Have you ever seen the videos where a crow solves a complicated puzzle?

If not take a moment to watch this 30 second video so you get an idea for how smart these birds are:

With its stark black-and-white plumage and sparkling eyes, the magpie has become a recurrent character in folklore, literature, and even superstition. Tales of its alleged thievery, its penchant for all things shiny, and its unmistakable call have been woven into stories across cultures, turning the magpie into an avian enigma of sorts.
But beyond the tales and myths lies an even more fascinating reality. These birds, often seen in our gardens and streets, harbor a level of intelligence and personality that can rival some of the most celebrated animals in the animal kingdom. Their behaviors, ranging from the mischievous to the profoundly insightful, have led many to believe that magpies possess a unique form of avian consciousness.
As we journey through the world of the magpie, we’ll explore not just what makes these birds tick, but also why they have become such a focal point of human fascination.

What Is a Magpie? Aren’t They Just Crows?

Amidst the vast diversity of bird species, the magpie stands out not just for its distinctive appearance but also for its intriguing behavior. Yet, understanding what defines a magpie requires a journey from taxonomy to territory.


I promise it’s not as confusing as it sounds. We even have a picture to make it easier.


Magpies belong to the Corvidae family, which includes crows, ravens, rooks, and jays – a group celebrated for its intelligence. Specifically, the common European magpie is known as Pica pica. Within this broader family, magpies are often grouped by their distinctive appearance and behaviors, but their close relationship to other corvids can lead to confusion.

Physical Characteristics

Dressed primarily in glossy black and white, the magpie sports a long, wedge-shaped tail, and in certain lights, its black plumage reveals iridescent shades of blue and green. The sharp contrast of its black and white feathers, combined with its confident gait and curious nature, makes it a bird that’s hard to miss. Yet, it’s often mistaken for other black and white birds such as the pied currawong or even, at times, mistaken from a distance for certain jays or crows due to its size and coloration.

Distribution and Habitat

The magpie is a versatile and adaptable bird. While the European magpie (Pica pica) might be the most widely recognized, several magpie species are scattered across different continents. From the urban gardens of Europe to the wild landscapes of Australia, from the dense forests of Asia to the plains of North America, magpies have carved out a niche for themselves just about everywhere in the world.

The Myth and Reality of the Magpie Personality

As creatures that have been a part of our histories and folklore, magpies possess a dual identity: one shaped by myths and the other by science.

Historical Beliefs and Myths

Across different cultures, magpies have taken on varied symbolic roles. In Western tales, they’re often painted as cunning tricksters or omens of good and bad fortune. The age-old rhyme, “One for sorrow, two for joy,” which counts the number of magpies seen to predict one’s fate, underscores their mythical stature. In contrast, Eastern traditions, especially in China, view magpies as harbingers of joy and happiness, often associated with the tale of two star-crossed lovers represented by the stars Altair and Vega, meeting once a year with the magpie’s help.

Cognitive Prowess

Magpies aren’t just about myths. They’re among the few non-mammalian species to have passed the mirror test—a benchmark in animal cognition that tests an individual’s ability to recognize itself in a reflection, indicating a certain level of self-awareness. Additionally, their problem-solving skills have been showcased in various experiments, such as those involving hidden food items or complex foraging tasks like in the video at the start of the article. These findings place magpies in an elite group of animals with advanced cognitive capacities.

Tool Use, Self-recognition, and Problem-solving

Diving deeper into their intelligence, magpies have demonstrated an ability to use tools, a trait once believed to be exclusive to humans and primates. From using leaves to gather food to crafting sticks for probing into crevices, their inventiveness is evident. Beyond tool use, their aforementioned success in the mirror test speaks volumes about their self-recognition. And, when faced with challenges, from evading predators to locating food, magpies display strategic problem-solving abilities, often observing, learning, and then executing a plan.

Social Dynamics

Much like humans, magpies thrive in social environments. They’re known to live in organized groups, each with a hierarchy, roles, and responsibilities. This communal nature facilitates learning and protection. Young magpies often “apprentice” with older ones, observing and mimicking behaviors crucial for survival. Furthermore, their vocalizations, rich in tone and variation, aren’t just calls but a complex language that conveys emotions, warnings, and information.

Unpacking the Magpie Personality

The magpie’s behavior is often mistaken to be the same as other “basic” birds like finches or seagulls but magpies do actually have personalities unique to each bird.

