Pica (genus)

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Pica pica -Helsinki, Finland-8a.jpg
Eurasian magpie (P. pica)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
Genus: Pica
Brisson, 1760

Pica is the genus of two to four species of birds in the family Corvidae in both the New World and the Old. The genus name Pica is derived from the Latin name for the Eurasian magpie.[1]

They have long tails and have predominantly black and white markings. One species ranges widely from Europe through Asia, one occurs in western North America and the third is restricted to California. They are usually considered closely related to the blue and green magpies of Asia, but recent research suggests their closest relatives are instead the Eurasian crows.[2]

Two or three species were generally recognized, the Yellow-billed and one or two black-billed ones. Recent research has cast doubt on the taxonomy of the Pica magpies.[3] P. hudsonia and P. nuttalli are each other's closest relatives, but may not be different species. If they are, however, at least the Korean race of P. pica would have to be considered a separate species, too.


Recognized living species include:

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
01-Magpie.jpg Pica pica Eurasian magpie Europe and Asia
Pica nuttalli.jpg Pica nuttalli Yellow-billed magpie California
Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia).jpg Pica hudsonia Black-billed magpie western half of North America

Fossil species

A prehistoric species of Pica, Pica mourerae, is known from fossils found in PliocenePleistocene boundary strata on Mallorca.


  1. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 305. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  2. ^ Ericson, Per G. P.; Jansén, Anna-Lee; Johansson, Ulf S. & Ekman, Jan (2005). Inter-generic relationships of the crows, jays, magpies and allied groups (Aves: Corvidae) based on nucleotide sequence data. Journal of Avian Biology 36: 222-234. PDF fulltext
  3. ^ Lee, Sang-im; Parr, Cynthia S.; Hwang,Youna; Mindell, David P. & Choea, Jae C. (2003). Phylogeny of magpies (genus Pica) inferred from mtDNA data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 29: 250-257. doi:10.1016/S1055-7903(03)00096-4 PDF fulltext

Further reading

  • Song, S.; Zhang, R.; Alström, P.; Irestedt, M.; Cai, T.; Qu, Y.; Ericson, P.G.P.; Fjeldså, J.; Lei, F. (2017). "Complete taxon sampling of the avian genus Pica (magpies) reveals ancient relictual populations and synchronous Late-Pleistocene demographic expansion across the Northern Hemisphere". Journal of Avian Biology. doi:10.1111/jav.01612. 

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