When we first arrived in Portugal everything I read about this magpie, including Portugal’s superb birding website Aves de Portugal, indicated it was the Cyanpica cyanus. A magpie that is usually only seen in eastern Asia. It was presumed that the Iberian ones was conspecific, and the most common theory was that they had arrived in Portugal with sailors during Portugal’s Age of Discovery. However the marvels of modern science (genetic testing) and a discovery of a fossil have determined that in fact the Iberian Azure-Winged Magpie is a distinct species. It is an Iberian native. Its Latin name is Cyanopica cooki and its Portuguese name is Pega-azul. And like the Eurasian Magpie we see in England a member of the crow family. Their diet, unsurprisingly given their native habitat consists of acorns and pine nuts. It is heavily supplemented with invertebrates, larvae, berries and any food us humans discard in parks and towns. What would we do without the crow family to clear up after us! The crow family are intelligent birds, and from my observations of the Azure-Winged Magpies they seem no different. Well maybe not the one below who dropped the nut! He certainly isn’t as intelligent as the Eurasian Magpie whose nidopallium is approximately the same in its relative size as the brain of chimpanzees, orangutans and humans. Told you you might be learning more than you ever wanted to know!
You’ll find the Iberian Azure-Winged Magpie in almost all areas south of the Tagus however it does seem to be more common in Spain. It is a highly gregarious bird and whilst you couldn’t tell from my photographs it has not been unusual for us to see them in large groups. Not sure I’ve seen the ten though for the ‘surprise you should be careful not to miss‘! They prefer open woodland, orchards and olive plantations but will also be seen in clearings and on roadsides if there is vegetation close by. And just in case you hadn’t worked it out from my photographs they have a glossy black head, noticeable white throat and light pinkish-fawn body. It is of course though the flashes of azure blue on their wings and long tail that make them such a striking bird.