Blue magpie

If you turn on your imagination and mentally collect all the more or less beautiful birds for a beauty contest, then there is a high probability that the blue magpie will be the winner among them. And all because this bird has a very bright and extraordinary appearance with smoky gray shades of plumage on the body, bright blue wings and tail, and a black cap on its head. All these characteristics make people think that the blue magpie is the very bird of happiness that not everyone can see.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Blue Magpie

Photo: Blue Magpie

The Blue Magpie (Cyanopica cyana) is a fairly common bird that belongs to the «Crow» (Corvidae), outwardly very similar to the common magpie (black and white), with the exception of a slightly smaller size and a characteristic very effective plumage color.

Its body length reaches 35 cm, wingspan — 45 cm and weight — 76 -100 grams. As already mentioned, in appearance and physique, the blue magpie resembles the common magpie, except that its body, beak and legs are somewhat shorter.

Video: Blue magpie

The plumage of the upper part of the bird's head, the back of the head and partially the area around the eyes is black. The upper chest and throat are painted white. The back of the magpie is brownish or light beige with a slight smoky shade towards gray. Feathers on the wings and tail have a characteristic azure or bright blue color. The bird's tail is quite long — 19-20 cm. Beak, though short, but strong. The paws are also short, black in color.

Blue feathers on the wings and tail tend to shine and shimmer in the sun. In poor lighting (at dusk) or cloudy weather, the shine disappears, and the bird becomes gray and inconspicuous. In the wild, the blue magpie lives 10-12 years. In captivity, its lifespan may be longer. The bird is easily tamed and trained.

Appearance and Features

Photo: What a blue magpie looks like

Photo: What a blue magpie looks like

The blue magpie is a bird slightly larger than the starling. At first glance, it very much resembles the usual medium-sized black and white magpie. In appearance, it differs from its relative by a black shiny cap on its head, a gray or brownish body, a bright blue tail and wings. The throat, cheeks, chest and tail tip of the bird are white, the abdomen is somewhat darker, with a brownish coating, the beak and legs are black.

The wings of the blue magpie have a completely typical structure for the crow family, but the color of their plumage is rather unusual – bright blue or azure, iridescent, shining in the sun and dull, almost inconspicuous in poor lighting. It is thanks to this feature that the blue magpie got its name. In many old fairy tales and legends, the blue magpie is called the blue bird of happiness. Young blue magpies acquire the color and appearance of adults at the age of 4-5 months.

Blue magpies are very sociable birds. They almost never fly alone, but always try to stay in numerous flocks and avoid people. With their habits, habits and character, they are very similar to ordinary magpies – cautious, smart, which, however, does not prevent them from sometimes showing curiosity.

Where does the blue magpie live?

Photo: Blue Magpie in Russia

Photo: Blue Magpie in Russia

Blue magpies live almost throughout Southeast Asia. The total area of ​​the range is about 10 million square meters. km. The International Union of Ornithologists is inclined to distinguish 7 subspecies of these birds that live in Mongolia (northeast) and 7 provinces of China, Japan and Korea, Manchuria, and Hong Kong. In Russia, there are populations of magpies in the Far East, in Transbaikalia (southern regions).

The eighth subspecies of blue magpies — Cyanopica cyana cooki has a somewhat controversial classification and lives on the Iberian (Iberian) Peninsula (Portugal, Spain). In recent years, this bird has also been seen in Germany.

In the last century, scientists believed that the magpie was brought to Europe by Portuguese sailors in the 16th century. In 2000, the remains of these birds over 40 thousand years old were found on the island of Gibraltar. This finding completely refuted the long-established opinion. In 2002, researchers from the Institute of Genetics at the University of Nottingham found genetic differences between populations of blue magpies living in Asia and Europe.

An interesting fact: Before the start of the Ice Age, blue magpies were very common in what is now Eurasia and represented a single species.

Blue magpies prefer to live in forests, preferring massifs with tall trees , however, with the advent of civilization, they can be found in gardens and parks, in thickets of eucalyptus. In Europe, the bird settles in coniferous forests, oak forests, olive groves.

Now you know where the blue magpie is found. Let's see what she eats.

What do blue magpies eat?

Photo: Blue Magpie in Flight

Photo: Blue Magpie in Flight

In nutrition, blue magpies are not too picky and are considered omnivorous birds. Most often they eat different berries, plant seeds, nuts, acorns. One of the most favorite treats of birds is almonds, so they can be seen quite often in gardens or groves where many almond trees grow.

Magpies are also a popular food:

  • various insects;
  • worms;
  • caterpillars;
  • small rodents;
  • amphibians.

Magpies hunt rodents and amphibians on the ground, and insects are very cleverly caught in the grass, on the branches of trees, or removed from under the bark with the help of a beak and clawed paws.

Interesting fact: The blue magpie, like its black-and-white relative, has a very common trait of stealing. This means that birds can easily steal bait from a trap or other trap, as well as fish from a fisherman.

In winter, when there are very few seeds and edible animals in the forest, blue magpies can dig for a long time in garbage containers and landfills in search of food. There, their food can be discarded bread, cheese, pieces of fish and meat products. In especially difficult times, magpies do not disdain carrion. Also, magpies, along with other birds, can be frequent guests of the feeders, which are arranged in order to help them survive the winter.