Curiosity and Exploration

At the heart of the magpie’s nature lies an insatiable curiosity. Whether it’s a glinting object on the ground, a new bird feeder in the yard, or unfamiliar sounds, magpies are often the first to investigate. Their keen eyes miss little, and this ever-observant nature makes them quick learners, adapting to new environments and situations with remarkable agility. This exploration isn’t mere foraging; it’s an innate desire to understand their surroundings.


One of the magpie’s most enchanting traits is its vocal versatility. Beyond their own varied calls, magpies have an uncanny knack for mimicry. From the trills of other birds to the hum of a car engine or even snippets of human conversation, their repertoire is vast and varied. This mimicry, while entertaining to us, serves them well in confusing predators or even in attracting mates. So don’t be surprised if you hear them when your out an about in your Seattle RV Rental.


While play is often associated with mammals, especially young ones, magpies shatter this notion. Whether it’s aerial acrobatics, playful chases, or simply amusing themselves with objects they find, their zest for life is evident. This playful behavior is more than mere recreation; it’s a way for younger birds to practice essential skills and for adults to bond and establish social connections.

Protective Nature

For all their curiosity and play, magpies are fiercely protective. Their territories, nests, and young are defended with a courage that belies their size. This protective nature extends to their communal groups too. It’s not uncommon to see magpies rallying together to chase away potential threats, a testament to their loyalty and social bonds.


With any creature as complex as the magpie, misunderstandings are bound to arise. Their fascination with shiny objects has earned them an undeserved reputation as thieves. Similarly, their protective behavior, especially during nesting seasons, is sometimes mistaken for unprovoked aggression. It’s essential to view these behaviors in context, recognizing them as natural responses to their environment and not as inherent vices.

Building a Bond: How to Befriend a Magpie

While magpies are wild creatures, with patience, understanding, and the right approach, it’s possible to foster a bond that’s mutually enriching. Becoming friend with a magpie isn’t difficult, and can lead to some fun conversations with them like in this video: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/YsBHcMbcO3M?feature=share

Here’s a quick guide to navigating this delicate relationship.

The Importance of Patience and Respect

Just as with any relationship, forging a bond with a magpie requires time. It’s important to respect their space, understanding that each bird is an individual with its own temperament. Rather than forcing an interaction, allowing it to develop naturally over time will yield more genuine and lasting results.

Offering Food

Best Practices and Safe Foods to Offer: One of the most straightforward ways to gain a magpie’s trust is through food. However, it’s essential to ensure that what’s offered is both safe and nutritious. Worms, insects, and raw meat (free from additives) are excellent choices. While they might also be tempted by bread or biscuits, these don’t offer much nutritional value and should be given sparingly.

Observational Learning

Magpies are astute observers. They not only remember individual humans but also associate past experiences with them. This means a kind gesture or a regular feeding routine will likely be remembered, but so will a scare or threat. By being consistent and gentle in interactions, one can become a familiar and trusted figure in a magpie’s world.

Non-threatening Behavior

Sudden movements, loud noises, or direct approaches can be distressing for magpies. When trying to engage, it’s best to maintain a calm demeanor. Avoid direct eye contact initially, as this can be perceived as threatening. Instead, use slow, deliberate movements and speak softly if you choose to communicate verbally.

The Rewards

Those who have successfully built a relationship with magpies often speak of the joy and insights it brings. From the magpie’s intricate songs to the little “gifts” they sometimes bring, these interactions offer a rare glimpse into the wild world. Warning, once your friends with a Magpie you WILL be given tons of “little gifts” like the guy found out in this video:

In the end, befriending a magpie is more than just a series of steps; it’s a journey of understanding. It teaches us patience, humility, and the joys of simple connections, reminding us that nature’s wonders are not just around us but also within reach.

sgt holden submitted picture

Finding Magpies On Vacation

Magpies, with their captivating personalities and striking appearances, are emblematic of the surprises nature holds for us. Imagine parking amidst the wooded regions of the Pacific Northwest or alongside the serene lakes of the Rockies. As dawn breaks and you sip your morning brew, the familiar call of a magpie echoes in the distance, announcing its presence.

If you’re yet to embark on such a journey or are considering exploring new places, consider renting one of our luxury RVs. Our diverse range of vehicles ensures you find the perfect match for your adventure. The seamless blend of comfort and functionality that traveling in an RV offers ensures that you’re not just traveling, but genuinely experiencing the destinations.