Magpie, a conirostral bird of the crow family, and the genus pica (Briss.). The bill is long find strong, about as high;is broad at the base, with compressed sides, hooked tip, and covered with bristly feathers nearly to its middle; wings long mid rounded, with the first quill short, falcate, and attenuated, and the fourth and fifth nearly equal and longest; the tail is very long and graduated, the lateral feathers scarcely more than half the middle; tarsi longer than the middle toe, strong and covered with broad scales in front; toes strong, and the hind one long, with curved sharp claws; a naked patch behind and below the eye; head without crest; nostrils circular. Nearly a dozen species are described, inhabiting the old world and North America; they are seen generally in pairs, but sometimes in flocks, noisy and restless; they will eat vegetables, grains, mollusks, worms, insects, and even carrion, and destroy eggs and young birds. The nest is made upon high trees or in thick bushes, of large size, of coarse materials plastered with clay, and softly lined with wool, hair, and feathers; there is generally a kind of roof over the nest, with a narrow entrance for the birds.
The common magpie of Europe (P melanoleuca, Vieill.) is 18 in. long, with an extent of wings of 2 ft, the tail 10 in., and bill 1 1/2 in.; the plumage of the head, neck, back, anterior part of breast, and abdomen black; the rest of the breast and the outer scapulars white; the tail and wings splendent with green and purple, most of the inner web of the outer (mills white; iris dark. This elegantly formed and handsome bird is generally distributed in the wooded districts of Europe; in form it approaches nearest to the jackdaw, but the wings are shorter and the tail much longer. It is fond of coming near human habitations; the flight is rather heavy, but moderately rapid; the notes are almost incessant and hard; the tail is elevated while walking. The eggs are from three to six, about 1 1/2 by 1 in., of a pale green with brown and purplish freckles, or pale blue with smaller spots resembling those of the jay; it is fond of building in the same locality, and frequently in the same nest. From its docility it is an agreeable pet, though it has the propensity common to the crow family of stealing whatever objects, and especially bright ones, may attract its attention.
The American magpie (P. Hudsonica, Bonap.), though closely resembling the European, is a distinct species; it has a much longer tail, is of larger size, with a thicker bill, grayish blue outer ring to the iris, the feathers of the throat spotted with white, and the hind part of the back grayish. It is found in the arctic regions, and, in the United States, down to California.
American Magpie (Pica Hodsonica).