The magpies are small Passerine birds that belong to the family Corvidae, which includes the Crows. The Magpies and the Jays are quite closely related but their evolutionary aspects are quite complex, however, the two names can be interchangeably used up to a certain extent. There are several different species of Magpie but the word “Magpie”, in Europe, is used as a synonym by the English, to describe the European Magpie. This is because in Europe there are no other Magpies outside Iberia. Until the late 16th century the bird was known as “Pie”, but later on they added to the beginning of the name, the feminine tag “Mag”.
One of the most common types of magpie is the European Magpie, also known as the Common Magpie. According to the cladistic usage, the magpies were originally thought to be a monophyletic group, which means that they would form groups that include an ancestor and all its descendants. But according to recent observations, it is seen that the magpies have variously evolved, depending on various evolutionary characteristics. For example, the tail of these birds has considerably lengthened or shortened in the multiple lineages of the corvid birds. There are mainly four genera of magpies, namely the Pica, Urocissa, Cissa, and the Cyanopica. The birds that belong to the Pica genus are known as Holarctic or the Black and White Magpies; genera Urocissa and Cissa includes birds that are known as the Oriental, or the Blue or Green magpies; and the genus Cyanopica includes birds that are known as the Azure Winged Magpies.
Among the traditional or the original magpies, there seem to be two lineages. One of them is the Holarctic species that consists of magpie birds that are seen to be closely related to the Eurasian Jays or the Crows and having a black or white coloured plumage. The other group includes the birds that have vivid coloured plumage and is distributed throughout the Eastern and Southern regions of Asia, and this group includes the Blue and the Green magpies. However, the last group of magpies known as the Azure Winged magpies are thought to be a lone survivor of an extinct group due to its strange distribution and evolutionary relations that are unclear.
The European magpie is seen in most parts throughout Europe, north western regions of Africa and also in most parts of Asia. This magpie is about 40 to 51 centimetres in length and the male birds are larger than the female birds. The birds have plumage that consists of various colours such as black, violet and metallic green on the head, breast and neck regions; and the plumage will be very glossy in appearance. The belly and the shoulder feathers (called as Scapulars) are white in colour and the black with glossy greenish or purple appearance.
The magpies can consume many small animals, like small mammals, birds, insects and eggs. It also eats grains, acorns and other fruit and vegetables.
Magpies are always within their territory as they are territorial birds and they are known to be monogamous in nature. They are known to be thieving birds, which steal shiny objects such as jewels, glass, etc. They are also known to be the only non-mammals that are known to have the capability of recognizing themselves in a mirror.