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Magpies, like all other species, are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. This makes it illegal to intentionally or, in Scotland, recklessly take, injure or kill a magpie, or to take, damage or destroy an active nest or its contents. In Northern Ireland, it is illegal to disturb birds at an active nest.

A Larsen trap, a type of cage trap, is designed to catch birds alive and unharmed. It can be baited with food, or with a live decoy magpie, provided all welfare regulations are met. Such traps are legal, so long as the licence conditions are adhered to.

Many people wish to control magpies in gardens because they take eggs and chicks of other birds. Since research indicates that magpies do not pose a conservation problem to garden birds, the use of general licence in this context is at best debatable.

It must be remembered that if challenged, anyone killing magpies in their garden may have to prove to a court of law that they have acted lawfully.


From a distance the magpie is a black and white bird, but on closer inspection its

Juvenile magpies have much shorter tails, their white bits are dirtier and their black less glossy
Adult birds measure about 18" in length with a wingspan of 20-24". Birds weigh between 200-250g


Both birds build the large nest, which is constructed from twigs and small branches, lined with mud and vegetation. This can take several weeks. Nests are usually in large trees (or pylons) and often but not always domed to prevent predation by other magpies.

  • breeding starts early April
  • 1 clutch per year
  • 5-8 eggs per clutch
  • 21-23 incubation days
  • fledge in 22-28 days

  • The hen lays eggs that are smooth, glossy and pale blue with olive or grey spotsBoth parents feed the young after they have hatched.


  • Magpies are found all over the UK, but are not evident in most of Scotland.
  • In Spring large numbers often gather to resolve territorial conflicts. These gatherings are called Parliaments.
  • They enjoy a varied diet in their original rural environment such as insects, rodents, carrion, eggs and nestlings, grain, berries and fruit.
  • They have adapted well to suburban gardens where they also feed on household scraps and bird food.
  • They have a characteristic large, domed nest.
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