Do Magpies Eat Other Birds? | Bite-Sized Knowledge

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  • Birds, Magpies
Do Magpies Eat Other Birds

Here in the West, there are plenty of urban myths and age-old legends surrounding magpies. Quite the opposite, the East Asian culture, treasures the magpie and it is a very popular kind of bird. It is a symbol of good luck and good fortune. Today I’m going to talk about their “wonderful” eating habits and a few related questions people have about them.

Do magpies eat other birds? There’s no sugarcoating this fact, magpies are omnivorous and will eat other birds as part of their diet. They are known to eat small songbirds, their chicks and/or their eggs. Small rodents and even rabbits are not safe from magpies as well.

Let’s dive in a little bit further and find out what magpies are and what else do they savagely eat.

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What Are Magpies?

Magpies are part of the Corvidae family, colloquially known as crows or corvids. The Eurasian magpie is widely considered one of the most intelligent animals in the world and is famous as one of only a few non-mammal species to pass the mirror test.

In the classic mirror test or the MSR test, an animal is anesthetized and then marked (e.g., painted or a sticker attached) on an area of the body the animal cannot normally see. When the animal recovers from the anesthetic, it is given access to a mirror. If the animal then touches or investigates the mark, it is taken as an indication that the animal perceives the reflected image as itself, rather than of another animal. – Wikipedia

When you picture a magpie, you’re probably thinking of the black and white Eurasian or black-billed American magpie but magpies do not only come in black and white color combinations, the most beautiful ones are green or blue and red. Just look at these two beauties – Indochinese green magpie and Sri Lanka blue magpie – aren’t they amazing!

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Magpie’s Diet

Now we’re on the meaty part of this post about magpies. Magpies are opportunistic omnivores that eat a wide variety of foods, including seeds and grain, berries, nuts, insects, eggs, and carrion (dead flesh). I already mentioned that they will eat small rodents and mammals and of course other small birds and their young (and eggs). Magpies also eat garbage and pet food that you left outside for Fido.

In short, there’s nothing a magpie won’t eat. They will hop and walk around and forage for food using their feet and bill to find the good stuff.

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What Is The Magpie’s Lifespan?

Magpie chicks in England for example, have only a 22% chance to survive their first year. The ones that survived will typically live from 3-6 years. The record for a Eurasian magpie is almost 22 years. It was ringed in 1925 and unfortunately shot in 1947.

What Sounds Do Magpies Make?

Magpies can be really noisy and they start to make sounds soon after they’re born. And they only get better as they get older. They are so smart that they can learn how to mimic sounds from different animals, such as dogs barking. Their songs can range over four octaves and be incredibly complex. There are three types of songs – warbling, duetting and carolling.

The Australian magpie might be the best at mimicking as it can mimic over 35 species of native and introduced bird species, as well as dogs and horses.

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Why Do Magpies Warble?

Magpies warble, duet, and carol. Lone magpies will warble or sing a melodious song. You can hear them warble during the day or at night (sometimes). Warbling has been known to last up to 70 minutes and is more frequent after the end of the breeding season. The scientists still do not know for sure why magpies warble, unfortunately.

Why Do Magpies Swoop?

There are a few things more terrifying than a magpie swooping at you. Magpies can be really aggressive at defending their territory and nesting site. Swooping is a common defensive behavior. They aim to threaten or bluff but can scratch or peck you nevertheless. There’s not much you can do against it other than avoiding their turf and wearing PPE like hats or sunglasses.

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Magpie Quotes

“Like a magpie, I am a scavenger of shiny things: fairy tales, dead languages, weird folk beliefs, fascinating religions, and more.”
― Laini Taylor

“My head was a magpie’s nest lined with such bright scraps of information.”
― Alice Munro

“Style is something you can use, and you can be like a magpie, just taking what you want.”
― David Hockney

“I have a magpie mind. I like anything that glitters.”
― Roy Thomson

“Authors are magpies, echoing each other’s words and seizing avidly on anything that glitters.”
― Bergen Evans

“I’m like a magpie. I use lots of different things to build a character.”
― Andrew Lincoln

“We were language’s magpies by nature, stealing whatever sounded bright and shiny.”
― Salman Rushdie

“I had become a kind of information magpie, gathering to myself all manner of shiny scraps of fact and hokum and books and art history and politics and music and film, and developing, too, a certain skill in manipulating and arranging these pitiful shards so that they glittered and caught the light. Fool’s gold or priceless nuggets mined from my singular childhood’s rich bohemian seam? I leave it to others to decide.”
― Salman Rushdie

“I never really got obsessed about one thing for long. I was a bit of a butterfly and a magpie.”
― Benedict Cumberbatch

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Adrian Volenik

I've lived around animals my whole life and I hold a Diploma in Animal Physiology. When I'm not reading or writing about wild animals, health and fitness, and technology, you can find me playing with my son and two cats. My pastimes include running, playing video games, and solving the NY Times crossword.