large bird in the crow family

Magpies are birds of the family Corvidae. Like other members of their family, they are widely considered to be intelligent creatures. The Eurasian magpie, for instance, is thought to rank among the world's most intelligent creatures and is one of the few nonmammalian species able to recognize itself in a mirror test. They are particularly well known for their songs and were once popular as cagebirds. In addition to other members of the genus Pica, corvids considered as magpies are in the genera Cissa, Urocissa, and Cyanopica.

And thus was the pore pye plucked ~ La Tour Landry
A stately worthless animal, / That plies the tongue, and wags the tail, / All flutter, pride, and talk ~ Alexander Pope
With lengths of tail the magpie winnows on ~ John Clare


  • The magpie is much less famous for its talking qualities than the parrot, because it does not come from a distance, and yet it can speak with much more distinctness. These birds love to hear words spoken which they can utter; and not only do they learn them, but are pleased at the task; and as they con them over to themselves with the greatest care and attention, make no secret of the interest they feel. It is a well-known fact, that a magpie has died before now, when it has found itself mastered by a difficult word that it could not pronounce. Their memory, however, will fail them if they do not from time to time hear the same word repeated; and while they are trying to recollect it, they will show the most extravagant joy, if they happen to hear it. Their appearance, although there is nothing remarkable in it, is by no means plain; but they have quite sufficient beauty in their singular ability to imitate the human speech.
    It is said, however, that it is only the kind of pie which feeds upon acorns that can be taught to speak; and that among these, those which have five toes on each foot can be taught with the greatest facility; but in their case even, only during the first two years of their life. The magpie has a broader tongue than is usual with most other birds; which is the case also with all the other birds that can imitate the human voice; although some individuals of almost every kind have the faculty of doing so.
    • Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Book 10, Chapter 59. The Pie which Feeds on Acorns
    • John Bostock, transl., The Natural History of Pliny, Vol. 2 (Surrey: J. Billing, 1855)
  • I woll tell you an ensaumple of a woman that ete the good morsell in the absence of her husbonde. Ther was a woman that had a pie in a cage, that spake and wolde tell talys that she saw do. And so it happed that her husbonde made kepe a gret ele in a litell ponde in his gardin, to that entent to yeue it sum of his frendes that wolde come to see hym; but the wyff, whanne her husbond was oute, saide to her maide, 'late us ete the gret ele, and y will saie to my husbond that the otour hathe eten hym;' and so it was done. And whan the good man was come, the pye began to tell hym how her maistresse had eten the ele. And he yode to the ponde, and fonde not the ele. And he asked his wiff wher the ele was become. And she wende to have excused her, but he saide her, 'excuse you not, for y wote well ye have eten yt, for the pye hathe told me.' And so ther was gret noyse betwene the man and hys wiff for etinge of the ele. But whanne the good man was gone, the maistresse and the maide come to the pie, and plucked of all the fedres on the pyes hede, saieng, 'thou hast discovered us of the ele;' and thus was the pore pye plucked. But ever after, whanne the pie sawe a balled or a pilled man, or a woman with an high forhede, the pie saide to hem, 'ye spake of the ele.' And therfor here is an ensaumple that no woman shulde ete no lycorous morcelles in the absens and withoute weting of her husbond, but yef it so were that it be with folk of worshipp, to make hem chere; for this woman was afterward mocked for the pye and the ele.
  • So have I seen, in black and white,
    A prating thing, a magpie hight,
      Majestically stalk;
    A stately worthless animal,
    That plies the tongue, and wags the tail,
      All flutter, pride, and talk.
    • Alexander Pope, "Earl of Dorset: Artemisia"
    • Imitations of the English Poets
  • Up came a magpie,
      And bit off her nose.
    • "Song of Sixpence"
    • Variants: "Up" = "Down"; "magpie" = "blackbird"; "bit" = "snapped", "pecked" or "nipped"
  • The weary rooks to distant woods are gone.
    With lengths of tail the magpie winnows on
    To neighbouring tree, and leaves the distant crow
    While small birds nestle in the edge below.
  • The milkmaid singing leaves her bed,
      As glad as happy thoughts can be,
    While magpies chatter o’er her head
      As jocund in the change as she:
  • ... and the pie with the long tongue
    That pricks deep into oak warts for a worm,
    And says a plain word when she finds her prize,
    But will not eat the ants; ...
  • Thou art a beaten dog beneath the hail,
    A swollen magpie in a fitful sun,
    Half black half white
    Nor knowst’ou wing from tail
    Pull down thy vanity
  • The room was a magpie-nest of picked-at knowledge, the lair of a tinkerer to whom the universe was one vast toyshop of intriguing side issues.
  • Invisible magpies warbled in the plane trees. Softly, gently, never running out of melodic ideas, they perched among the leaves and spun out their endless tales.
  • The colour of the magpie, her father was saying, was symbolic of creation. The void, the mystery of that which had not yet taken form. Black and white, he said. Presence and absence.
    • Kate Mosse, The Taxidermist's Daughter (2014), Chapter 16
Sometimes so sad that you would expect the tears to drip off his beak ~ Colin Thiele
  • A magpie can be happy or sad: sometimes so happy that he sits on a high, high gum tree and rolls the sunrise around in his throat like beads of pink sunlight; and sometimes so sad that you would expect the tears to drip off his beak. This magpie was like that.
  • From somewhere in the garden came the sound of a magpie singing, and a thousand days of childhood arrived with it. Jess glanced to her right and spotted the black-and-white bird perched atop the statue in the middle of the pond. There were magpies in England, too – Jess had seen them often on the Heath – but although they shared a name, they were different from their antipodean cousins: smaller, neater, prettier, and without the eerily sublime song. This magpie was looking directly at her. Jess tilted her head, watching the bird as he watched her. Suddenly, he spread his wings and flew away.
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