Azure-winged Magpie


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Fred

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Magpies are in the Corvid family, meaning they are related to crows and jackdaws. The Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyana) is similar in overall shape to the European Magpie (Pica pica) but is a more slender bird with proportionately smaller legs and bill. It has a glossy black top to the head and a white throat. The underparts and the back are a light grey-fawn in colour with the wings and the long tail feathers a beautiful azure blue.
They hold their tails up high when they are on the ground. The young Magpies have a pale appearance, very short and have stubby tails. It inhabits various types of forests, including parks and gardens.



Interestingly, they are found in China and on the Korean Peninsula, and in Portugal and Spain -- but not in between. It occurs in two population groups separated by a huge geographical region between. One camp insisted that this odd distribution was because Portuguese sailors the bird to the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century.

The other believed that the birds' once-extensive range broke up and shriveled during the last Ice Age, between 125,000 and 10,000 years ago. Aside from the location, scientists note that the isolated Euro-birds are smaller and lack their Asian relatives' whitish tail tips and have pointed such evolutionary change could never have taken place during the mere 5 centuries posited by the other camp. Until recently, Magpie bones were discovered and DNA samples from Chinese and European magpies were compared.

The results were dramatic. The Portuguese and Chinese Magpies do have a common ancestor, but it lived a very long time ago. A much more powerful force had split the Magpie population - ice. And even though the bird books still treat them as one species, the Azure-Winged Magpie has been re-classified into a European and a Chinese species.



They are omnivores, eating insects, fruits, seeds and even mice, lizards and small birds if they can get them. The shape of their beak reflects their diet. It is all-purpose and can deal with most food types. Often food is found as a family group or several groups making flocks of up to 30 birds. Group members stay in touch during foraging through the use of frequent calls. It usually nests in loose, open colonies with a single nest in each tree. There are usually between 6-8 eggs that are incubated for 15 days. They nest within territories of predatory birds, who drive away predators that approach too closely. The voice is a quick fired and metallic sounding kwink-kwink-kwink usually preceded by a single "krarrah.
 

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