Do Magpies Mate for Life?

One for sorrow, two for joy… this makes me think that solitary magpies are lonely and only become happy when they’re in a pair.

To some degree, this is true, magpies are thought to have earned their bad reputation in part due to their willingness to attack when they’re alone.

This made me wonder do magpies mate for life, and if so, just how long that might be for?

Indeed magpies meet their mate and tend to stay together for the duration of their lives. On average this is around 3 years but there have been some recordings of magpies making it into the early 20s!

Magpies are very territorial, and once they are part of a mated pair, rarely stray far from their 12-acre borders.

Those that aren’t part of a pair form a huge flock with other single magpies, there can be up to 200 birds in each group. This is where magpies of opposite sexes meet before branching off to form their territory.

Mating habits of the magpie

Both birds build the nest near to the top of hedge, tree, or bush. They are made from twigs and mud and aren’t the neatest looking structures. Inside is neater as the birds provide a soft inner lining made from roots, plant fibres and hair.

They are large domed affairs, often with 2 entrances. They need to be big, the birds can lay as many as 8 eggs, though it is unlikely they will all survive.

Usually, only 1 bird occupies the nest at a time, mainly the female during the incubation period. It is she that sits on the eggs for 13 days until they hatch. However, once the chicks are born, the male doesn’t shy away from his responsibilities and will work vociferously to scavenge food to feed their young.

Once the birds have fledged they will seek out a flock to join where they will stay for up to 2 years until they find a mate and create a territory.

Did you know?

Magpies stay within the same 40km radius and usually choose a territory very close to the one within which they were born.

Final thoughts…

Now that you know that magpies mate for life, you might wonder what happens if one bird suddenly dies, leaving the other alone?

The surviving bird will grieve for their mate, but will then seek out another and begin the process all over again.

3 thoughts on “Do Magpies Mate for Life?”

  1. Hi Walter – I also am a retired engineer and have an injured Magpie living in my backyard for 3 days. The mate comes to visit several times a day with another Magpie. I am assuming mate as they click beaks. Should i do anything.

    • Hi Neil

      It depends on what the injury is, they can normally fly away with an injured leg but if the wing is damaged it may not be able to fly again. I would perhaps give the RSPCA a call if you are UK based?

      All the best,

  2. If a female magpie and her baby die together (. Which is the case) will the male stay around and find another mate? I am talking about the Australian Magpie…..
    Tragically this morning the female and her baby were struck on the powerline, the mum and dad have been visiting me for 18 months now and I am extremely devastated by today’s event.


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