|Photo by Jiri Jech (Internet Bird Collection)|
This species has two disjunct populations, one in southern Portugal and Spain, and the other in eastern Asia, in most of China, Korea, Japan and north into Mongolia. Recent studies suggested splitting the two populations into different species, but the genetic divergence is probably not sufficient to justify the split.
Azure-winged magpies are 31-35 cm long and have a wingspan of 38-40 cm. They weigh 65-75 g.
They mostly occur in sparse woodlands and surrounding scrubland. In Asia they prefer broadleaved forests along river banks, while in Europe they are mostly found in cork and Holm oak woodlands, pines and even Eucalyptus stands. They are also present in open cultivated land, grasslands, hedgerows, orchards and olive groves.
Azure-winged magpies typically forage in flocks, mostly taking invertebrates, seeds and fruits from the ground. They will also eat small vertebrates, carrion, scraps and refuse. They sometimes store acorns, olives and pine seeds for later consumption.
These birds start nesting in March-April. They nest in loose, open colonies and each breeding pair is usually helped by one to several helpers who collaborate in nest building, feeding the incubating and brooding female, feeding nestlings and removing fecal sacs. The nest is a rough, loose foundation of twigs, inside which they add compacted pellets of earth, mud, or dung lined with roots, pine needles, small twigs, moss, lichen, animal hair, and feathers. There the female lays 4-7 eggs which she incubates alone for 15-19 days.The chicks are fed by both parents and the helpers and fledge 14-19 days after hatching.
IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large, even if disjunct, breeding range. The global population is estimated at 3-30 million individuals and believed to be increasing, so this species is not threatened at present.