Birding

The Iberian Magpie

Everything you've ever wanted to know and more!

When we first arrived in Portugal everything I read about this magpie, including Portugal’s superb birding website Aves de Portugal, indicated it was the Cyanpica cyanus. A magpie that is usually only seen in eastern Asia. It was presumed that the Iberian ones was conspecific, and the most common theory was that they had arrived in Portugal with sailors during Portugal’s Age of Discovery. However the marvels of modern science (genetic testing) and a discovery of a fossil have determined that in fact the Iberian Azure-Winged Magpie is a distinct species. Iberian Azure Winged MagpieIt is an Iberian native. Its Latin name is Cyanopica cooki and its Portuguese name is Pega-azul. And like the Eurasian Magpie we see in England a member of the crow family. Their diet, unsurprisingly given their native habitat consists of acorns and pine nuts. It is heavily supplemented with invertebrates, larvae, berries and any food us humans discard in parks and towns. What would we do without the crow family to clear up after us! The crow family are intelligent birds, and from my observations of the Azure-Winged Magpies they seem no different. Well maybe not the one below who dropped the nut! He certainly isn’t as intelligent as the Eurasian Magpie whose nidopallium is approximately the same in its relative size as the brain of chimpanzees, orangutans and humans. Told you you might be learning more than you ever wanted to know!

You’ll find the Iberian Azure-Winged Magpie in almost all areas south of the Tagus however it does seem to be more common in Spain. It is a highly gregarious bird and whilst you couldn’t tell from my photographs it has not been unusual for us to see them in large groups. Not sure I’ve seen the ten though for the ‘surprise you should be careful not to miss‘! They prefer open woodland, orchards and olive plantations but will also be seen in clearings and on roadsides if there is vegetation close by. And just in case you hadn’t worked it out from my photographs they have a glossy black head, noticeable white throat and light pinkish-fawn body. It is of course though the flashes of azure blue on their wings and long tail that make them such a striking bird.

20 comments on “The Iberian Magpie

  1. Great pictures…

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  2. I love seeing these in the Algarve. Wonderful photos Becky.

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  3. Wonderful photos Becky. And I feel like I’m learning too;) Brava!

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  4. This little guy is so gorgeous Becky and he looks nothing like the Australian Magpie.

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  5. Amazing photographs… fascinated me. Thank you, have a nice day, Love, nia

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  6. Rather handsome, too! 🙂 🙂

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  7. Beautiful photos, Becky. We have not seen these birds on the West Coast but from my memories of magpies from garden in the UK… I think I’ll just admire your photos 🙂

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    • Oh I know the European B&W ones are not the nicest of birds to other birds…..from what I can gather though these Iberian ones don’t raid nests.

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  8. This magpie is very pretty, with its blue plumage. We have an Australian magpie too, named by the first European settlers because of the likeness to English magpies, but actually a completely different type of bird. Ours have personalities too and are creatures of habit. We have a family who does the rounds of the street, coming into each garden on the same route every morning. In spring during the nesting season, the males become very protective and will swoop viciously on people who unwittingly come too close.

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