Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie on a frosty winter's day
I once won a Trivial Pursuit game down in Mississippi because I was able to correctly identify the colors of a Magpie (Pica hudsonia) much to the amazement of all present. The colors are black and white. This was hardly a feat of mental prowess. I see the dang things every day.

A Magpie's "Ka Ka-ing" is filled with mockery. “she is such a Magpie” did not enter into the vernacular because of their sweet song. 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 to photograph a Magpie, 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.

13 comments:

Shellmo said...

I loved all the info on the magpie and how you described them as "filled with scorn." You got some wonderful shots of him. Was surprised to hear they eat other birds.

Valdir Jorge said...

Now I know more about magpies than I think I'll ever need to know! :-)

Thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the info..I have never seen one and didn't know anything about them...

Paul - Leeds daily photo said...

I live in Yorkshire, England did not know that you too had the magpie. When I was a boy there were far fewer of the birds than we have today.

Dana D said...

Where is NCAR? Where might we find a plethora of nests to study? Is is legal to take baby magpies home to study?

sylvia murphy said...

Hi Dana,

NCAR is located in Boulder, CO. An no, please don't take any magpies home to study.

Anonymous said...

These beautiful birds can be found in Vail, Colorado sharing the feeding grounds with Ravens. Funny though, the ravens have been more vocal than the magpie so far. Can't wait to hear one.

Anonymous said...

We have tons of Magpies here in Bailey, Colorado...as well as Crows and Blue Jays which all seem to travel together. They just appear in droves and pillage the bird feeder intended for Finshes and leave. Where do they go? Do they actually have nests somewhere?

woof nanny said...

Would it be okay with you if I used one of your photos as a photo transfer to fabric on an apron I'm making? I'm doing a collage of images of magpies. Please email me and let me know if I have your permission. It's a gift for another blogger, but I may try to publish it in a magazine first too. I will credit you of course. One apron only--not for sale or anything.

Anonymous said...

The Chinese believe that if you see a MAGPIE outside your window that this act of the MAGPIE will make you extremely lucky. I was sitting in my car near a patch of reeds in a grassy gully near Golden, Colorado, and a MAGPIE pair - a male & female - landed and played for a little outside my car window... And Yes! I feel very lucky just to have seen them at all.

Anonymous said...

Magpies in Colorado also raid gardens, corn crops and fruit trees. The bird is in the class of vermin.

Anonymous said...

I was visiting my son in Castle Pines, CO., while in the backyard this huge black and white bird with the longest tail landed and walked around for a while. We did not know what it was. Bank in my state of NJ I finally remembered to look it up. Now I know what a Mgpie is and I do feel lucky to have seen it. I don't think we have them in NJ.

Stone Cottage Adventures said...

'Great info! Thanks! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures