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Magpies in Ireland

Male and female magpie

The magpie is one of Ireland's most recognisable birds. With distinctive black & white plumage and raucous nature magpies cannot be confused with any other Irish bird.

The magpie is Ireland's best known member of the crow family. Although the plumage looks black and white in actual fact the black feathers are purple-blue iridescent sheen on the wing feathers, and there is a green gloss to the tail.

Magpies use their long black legs to walk and quite often to hop along the ground.

Irish Name for Magpie

The Irish word for magpie is Snag breac.

Magpie Feeding

Like other members of the crow family magpies are extremely adaptable when it comes to diet. They are opportunists that will scavenge on road-kill, other carrion, and domestic waste. They will take eggs and young of other birds as well as small mammals if they can catch them. Despite widely beliefs that magpies are extensive raiders of other bird species nests it far more likely that domestic cats do far more damage to song bird populations.

Magpies are particularly partial to beetles and other invertebrate, as well as fruit, berries and seeds when in season.

Magpies Nesting

Magpie nesting with egg

Unlike other members of the crow family Magpies are solitary nesters. Nests can be quite large constructions high in a tree. They are made of twigs and small branches, and may be lined with hair and/or wool. Usually nesting pairs construct a new nest each year although it is not unusual for a pair to reuse last year's nest. Other bird species such as kestrels have been known to use abandoned magpie nests.

They lay about a half dozen bluish-green eggs that take about three weeks to hatch out. Young magpie chicks fledge within four weeks or so.

Interesting Facts About Magpies

It is believed that magpies were first recorded in Wexford in 1676 when up to a dozen flew across the Irish sea from Britain. Breeding in Dublin was first noted in 1852.

Although the average lifespan of magpies is five years, the longest lived specimen was 21 years, 8 months, and 23 days old when it died in 1947.

A mgpie in flight

Magpie in Flight


Scientific Name:
Pica pica



Irish Status:

Length: 45cm Wingspan: 58cm Weight: M & F: 240g

Call: Harsh & Raucous. Not melodic.

Habitat: Woodland, scrubland, urban areas.

Diet: Omnivorous. Invertebrate, carrion, birds eggs, young birds & mammals, domestic food waste, fruit, seeds.

April & May
Breeding Age:
From 2 years
Number of Eggs:
No. of Clutches:
Incubation (days):
Fledging (days):
5 years

Conservation Status in Ireland: Green

Magpie Range in Ireland

The magpie is resident throughout Ireland.

Map of the range of Magpies in Ireland.

Arctic Terns in Ireland - Blue Tits in Ireland - Coal Tits in Ireland - Goldfinches in Ireland - Great Tits in Ireland - Grey Herons in Ireland - Jackdaws in Ireland - Longtailed Tits in Ireland - Magpies in Ireland - Mallards in Ireland - Mistle Thrushes in Ireland - Mute Swans in Ireland - Pheasants in Ireland - Puffins in Ireland - Robins in Ireland - Rooks in Ireland - Song Thrushes in Ireland - Starlings in Ireland - Swallows in Ireland - Swans in Tallaght - Swans Oil-Damaged - Waxwings in Ireland - Woodpigeons in Ireland - Wrens in Ireland

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