Magpies are passerine birds of the crow family, Corvidae and are believed to be one of the most intelligent of all animals. The Magpie is one of the few animal species known to be able to recognize itself in a mirror test. In the UK, the Magpie has long been associated with a habit of stealing or otherwise collecting shiny objects, however this urban myth has no evidence in wildlife studies.
Like crows, the Magpie usually walks, but it can also hop quickly sideways with wings slightly opened. The Magpie and the rest of its family are fond of bright objects.
The Magpie will eat any animal food. These foods include young birds and eggs, insects, scraps and carrion. The bird will also eat acorns, grain and other vegetable substances.
In winter, Magpies often form groups to feed and roost at night. Early in the year, large numbers collect together for mating in gatherings Charles Darwin described as “marriage meetings”.
The magpie has been observed taking small songbirds down in flight. This behaviour was once thought to occur only in birds of prey.
The Magpie is 44–46 centimetres (17–18 in) in length – in the adult over 50% of this is tail – and a wingspan of 52–62 centimetres (20–24 in).
It has been observed that they cut up their food in correctly sized proportions, depending on the size of their young. In captivity magpies have been observed counting up to get food, imitating human voices, and regularly using tools to clean their own cages. In the wild, they organise themselves into gangs, and use complex strategies when hunting other birds, and when confronted by predators.