Latest news:

Azure-winged magpie

Scientific name: Cyanopica cyana

Continent: Europe, Asia

Country: Spain, Portugal, China, Korea, Japan

Diet: Insects - insectivore, fruits - frugivore, seeds - granivore, small vertebrates.

Food & feeding: Omnivore

Habitats: Temperate forest and woodland, temperate grassland

Conservation status: Least concern

Relatives: Crow, European magpie

Description: These beautiful magpies have long light-blue tails and wings, grey backs, white throats and a black cap on the top of their head. European birds are distinguished from Asian birds by their lack of a pale blue tail spot and much smaller size. The birds in the Zoo are Asian. They are about 35 cm long and weigh 100 grams.

Lifestyle: These attractive birds roam around their native forests in small groups, looking out for their favourite foods. Their all-purpose beaks are able to make a meal of almost anything. They are active during the daytime.

Family & friends: These magpies live and nest in groups, nests are often found in neighbouring trees and occasionally a bird within the colony may help another pair raise their chicks. Once the chicks have fledged, the family groups merge and the whole group forages together.

Keeping in touch: They have a variety of calls, piping whistles and trills, plus a loud note uttered over and over as the flock moves through the forest.

Growing up: Azure-winged magpies lay up to nine eggs in a clutch and the eggs are incubated for 15 days before hatching. Chicks are fed in the nest by both parents and sometimes by older sibling birds within the colony. They fledge two weeks after hatching, but continue to be fed by the adults until independent.

This species is found in the wild in Spain, Portugal and the Far East (China, Korea and Japan), but it is not found anywhere in-between. How could this happen? Perhaps magpies lived all over Europe and Asia and died out over time, leaving only these two separated populations today. However, DNA analysis now suggests that these two sub species are in fact separate species.

Conservation news: Bristol Zoo Gardens has bred many of these birds. To increase our colony size occasionally we remove eggs or chicks to hand-rear the birds. This allows the adults to relay and have a second brood of chicks and doubles the number of birds we breed in any one season.