Leh and Kargil in the Ladakh region. Magpies are common in suburban areas but tend toward shyness and caution in the country. In winter Magpies often form groups.


The Magpie is omnivorous, eating young birds and eggs, insects, scraps and carrion, acorns, grain, and other vegetable substances.


Magpies prefer tall trees for their bulky nest, firmly attaching them to a central fork in the upper branches. A framework of the sticks is cemented with earth and clay. Above is a stout though loosely built dome of prickly branches with a single concealed entrance. These huge nests are conspicuous when the leaves fall. Eggs are laid in April, five to eight is normal. they are typically blue-green with close specks and spots of brown and grey, but show much variation in ground and marking.

Calls and Songs

Magpies have been observed taking small songbirds in flight, a behaviour once thought unique to birds of prey.