Key information

With its noisy chattering, black-and-white plumage and long tail, there is nothing else quite like the magpie in the UK. When seen close-up its black plumage takes on an altogether more colourful hue with a purplish-blue iridescent sheen to the wing feathers and a green gloss to the tail.

Magpies seem to be jacks of all trades – scavengers, predators and pest-destroyers, their challenging, almost arrogant attitude has won them few friends. Non-breeding birds will gather together in flocks.



What they eat:

Omnivore and scavenger.




UK breeding:
600,000 territories

Identifying features:

Feather colour: Black Blue Green White

Beak: Black Medium length Powerful Chunky
Natural habitats: Woodland Farmland Grassland Heathland Upland Urban and suburban Wetland



You either love them or hate them, but magpies usually generate lots of positive or negative comments from gardeners. They are often regarded as the hooligans of the wild bird population. Although they are still venerated with superstitious awe by some.


Magpies are large garden birds and are instinctive killers, particularly in the breeding season, when they hunt for other bird eggs, fledgelings and nestlings to feed their young. How much damage they do to garden bird populations is debatable, as no research has been carried out.

They often scare away other garden birds and will dominate bird tables, although they are less likely to feed on hanging feeders.

They are omnivorous and will also eat large grubs, earthworms, fruit and seeds.


Although magpies will peck around in the soil looking for insects, the main garden damage is done to the lawn where they create holes while looking for grubs, such as leatherjackets and chafer grubs. That being said, magpies are a useful control for these two root-eating plant pests.

Treatment and control

It is impossible to keep magpies out of the garden.

To help protect other garden birds, provide lots of suitable nesting sites that give them some security and safety. Put nesting boxes in places that magpies can’t get to.

Protect wild bird food on bird tables within a wire-netting cage with a mesh size that excludes the magpies.


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