Today, March 14, is traditionally celebrated as Pi Day -- because when the date is written 3/14, it represents the first three significant numbers of Pi. Pie day may be celebrated by eating pie, but since we like birds, today seems like a good day to celebrate the family of birds that has pie right in the name: Magpies!
There are three groups of true magpies. The four species of magpie in the genus Pica are the Holarctic, or black-and-white, magpies. The nine species of Oriental magpie are generally blue-green and are in the Urocissa genus and the Cissa genus. The azure-winged magpie belongs in the genus Cyanopica. Here are some fun facts about this group of intelligent and curious birds.
- Magpies belong to the Corvid family, which makes them closely related to birds like jays, crows, and ravens.
- The cartoon characters Heckle and Jeckle are a pair of magpies.
- There are several collective nouns used to describe a group of magpies, including "a gulp of magpies" and "a mischief of magpies."
- Magpies aren't the only birds with "pie" in their name. Another group in the Corvid family is the treepies. One bird in this group has a confusing name: the Black Magpie of Asia.
- Another bird with a confusing name is the Australian Magpie. This species isn't a magpie at all! Although its black-and-white plumage is very magpie-like, this species belongs in a different genus and is closely related to the Butcherbirds of Australasia.
- A recent taxonomical split may have added a new species of magpie to the list. The Azure-winged Magpie has an usual fragmented range with part of the population in southwestern Europe and part over in eastern Asia. Some ornithologists consider the two populations to be separate species, naming the European bird the Iberian Magpie.
- The Javan Green Magpie is the most endangered species of magpie. Endemic to Indonesia, it is considered to be Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Other endemic species of magpie include the Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, found only in Sri Lanka, and the Yellow-billed Magpie, found only in the U.S. state of California.