Friday, 8 April 2016

Female magpie begging from her mate

The pair of Magpies must be around the egg laying stage. Only the female Magpie incubates, while her partner must feed her during this time. Females start begging for food to her partner around the time that they lay their first egg, noisily, wings flapping and uttering what has been described as the 'clear call'. The success of a pair of Magpies depends on how good the male is at keeping his mate well fed. A hungry female is more likely to take breaks from incubation, leaving the eggs exposed to predators (most likely Carrion Crows, according to T.R. Birkhead, the archenemy of Magpies).
 Yesterday afternoon, I heard this peculiar Magpie call repeatedly from the garden. The pair of Magpies were at a birch tree and one of them (the one on the top, likely the female), flapped her opened wings, chasing and begging to the other, quite indifferent, individual, likely to be the male. I took a video of this behaviour you can watch below (you might need to turn the volume up to hear the call).

More information
Birkhead, T. R. Studies of West Palearctic birds: Magpie 189. British Birds 82, 583–600 (1989).


  1. Thanks for this very interesting post, which answers the question I was asking myself a few days ago when I saw the same behaviour and heard the same call. I didn't know whether it was the male displaying or the female soliciting.

  2. Hi Ralph, I guess it is the right time of the year to observe this. It was a fortunate coincidence that I had just read the article I refer too, a wonderful read indeed.

  3. I have heard that call once of twice before, but I always assumed it was a chick begging for food from the parents (the few times I have heard that call it was not easy to see whether the calling bird was an adult or not). Great post, and great video.

    1. Hi Tinuviel, thank you for your comment and happy to be of help. Funny that despite having magpie nests near my house, I've never heard chicks being fed. A similar thing happened to me with Blue Tits, as the female begging is also a part of the pair courtship.