What Do Magpies Eat? 25 Foods They Consume

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Updated: September 20, 2023
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Magpies are birds of the Corvidae family. They are best known for their intelligence and bold personality. For example, the Eurasian magpie has been ranked among the world’s most intelligent creatures.

Research carried out by the Journal of Comparative Psychology shows that magpies have the ability to remember faces, and can keep memories for a very long time. So, there’s a high chance they can scold you again if they have done so before. According to a mirror-mark test experiment, magpies also are able to recognize themselves in a reflection.

Unlike other birds who sing and call out, magpies warble, trill, whistle, and chatter. Just like parrots, magpies also mimic sounds in close proximity, such as human speech and wind chimes.

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How about what magpies eat throughout the seasons? And what eats magpies? Should you feed a magpie in your home along with other birds?

This article will give you some fun facts and insights about magpie’s diet including that of their babies.

What Do Magpies Eat?

What Do Magpies Eat
Magpies eat a diet that consists of worms, seeds, spiders, and other foods.

Magpies eat a diet that consists of worms, seeds, spiders, frogs, mice, snails, caterpillars, flies, and other foods. They are mainly omnivores because their diet constitutes both plants and animals. That is why magpies can thrive in any environment they find themselves in. 

Magpies are also amazing scavengers, and you’d always see them trying to find food in trash cans.

Here are the top 25 foods magpies eat:

  • Insects
    • Beetles
    • Insect larvae
    • Spiders
    • Bees
    • Cicadas
    • Crickets & and other creepy crawlers
  • Fruits
    • Pears
    • Apples
    • Berries
    • Figs
  • Grains
    • Oats
    • Acorns
    • Other bird seeds
  • Animals and Birds
    • Mice
    • Frogs
    • Squirrels
    • Snails
    • Young rabbits
    • Pigeons
    • Bird’s eggs
    • Starlings
  • Other Foods
    • Dog and cat foods
    • Carrions
    • Household scrapes
    • Fish

What Do Magpies Eat in the Winter and Fall?

magpies perched together on a moss covered branch

During the winter magpies eat more plant-based foods.

©iStock.com/JMrocek

Magpies eat more plant-based foods during winter and fall. These include grains, berries, and lots of wild fruits. They also scavenge food from chicken runs, bird tables, and households. Additionally, they help themselves on the flesh of decaying dead animals and feast on snails and frogs whenever an opportunity presents itself.

Magpies rely on each other to find food during such times when temperatures are very low. Flocks join each other to form a larger winter roost. Baby magpies hardly make it throughout the winter.

What Do Magpies Eat in the Summer?

Magpies eat more animal material, such as worms, spiders, caterpillars, flies, and beetles during summer. But it doesn’t mean they won’t eat anything else apart from living foods in the summer. Magpies are opportunistic eaters because they will eat almost anything they come across whenever they are hungry.

What Do Magpies Eat in the Spring?

Magpies often catch small animals and birds during spring. They also eat lots of carrion, dead, decaying flesh of animals, and scavenge food in the households. Magpies often cause great destruction during spring as they normally invade neighborhoods in search of food. Many smaller birds also nest in spring. Therefore, magpies may get a chance to eat their eggs and young ones.

What Do Magpies Eat During Their Breeding Seasons?

Magpies eat eggs and young ones of other birds during their breeding seasons. However, they also eat arthropods and cereal seeds whenever they can’t get eggs. Research carried out by TC Hall also shows that magpies are well known to store food for the breeding seasons.

Using their beaks, magpies dig holes in the ground, place the food, and cover it using grass, leaves, or stones to be retrieved later. These food storage areas are normally around the places they live where they can guard them.

How Do Magpies Obtain Food?

magpie standing tall in the grass

Magpies have excellent hearing abilities which they utilize in foraging underground food.

©iStock.com/birdsonline

Magpies use their sight, smell, and hearing to obtain food. They have excellent hearing abilities which they utilize in foraging underground food. While on the ground, they can hear extremely faint sounds of grass being chewed underground. They then pierce the ground using their beaks to pull out their prey. 

Floyd & Woodland carried out an experiment placing speakers underground, playing sounds of recorded beetle larvae. It didn’t take long before a magpie located the sounds of speakers and dug them out.

When not hunting beetles and worms from the underground, magpies spend their time raiding nests and scavenging. You may also spot them in the dustbins and trash cans trying to find any food. They also invade gardens and homesteads in search of berries and any leftover foods.

How Do I Make Friends With Magpies?

The close view of the nestling of magpie on a man hand. Bird on human hand.

Magpies can remember human faces very well and have a great memory.

©DenisNata/Shutterstock.com

If you wish to establish a friendly rapport with magpies in your neighborhood, the initial approach involves allowing them to observe your face from a distance and attempting to make eye contact with the birds.

Magpies can be quite aggressive towards anything they perceive as a threat, be it a sparrow, a dog, or even a human. Fortunately, this behavior typically lasts for approximately six weeks. An intriguing fact to note is that magpies indeed possess an impressive ability to remember faces, demonstrating excellent facial recognition and remarkably long-lasting memories.

Another strategy involves offering a small amount of magpie-friendly food to demonstrate that you pose no threat.

How Can I Feed Magpies at Home?

Some foods like dairy products may possibly harm a magpie’s health. So, it’s recommended that you feed them live insects and worms. Moreso, it’s easy to find all these natural treats in your backyard. 

All you need to do is dig up the ground and turn over bricks, logs, and rocks, and you will perhaps find so many of these tasty animals for your feathered friends. You can also give them wild fruits as a treat.

Avoid feeding magpies raw meat, cheese, and bread. According to a study on Applied and Environmental Microbiology, raw meat and mince cause great havoc to magpie’s overall health. 

Is It Okay to Feed Magpies?

It’s best not to feed magpies. Apart from giving them the wrong foods that may damage their health, magpies can easily become territorial birds around people and other birds. They will view people they have never seen before as intruders. They even threaten to attack them by flying over their heads while flapping their wings furiously! While magpies may not cause any physical injuries, this might really frighten your visitors. Magpies also destroy nests and eggs of other species around them as a way to mark their territory.

How Does the Diet of Magpies Impact Other Species?

Magpies keep the populations of their prey in check. Their predation plays a significant role in the ecosystem by ensuring a natural balance between other species. For example, all birds will compete for the same sources of food and end up hungry if all their chicks get to survive all through to adulthood.

Magpies are also very resourceful in agriculture. The US Department of Agriculture points out ways in which magpies benefit agricultural producers through the consumption of insects and scavenging. 

What Eats Magpies?

Animals That Laugh: Australian Magpie

Magpies are normally hunted by foxes, dogs, and coyotes.

©iStock.com/LKR Photography

Magpies don’t see humans as a threat, they are normally hunted by a number of predators, including coyotes, foxes, dogs, monitor lizards, and cats. Besides, other birds like eagles, hawks, ospreys, and owls will also make an attempt to kill magpies. 

Magpies perfectly know their enemies. They will do their best to protect their families and friends from predators knowing well that the injured and young magpies are often a target to the predators.

What Do Baby Magpies Eat?

Baby magpies eat what their parents feed them. They are often fed worms and insects. The male magpie defends the nest while the female is responsible for feeding the babies. Baby magpies stay for 24 to 30 days in the nest before moving out. Their parents still feed them further for four weeks after leaving the nest. Baby magpies don’t go far though, they stay within their parent’s territory.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/kojihirano


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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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