Birds by Name – M
The Magpie, Pica pica, is a resident breeding bird of the Crow family, Corvidae, and is common throughout Europe, much of Asia and northwest Africa.
The Magpie averages about 45 centimetres in length and has a wingspan of between 52 and 62 centimetres. Its head, neck and breast are glossy black with a metallic green and violet sheen while the belly and shoulder feathers are pure white. The wings are glossy black with a bit of green or purple.
Magpies are considered to be very intelligent, some saying they are not only one of the most intelligent birds but also one of the most intelligent of all animals.
Magpies are omnivorous scavengers and will eat almost anything.
Species: P. pica
The Mallard or Wild Duck, Anas platyrhynchos, is a dabbling duck found throughout the world and has even been introduced to New Zealand and Australia. In addition, the Mallard is the ancestor of almost all of the varieties of domestic ducks, others being descended from the Muscovy Duck and American Black Duck.
The Mallard has a long body and a long and broad bill. The male has a dark green head, a yellow bill, is mainly purple-brown on the breast and grey on the body. The female is mainly brown with an orange bill.
However, Mallards have a tendency to interbreed with other species of the genus Anas which means you can get a variety of sizes and colourings, making identification a little more difficult on occasion.
Species: A. platyrhynchos
The Mandarin Duck, Aix galericulata, is an easlily recognisable (for a change) medium-sized perching duck in the Anatidae family and is closely related to the North American Wood Duck. It grows to between 41 and 49 centimetres in length and has a wingspan of between 65 and 75 centimetres.
The male has a red bill, large white crescent above the eye and a reddish face. The breast is purple with two vertical white bars and the flanks are ruddy coloured with what look like two orange sails at the back.
The female is similar to female Wood Duck and has a white eye-ring and stripe running back from the eye. It is is paler or duller coloured below with a small white flank stripe and a pale tip to its bill.
Originally from Asia, particularly China, Japan and Russia, it became popular as an ornamental duck. In the process, many escaped and large feral populations have thrived in many areas.
Species: A. galericulata
The Mistle Thrush, Turdus viscivorus, is a largish member of the thrush family Turdidae and is usually found in open woods and cultivated land throughout Europe and much of Asia.
The Mistle Thrush grows up to 27 centimetres in length, making it a bit larger than the similar Song Thrush. It has a grey-brown back and round, black spots on its belly. The sexes are very similar.
The Mistle Thrush can be quite aggressive, particularly at feeding time. It eats berries, worms, slugs and various insects.
Species: T. viscivorus