Black-billed Magpie in tree in Rocky Mountain National Park. This was taken on my Rocky Mountain Photo Shoot.I once won a Trivial Pursuit game down in Mississippi because I was able to correctly identify the colors of a Magpie (Pica hudsonia), black and white, much to the amazement of all present. This was hardly a feat of mental prowess. I see the dang things every bloody day; they are the patron bird of NCAR. Their Ka Ka-ing is filled with mockery. If I am late, they let me know. If I have stayed late they chortle in derision. We don’t use the phrase “she is such a Magpie” to describe melodic whisperings.
Magpies are members of the Crow family (Corvidae) and are BIG. Their screeching tones match their size of their rotund bodies, huge beaks, and even larger tail. Interestingly, Magpies are the only non-mammals that are known to recognize themselves in the mirror. Perhaps all the cacophony is the Magpie equivalent of bad-feather-day mirror shock. To be fair, not all cultures find the Magpie’s vocal habits so offensive. In China, the squawk of a Magpie is a sign of good fortune.
Magpies are omnivorous. They feed mainly on the ground, eating a wide range of food, including such tasty morsels as beetles, seeds, berries, small mammals, small birds and their eggs, nestlings and even reptiles. If you had a beak the size of a surfboard, you would eat reptiles too. They are also scavengers, swooping down to rapturously dine on road kill pizza.
Who needs a telephoto lens when these bad boys will walk right up to you and let you know how they feel. Note the dark beady eyes filled with scorn and the iridescent wings.
Even though Magpies are often seen in large groups, they are solitary nesters, forming large dome-like nests high up in trees. These lofty perches offer them a better perch from which to thrown down insults on the inconsiderate humans passing by. Bad feather day indeed.