It’s probably fair to say that the Magpie is by far-and-away the least popular of all the birds which visit our gardens. Which is a shame, given its striking black and white plumage with iridescent sheen, and its intelligent manner. Of course it’s the Magpies reputation for eating young birds which has earned it such a level of unpopularity, and this fuelling the belief that the species is partly responsible for the decline in songbird numbers. However, this is actually unfair because a long-term study commissioned by the RSPB and carried out by the BTO, found no evidence at all that Magpies were in anyway responsible for the decline. Yes they do indeed eat young birds – as most species of corvid do – but not to the point that they adversely affect long-term population trends.
Magpie diet and food
The diet of the Magpie is highly varied, and includes carrion such as road kill, insects (especially large beetles), small mammals, eggs and young birds, seed, grain, nuts, fruit and berries
Magpie nesting and breeding habits
The nest is a bulky structure and located at the top of a bush, hedge or tree. It is constructed from twigs and mud, with a neater inner-cup lining of roots, hair and plant fibres. There is a dome of twigs over the nest, then an opening to one side of it. Both sexes build the nest but the materials are largely collected by the male bird. The female incubates the eggs, with there being six to eight in the clutch. Both sexes feed the young, which leave the nest around 25 days after hatching.
Behaviour traits of Magpies
Magpies, like all species of the crow family, are intelligent and often entertaining to watch. Although relatively solitary and especially so in the breeding season, younger non-breeding birds often form small flocks, with some adults also joining the flock in winter months. At times of food abundance, Magpies may hoard food for when it’s needed.
Magpie history and population trends
The species has gone through a rapid population increase since the 1960s, with this seeing it progressively colonise urban areas and especially in England. However, the population is currently fairly stable, and has actually declined a little in some rural areas where it has been widely trapped on shooting estates.