Magpie Pica pica, standing among red berries, Hampshire

What do magpies eat?

Magpies have a strong bill with a sharp cutting edge, which can be used for cutting flesh, digging up invertebrates, or picking fruit.

The diet of a magpie

Their main diet in summer is grassland invertebrates, such as beetles, flies, caterpillars, spiders, worms and leatherjackets.

In winter, they eat more plant material, such as wild fruits, berries and grains, with household scraps and food scavenged from bird tables or chicken runs, pet foods etc. They will eat carrion at all times and catch small mammals and birds. Occasionally, magpies prey on larger animals such as young rabbits.

During the breeding season they will take eggs and young of other birds. We don't know exactly what proportion of the summer diet of urban and suburban magpies these comprise: estimates vary between 3 per cent and 38 per cent by weight, although most estimates are at the low end of this scale. Studies of urban magpies in Manchester showed a summer diet mostly of invertebrates with some field voles and house sparrows.

When food is abundant, magpies hoard the surplus to eat later. They make a small hole in the ground with their beak, place the food in it and cover it with grass, a stone or a leaf. These caches are spread around their territory or home range.

Ripe berries of the Rowan tree at Culbin Forest, Scotland