Reddish Vale Country Park
The common magpie is an unmistakable species with it's white and black plumage, and iridescent green or blue glossy sheen.
The tail is long, and is usually longer in males than females. It's harsh voice includes a fast chattering alarm call; the 'mag' part of the common name used to mean 'chatterer', and was added to 'pie' (referring to the black and white 'pied' colouring) in the 16th century.
Magpies are sociable birds, gathering in groups to roost, and occasionally forming noisy groups called 'magpie parliaments' in the first few weeks of the year. During spring, territories are defended, and fights often ensue. Both sexes help to construct the large roofed nest; the male brings nesting material while the female arranges it. 5-7 eggs are laid in April or May, and incubated for up to 18 days. After hatching, the chicks stay in the nest for 22-27 days, and rely on their parents for food for up to 8 weeks after leaving the nest. The fledglings stay with their parents through the autumn and winter.
Magpies are notorious theives, taking cloths pegs and other brightly coloured objects from gardens.
It was thought that the decline in British songbirds was attributed to the increase in numbers of magpies (and sparrowhawks), however a study by the RSPB has found no difference in the numbers of songbirds in areas with large numbers of magpies and areas with few magpies. It is now thought the decline of Britains song birds is linked to the loss of food and habitat caused by intensive farming.
There are many folk stories involving the magpie; it is thought to be associated with the devil in many parts of the country, and crossing oneself upon seeing one or saluting lone magpies is a practice that continues to this day in some areas. The magpie rhyme varies greatly, but usually begins with ; one for sorrow, two for joy. It is believed the magpie refused to mourn Christ at the crucifixion, it is also said the magpie refused to enter Noah's ark, instead sitting on the roof and swearing for the duration of the deluge.
Diet, very varied includes, insects, rodents, carrion, eggs,
chicks, grain, berries and fruit.
650,000, UK breeding territories.
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