The Iridescent Magpie: South Korea’S Cherished National Bird

With its distinctive black and white plumage and long tail feathers, the Korean magpie is a unmistakable sight across South Korea. This clever bird has become a symbol of good fortune and is deeply embedded in Korean culture. But how did the magpie become South Korea’s national bird?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this beautiful national symbol.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: The Korean magpie, also known as the Asian magpie, is the national bird of South Korea.

Overview of the Korean Magpie

The Korean Magpie, also known as the Oriental Magpie, is a cherished national bird of South Korea. With its stunning iridescent plumage and distinctively long tail, this bird has captured the hearts of Koreans for centuries.

Let’s take a closer look at the scientific name, physical features, breeding habits, habitat, behaviors, and its significance in Korean folklore and history.

Scientific Name and Physical Features

The scientific name of the Korean Magpie is Pica sericea. It belongs to the crow family, Corvidae, and is closely related to other magpie species found in Asia. The Korean Magpie is known for its beautiful and iridescent black and white plumage.

Its long tail feathers are a distinguishing feature, giving it a graceful appearance as it flies through the air.

On average, the Korean Magpie measures about 45-50 centimeters in length, with males being slightly larger than females. It has a strong, curved beak that it uses for various tasks such as foraging and building nests.

Its legs and feet are black, and it has bright blue patches of skin around its eyes, adding to its striking appearance.

Breeding, Habitat, and Behaviors

The Korean Magpie is a highly adaptable bird that can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, parks, and urban areas. It is known for its intelligence and resourcefulness, often scavenging for food and building intricate nests made of twigs, grass, and mud.

Mating season for Korean Magpies typically occurs in early spring. During this time, males perform elaborate courtship displays, showcasing their flying skills and vocal abilities to attract a mate. Once a pair is formed, they work together to build their nest and raise their young.

Magpies are known for their vocal nature, with a repertoire of calls that include melodic songs and harsh caws. They are also highly social birds, often seen in small groups or pairs, engaging in playful behaviors and communicating with each other through various vocalizations and body language.

Magpies in Korean Folklore and History

The Korean Magpie holds a special place in Korean folklore and history. In Korean mythology, the magpie is believed to be a symbol of good luck and fortune. It is said that when a magpie is spotted, it brings joy and happiness to those who see it.

Magpies are also associated with love and fidelity in Korean culture. According to an old Korean folktale, if a person sees a magpie on their wedding day, it is believed to bring a long and happy marriage.

Throughout history, the Korean Magpie has been depicted in traditional Korean art and literature, symbolizing beauty, grace, and resilience. Its presence in Korean culture reflects the deep admiration and appreciation that Koreans have for this extraordinary bird.

Significance and Symbolism of the Magpie

The magpie holds a special place in South Korean culture, being regarded as a cherished national bird. This beautiful creature is not only admired for its stunning iridescent feathers but also for its significance and symbolism in Korean folklore and traditions.

Associated with Good Luck and Fortune

In Korean culture, the magpie is often associated with good luck and fortune. It is believed that if a magpie is seen near one’s home, it brings good news and blessings. This belief stems from an ancient Korean folktale that tells the story of a magpie helping a poor man find a hidden treasure.

This association with luck has made the magpie a popular symbol in various aspects of Korean life, including art, literature, and even traditional wedding ceremonies.

Connection to the Taeguk Symbol

The magpie’s significance is further enhanced by its connection to the Taeguk symbol, which is featured prominently on the South Korean flag. The Taeguk symbol represents the harmony of opposites, such as yin and yang, and is depicted as a red and blue swirling design.

The shape of the Taeguk symbol is said to resemble the wings of a magpie, symbolizing the bird’s role in bringing balance and harmony to both nature and human life.

Role in Traditional Korean Magpie Dance

One of the most captivating cultural traditions involving the magpie is the Korean Magpie Dance, also known as “Gong-gangsuwollae.” This traditional dance is performed during the Chuseok festival, a major harvest celebration in Korea.

Dancers wearing colorful costumes resembling magpies gracefully move and sway in synchrony, mimicking the bird’s elegant movements. The Magpie Dance is not only a visual spectacle but also a way to celebrate the bird’s symbolism of good fortune and unity in Korean society.

The Magpie in Korean Arts and Culture

The magpie, known as “kkachi” in Korean, holds a special place in the hearts of South Koreans and is deeply intertwined with the country’s arts and culture. This beautiful bird with its iridescent feathers has inspired artists, poets, musicians, and even made appearances on money, stamps, and coats of arms.

Portrayals in Painting, Poetry, Music, and Media

The magpie has long been a popular subject in Korean traditional painting. Its striking black and white plumage, coupled with its playful nature, has made it a favorite symbol of joy and happiness. Artists have captured the magpie’s vibrant personality and beauty in various artworks, depicting it perched on tree branches, flying through the sky, or interacting with other animals.

