These members of the crow family have long tails and black and white plumage.
They are controversial birds, particularly at this time of year when they carry our raids on the nests of songbirds to steal the eggs or young.
The raids are usually noisy — the magpie uses its rattling call to flush the songbirds out of cover to reveal the nest and the victims respond with loud alarm calls.
The impact of the predation is the subject of argument with ornithologists.
One side says the magpies are merely taking the ‘doomed surplus’ resulting from the over-production of young by the songbirds.
The other side says the rise in magpie numbers has been a direct cause for a decline in songbird numbers.
Both sides quote scientific papers to support their position.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved