Magpies are birds of the Corvidae family. The black and white Eurasian magpie is widely considered one of the most intelligent animals in the world and one of only a few non-mammal species able to recognize itself in a mirror test. In addition to other members of the genus Pica, corvids considered as magpies are in the genera Cissa, Urocissa, and Cyanopica.
Magpies of the genus Pica are generally found in temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and western North America, with populations also present in Tibet and high-elevation areas of India, i.e. Ladakh (Kargil and Leh) and Pakistan. Magpies of the genus Cyanopica are found in East Asia and the Iberian Peninsula. The birds called magpies in Australia are, however, not related to the magpies in the rest of the world (see Australian magpie).
There are references dating back to Old English in which the bird is called a "pie", derived from Latin pica; this term has fallen out of use. There was a tendency in previous centuries to give birds common names, such as Robin Redbreast (which now is called the robin), Jenny Wren, etc. It is thought likely that the magpie was originally variously Maggie Pie and Mag Pie. The term "pica" for some pregnant women's craving to eat non-foods is related to the tendency of the magpie (Pica pica) to feed on miscellaneous things.
According to some studies, magpies do not form the monophyletic group they are traditionally believed to be; tails have elongated (or shortened) independently in multiple lineages of corvid birds. Among the traditional magpies, there appear to be two distinct lineages. One consists of Holarctic species with black and white colouration and is probably closely related to crows and Eurasian jays. The other contains several species from South to East Asia with vivid colouration, which is predominantly green or blue. The azure-winged magpie and the Iberian magpie, formerly thought to constitute a single species with a most peculiar distribution, have been shown to be two distinct species and classified as the genus Cyanopica.
Other research has cast doubt on the taxonomy of the Pica magpies, since it appears that P. hudsonia and P. nuttalli may not be different species, whereas the Korean race of P. pica is genetically very distinct from the other Eurasian (as well as the North American) forms. Either the North American, Korean, and remaining Eurasian forms are accepted as three or four separate species, or there exists only a single species, Pica pica.
Holarctic (black-and-white) magpies
Oriental (blue and green) magpies
In East Asian culture, the magpie is a very popular bird. It is a symbol of good luck and good fortune.
The magpie is also a common subject in Chinese paintings. It is also often found in traditional Chinese poetry and couplets. In addition, in the folklore of China, all the magpies of the Qixi Festival every year will fly to the Tianhe River and set up on a bridge, where the separated Cowherd and Weaver Girl will meet, so that the bridge has come to symbolize a relationship between men and women.
The Korean magpie, sometimes referred to as the Asian magpie or Chinese magpie, is a national bird and national symbol of Korea.
Magpies are also found widely in the northern areas of Pakistan, especially Baltistan. The common name in Baltistan is khaa-strap.
In European culture, the magpie is reputed to collect shiny objects, often, in fiction, things like wedding rings and other valuable or significant objects (sometimes causing consternation at their disappearance and the false accusation of humans in the story), the most well-known example probably being Rossini's opera "La Gazza Ladra" (The Thieving Magpie). Recent research has shown that there is little truth in the legend, and that magpies, like many animals, are actually unsettled by shiny, blue, or otherwise unusual objects.