In addition to painting, the magpie has also found its way into Korean poetry. Poets have used the magpie as a metaphor for various emotions and themes, such as love, longing, and freedom. Its presence in poetry adds depth and symbolism, evoking a sense of connection with nature and the human experience.

The magpie’s influence extends beyond visual arts and poetry. It has also made its mark in Korean music and media. Traditional Korean musical instruments, such as the gayageum and the daegeum, have been used to create melodies that mimic the magpie’s calls.

These melodic tunes have a soothing and enchanting quality that resonates with listeners.

In modern times, the magpie has become a popular motif in Korean media. It has appeared in movies, television shows, and even video games. Its presence in these forms of entertainment serves as a reminder of the bird’s cultural significance and its ability to captivate audiences of all ages.

Featured on Money, Stamps, and Coats of Arms

The magpie’s prominence in Korean culture is further reflected in its appearance on various forms of currency. The 10 won coin features an image of a magpie perched on a branch, symbolizing good fortune and prosperity. This serves as a daily reminder of the bird’s significance to the Korean people.

In addition to currency, the magpie has also graced Korean stamps. These stamps often depict the magpie in its natural habitat or in various artistic interpretations. Collectors and enthusiasts appreciate these stamps for their intricate designs and cultural symbolism.

Furthermore, the magpie has been incorporated into the coats of arms of some South Korean cities and provinces. These coats of arms feature the magpie alongside other symbols that represent the region’s history, culture, and identity.

They serve as a visual representation of the magpie’s enduring presence in Korean society.

Conservation Status and Threats Facing Magpies

Not Threatened Currently but Habitat Loss an Issue

The magpie, South Korea’s cherished national bird, is currently not considered threatened according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, this does not mean that the species is completely safe from potential threats.

One of the main concerns for the magpie population is habitat loss. As urbanization and deforestation continue to expand, the magpies are losing their natural habitats and nesting sites. This loss of habitat reduces their access to food sources and breeding grounds, which can have a negative impact on their population in the long run.

Declining Population in South Korea

Despite the magpie’s current non-threatened status, South Korea has been witnessing a decline in its magpie population. This decline is primarily attributed to a combination of factors, including habitat loss, agricultural intensification, and the use of harmful pesticides.

The increasing urbanization and agricultural activities have led to the destruction of the magpies’ natural habitats and the contamination of their food sources. Additionally, the use of pesticides in farming practices poses a direct threat to the bird’s health and reproductive success.

Efforts are being made to address these threats and conserve the magpie population in South Korea. Conservation organizations and government agencies are working together to establish protected areas and promote sustainable land management practices.

These initiatives aim to preserve the magpies’ habitats, restore degraded areas, and reduce the use of harmful chemicals in agriculture.

It is important for individuals to play their part in magpie conservation as well. By creating bird-friendly gardens, avoiding the use of pesticides, and supporting local conservation initiatives, we can contribute to the preservation of this beautiful and cherished national bird.

Other Unique Korean Birds

In addition to the iridescent magpie, South Korea is home to a variety of other unique and fascinating bird species. Let’s take a closer look at some of them:

Golden Eagle

The Golden Eagle is an impressive bird of prey that can be found in various regions of South Korea. With its majestic appearance and powerful wingspan, it is truly a sight to behold. These birds are known for their incredible hunting skills and are often seen soaring high in the sky, scanning the landscape for their next meal.

The Golden Eagle is a symbol of power and strength, and its presence in South Korea’s natural habitats adds to the country’s rich biodiversity.

Oriental Stork

The Oriental Stork, also known as the Korean white crane, is a critically endangered species that is native to East Asia. South Korea is one of the few remaining countries where these beautiful birds can still be found.

With their elegant white plumage and long, slender legs, Oriental Storks are a true symbol of grace and beauty. Conservation efforts are being made to protect and preserve their habitats, as they play an important role in maintaining the ecological balance of the region.

Black-faced Spoonbill

The Black-faced Spoonbill is a migratory bird that visits South Korea during the winter months. These distinctive birds are named for their unique spoon-shaped bills, which they use to sift through the mud in search of small fish and crustaceans.

They have a striking appearance, with black facial skin, white plumage, and bright red eyes. South Korea’s wetlands provide an ideal habitat for these birds, and efforts are being made to protect their breeding grounds and ensure their continued survival.

For more information on Korean birds and their conservation, you can visit the Birds Korea website, which is a reputable organization dedicated to the study and protection of birds in South Korea.


With its distinctive plumage and cultural symbolism, the Korean magpie beautifully represents the spirit of South Korea. This clever bird features prominently in folklore, art, and dance as a sign of good fortune.

While not currently threatened, continued habitat conservation is needed to ensure thriving magpie populations for generations to come.

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