International Wildlife Encyclopedia - Vol. 11

By Maurice Burton; Robert Burton | Go to book overview

MAGPIE

Black-billed magpies
are highly adaptable
birds and seize almost
any opportunity to get
a meal. In spring they
rob other birds' nests
of eggs and chicks
.

TWELVE SPECIES OF CROWS are called magpies, but they belong to five different genera and are not closely related. This article concentrates on the two best known species, both of which are in the genus Pica. One of these, the black-billed magpie, P. pica, has a broad range that encompasses much of Europe and Asia and the western part of North America. The other species, the yellow-billed magpie, P. nuttalli, has a restricted range in California.

The name magpie was first used in relation to the black-billed species, which was originally called the pie. The feminine prefix [mag] was added at about the end of the 16th century.


Black bill or yellow bill?

At a distance the black-billed magpie looks entirely black and white but seen close up, especially when the sun is shining, its plumage is shot with iridescent blue and green. It is 17–18 inches (44–46 cm) long, of which more than half is tail. The yellow-billed magpie is slightly smaller but otherwise similar except for its yellow bill and a patch of bare pale yellow skin around each eye.

The black-billed magpie is an eye-catching bird with its long tail and disproportionately short wings. When it lands, the long tail is at once held up and carried clear of the ground. It usually walks, although it often hops sideways with slightly opened wings.


Colorful magpies

A number of the tropical magpies are extremely colorful. The green magpie, Cissa chinensis, occurs in southern and Southeast Asia, from the Himalayas south to Sumatra and Borneo. It is bright green with a scarlet bill, a black eye-stripe and reddish chestnut wings. The Sri Lanka or Ceylon magpie, C. oniata, is rich blue with brown

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International Wildlife Encyclopedia - Vol. 11
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Contents 3
  • Leopard 4
  • Leopard Frog 7
  • Leopard Seal 9
  • Limpet 11
  • Limpkin 13
  • Ling 15
  • Linnet 17
  • Linsang 19
  • Lion 20
  • Little Auk 24
  • Lizards 26
  • Llama 30
  • Loach 33
  • Lobster 35
  • Locust 38
  • Loggerhead Turtle 41
  • Long-Horned Beetle 43
  • Loon 45
  • Lorikeet 48
  • Loris 50
  • Lory 53
  • Lovebird 55
  • Lugworm 57
  • Lumpsucker 59
  • Lungfish 61
  • Lungless Salamander 63
  • Lynx 66
  • Lyrebird 69
  • Macaque 71
  • Macaw 74
  • Mackerel 77
  • Magpie 79
  • Magpie Lark 82
  • Mallard 84
  • Mallee Fowl 87
  • Mamba 90
  • Manakin 92
  • Manatee 94
  • Mandrill 96
  • Maned Wolf 99
  • Mangabey 101
  • Mannikin 104
  • Mantis 106
  • Mantis Fly 109
  • Mantis Shrimp 111
  • Marabou 113
  • Marine Iguana 115
  • Marine Toad 117
  • Markhor 119
  • Marlin 121
  • Marmoset 123
  • Marmoset Rat 126
  • Marmot 128
  • Marsupial Cat 131
  • Marsupial Frog 133
  • Marsupial Mole 135
  • Marsupial Mouse 137
  • Marten 139
  • Index 142
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