Peculiarities of character and lifestyle

Photo: Blue Magpie

Photo: Blue Magpie

Blue magpies have a rather sonorous voice, so increased loudness for them is almost the norm. Birds lead a quieter and more secretive way of life only during nesting and rearing of offspring. Magpies prefer to live in small flocks, the number of which depends on the season. For example, from autumn to spring it is 20-25 pairs, and in summer – only 8-10 pairs. Moreover, the distance between their nests is very small — 120-150 meters, and some members of the flock can even live in a neighborhood – on the same tree.

At the same time, pairs of blue magpies do not tend to communicate too closely with each other. However, in moments of danger, magpies are distinguished by remarkable mutual assistance. More than once, there have been cases when grouped birds with hubbub and fight drove a predator (hawk, wild cat, lynx) away from the nest of their fellow flocks, almost pecking out its eyes.

People are no exception in this regard. When a person approaches their territory, magpies raise a cry, begin to circle over it and may even peck at the head. Blue magpies are both nomadic and sedentary. In this regard, it all depends on the habitat, the availability of food and weather conditions. For example, in very cold winters, they can migrate 200-300 km south.

Interesting fact: Due to their tendency to steal, blue magpies often fall into traps trying to pull the bait.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Pair of Blue Magpies

Photo: Pair of Blue Magpies

The mating season for blue magpies begins at the end of winter. Their mating dances usually take place either on the ground or on the lower branches of trees. Males at the same time gather in large groups, showing their presence with loud cries. When courting, the male, fluffing out his tail and wings, gallantly nodding his head, walks around the female, showing himself in all his glory and showing her his admiration. for life.

A married couple builds a nest together, using all means at hand:

  • small dry branches;
  • needles;
  • dry grass;
  • moss.

From the inside, birds insulate the nest with everything in a row: fluff, animal hair, rags, small pieces of paper. Birds do not reuse their old nests, but always build new ones. Usually the nest is placed in the crown of a tree on a thick static branch at a height of 5-15, and the higher the better. Its depth is 8-10 cm, and the diameter — 25-30 cm

Around the beginning of June, the females lay their eggs. In one clutch of blue magpies, there are usually 6-8 beige spotted eggs of irregular shape, the size of a quail or a little more. Females incubate them for 14-17 days, being content with regular offerings from caring spouses. During this period, males also act as cleaners, carrying the females' feces away from the nests. The chicks hatch fairly well. They are covered with dark down and their beaks are not yellow, like most chicks, but crimson-pink.

Interesting fact: Blue magpies feed their chicks 6 times an hour, or even more often.

The arrival of parents with food (small insects, caterpillars, worms, midges) is always welcomed by chicks with a joyful squeak. If there is even the slightest danger, then at the signal of the parents, the chicks quickly subside. Chicks leave the nest at the age of 3-4 weeks. They fly very poorly at first because of their small wings and short tail. For this reason, the chicks stay near the nest for about two weeks, and the parents feed them all this time. At the age of 4-5 months, the young acquire adult coloration, but at first the chicks look somewhat darker than their adult counterparts.

Natural enemies of blue magpies

Photo: What a blue magpie looks like

Photo: What a blue magpie looks like

Blue magpies are rather cautious birds, but their innate tendency to steal often plays a cruel joke with them. The thing is that trying to steal the bait from a trap or trap set by hunters, birds quite often become their victims themselves.

In addition, a bird caught in a trap is easy to eat for a wild cat, lynx and other felines. Also, these predators can easily destroy magpie nests in order to feast on fresh eggs or small chicks. In flight, blue magpies can be hunted by hawks, eagles, sea eagles, buzzards, owls, large owls.

For chicks that have barely left the nest and have not yet learned to fly well, martens, weasels and large snakes pose a considerable danger ( in the tropics). Because of their striking appearance and quick learning curve, blue magpies are a highly sought after item in pet stores. Because of this, they are specially caught in large numbers and often injured.

There are some advantages to life in captivity for blue magpies. So, for example, if in nature birds usually live 10-12 years, then in captivity their life span is doubled. Only magpies won't say whether they need such a comfortable, problem-free and well-fed life without the ability to spread their wings and fly away wherever they want?

Population and species status

Photo: Blue Magpie

Photo: Blue Magpie

The Blue Magpie is a typical an example of a zoogeographical phenomenon. Why? It's just that its distribution area is divided into two populations, which are located at a fairly large distance from each other (9000 km).

At the same time, one is located in Europe (southwest) on the Iberian (Iberian) Peninsula (1 subspecies), and the other, much more numerous, is in Southeast Asia (7 subspecies). The opinions of scientists on this matter are divided, and some believe that in the Tertiary period the habitat of the blue magpie covered the entire territory from the Mediterranean Sea to East Asia. The Ice Age caused the population to split into two parts.

According to another point of view, it is believed that the European population is not local, but was brought to the mainland more than 300 years ago by Portuguese sailors. However, this point of view is subject to great doubts, since the European subspecies of blue magpies was described as early as 1830 and already at that time it had significant differences from other subspecies.

New genetic studies of the European population conducted by in 2002, proving that it still needs to be separated into a separate species – Cyanopica cooki. According to recent studies by the European Bird Census Council, both populations of blue magpies are quite numerous, stable and do not need protection yet.

As already mentioned, the blue magpie is the main character in fairy tales, legends and songs of many peoples. Since ancient times, our ancestors believed that if a person manages to see a blue bird at least once in his life, touch it, then happiness and good luck will always be with him. Now this delusion is far in the past, because wildlife lovers have long known that such a bird lives in the real world and has nothing to do with happiness and fulfillment of desires.

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