Scientific Name: Cyanopica cyana

Geographical Range: Western Europe-Iberian Penninsula, Spain, Portugal, and Eastern Asia-China, Korea, Japan, and Mongolia.

Habitat: Woods, parks, gardens, and hedgerows.

Diet in the Wild: Omnivorous, small bird eggs, small mammals, tree frogs, and small reptiles. Also a wide variety of fruit and seeds.

Conservation Status: Not protected.

Location in the Zoo: Asian Falls

Physical Description:

Small body with smaller legs and bill then other magpies. A glossy black top can be seen on their heads, and a white throat. The lower body and the back are of a light grey-fawn. And the wings and long tail feathers are an azure blue color. They hold their tails up high when they are on the ground. The young magpies have a pale appearance, very short, and have stubby tails.

Social Organization:

Azure winged magpies form flocks of up to 30 birds in a flock. They are colony nesters and may even cooperate in raising their broods. Group members stay in touch during foraging through the use of frequent calls.

Special Adaptations:

The Azure-Winged magpie has had to adapt to new flying techniques. They have learned how to fly steeply and rapidly through the air. They have also learned how to guard their nests from predators and “foreign eggs.”

For a ten years the cuckoo bird would dump their eggs into the magpie’s nest, thus killing the magpie eggs. Then the magpies developed a method to detect the “foreign eggs,” and got rid of them. The Azure-winged magpie is a very intelligent bird.

The separation of the European and Far Eastern populations is an interesting puzzle. It is possible that the populations were initially continuous, but the connecting populations died out. Or perhaps explorers carried the bird into Portugal from the Far East. DNA studies of birds from the two populations show they are from a common ancient ancestral stock, but that they were separated before European exploration of the Far East begain. It has recently been suggested that the Ice Ages pushed the magpies southward and that only the populations of the Iberian peninsula and southern China survived from the ancestral population. This possibility has been supported by the identification of fossil magpies in Gibralter caves.




Reproductive Behavior:

The breeding takes place between March and July. The female lays the eggs one per day. The eggs are pale blue-green with brown speckles. After laying from five to eight eggs, the female incubates the eggs, which then hatch at different times. Incubation is for 15 days, and the eggs usually hatch between April and May. If the first bunch of eggs is lost then another bunch is laid. The Azure-Winged Magpie is very well known for life-long pairing.

 Page Author:
Erika Zuniga

Sources and Links:

Lynx. Magpies: a story of seven.

Gareth Huw Davies. Maybe birdbrains are in fact clever.

Azure winged magpie at the Bristol Zoo:

Thomas Crosbie. The mysterious magpie. The Irish Examiner. 19 March 2005

Howard Youth. Cave secrets solve magpie mystery.

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