magpie, common name for certain birds of the family Corvidae (crows and jays). The black-billed magpie, Pica pica or P. hudsonia, of W North America has iridescent black plumage, white wing patches and abdomen, and a long wedge-shaped tail. It is altogether about 20 in. (50 cm) long. Magpies build large, domed nests in trees. Nest-building is part of courtship. The female alone incubates the eggs. Magpies destroy other birds' eggs and young, and kill sickly, wounded, or newborn sheep and cows by pecking. They are scavengers, but they also eat harmful insects as well as fruits, berries, and leaves. Their reputation for collecting small, bright objects may be undeserved. Noisy, chattering birds, in captivity they can be taught to imitate some words. The yellow-billed magpie, P. nuttali, is found in the valleys of California. The European magpie, P. pica, is closely related to the American; other species, many of which are not predominantly black and white, are found in Asia and Africa. The Australian magpie, magpie-lark, and magpie shrike belong to a different families, Artamidae, Monarchidae, and Laniidae, respectively. Magpies are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Corvidae.
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