Why You Should Love the Much-maligned Magpie

Why You Should Love the Much-maligned Magpie Advertisement By: Patty Rasmussen  | Apr 5, 2021 It’s a sure bet that the person who coined the term “birdbrain” never dealt with a magpie. Tim Birkhead, emeritus professor of zoology in the department of animal and plant sciences at the University of Sheffield, Great Britain, is author of […]

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Why You Should Love the Much-malgned Magpe

By: Patty Rasmussen
 | 

t’s a sure bet that the person who coned the term “birdbrain” never dealt wth a magpe.

Tim Birkhead, emertus professor of zoology n the departm of anmal and plant scences at the Unversty of Sheffeld, Great Brtan, s author of the book “The Magpies: The Ecology and Behaviour of Black-Billed and Yellow-Billed Magpies.” Brkhead has studed both speces n the feld, n Europe and the Unted States, and notes that people who deal wth magpes on a regular bass have a keen understandng of how smart they are.

“Every gamekeeper wll tell you how clever magpes are — avodng people carryng a gun — as f they know,” he says, va emal. “The magpes’ most mpressve tt s knowng themselves n a mrror. Very few anmals can do ths. Magpes can also be taught to speak. They hde and can relocate hdden wth ncredble accucy.”

Wth regard to ther intelligence, magpes are very much lke fellow corvds – jays, rooks, vens and crows, says Walt Koenig, a senor scst wth the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Koeng has studed magpes n the past and s currly studyng the socal behavor of acorn woodpeckers and patterns of acorn on n Calforna ks n the Carmel Valley of Calforna. (t also happens to be the only place n the world where yellow-blled magpes lve.)

“For a tme, yellow-blled magpes were the only North Amercan brd that was endemc to a sngle state n the contnal Unted States,” says Koeng. “A yellow-blled magpe has never found ts way over the Sers (Sierra Nevada mountain range) nto the Great Basin. Any magpe you see on the east sde of the Sers s always a black-blled magpe. And don’t know f there’s ever been a black-blled magpe on the west sde of the Sers. Yellow-blled magpes don’t make t up past the Cascade nge. They’re purely n the Cl Valley and they come out here toward the cst n a few of the larger valleys.”

The yellow-billed variety s descrbed as a year-round, socable brd. They nest n pars by the dozens farly close to each other — wthn hundreds of yards. n one colony Koeng and other researchers studed, they found 15 to 20 nests n one canyon.

“We referred to yellow-blled magpes as sem-colonal,” says Koeng, “They make bg domed stck nests wth nces on the sdes that can be a couple of feet across. The nests sometmes end up n mstletoe clumps whch made them hard to fnd sometmes.”

t appears that both yellow- and black-billed magpies are monogamous and mate for lfe. Magpe pars ther nest together, the male gatherng stcks for the exteror whle the female works on the nteror, lnng t wth mud and gss. The female lays a clutch of (the number vares accordng to speces), usually one brood per year.

Ther plumage s eye-catchng — black and whte ovell wth black and blue-green rdesc flashes on ther wngs and tal. Ther wngs are short, but ther tals are long — as long or slghtly longer than the rest of ther bodes. Ther blls are strongly pronounced, lke a crow’s and — true to ther name — ether yellow or black. They are typcally between 17 nches (45 cmeters) and 23 nches (60 cmeters) n length and wegh 5 pounds (2 klogms) to 7 pounds (3 klogms). The avege magpe wngspan s 22 nches (55 cmeters) to 24 nches (61 cmeters).

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Magpes are what scsts call opportunstc eaters. n other words, you mght see a magpe eatng carron, but t probably makes up only a small amount of ther det.

“They’re mostly out there fogng among the gss, eatng nsects and other stuff they can fnd,” says Koeng. “But they wll eat small mammals.”

Magpes do have a couple of unque behavors of note.

“They’re one of the few anmals that are known to have funels,” says Koeng. “Nobody really knows what’s gong on but when magpes fnd even parts of a dead magpe lyng around because t got eaten, or ded, a bunch wll come together and start squawkng. They recognze ths dead brd as one of ther own, and t sends them nto ths tzzy. They’re obvously dong somethng. The genel consensus s that they’re socal enough that when they see a dead magpe, they want to know who t, was how t affects them and how t affects the socal sttfcaton of the group.”

The second s a behavor Brkhead calls “testng the locks,” a sort of ceremonal gatherng n the sprng.

“Nosy clusters of up to 20 magpes n the trees chasng and callng,” he says. “Our research showed that these are trggered by domnant members of the nonbreedng flock nvadng the terrtory of establshed pars. Essally, they are testng the locks — ‘could break n and take over f push hard enough?’ Ths s how some young magpes get terrtores and how some old ones lose thers.”

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Lteture, from folktales to nursery rhymes, have demonzed magpes as brds that swoop n to steal shiny objects or are harbngers of doom. But Brkhead says t’s probably a combnaton of bad press and famlarty breedng contempt.

f magpes were re everyone would ve about ther stunnng whte and ‘black’ rdesc plumage; ther long tal and perky ner,” Brkhead says. “They’ve become more common n the U.K. n the last 50 to 60 years and anythng common can be perceved as a pest. Magpes take songbrd and nestlngs, and understandably, people hate them for ths. But sparrowhawks take y more, but do so ‘nvsbly’ so are less malgned. And domestc cats take y more stll. Gamekeepers call magpes ‘vermn’ — and that tag seems to make people thnk they can be abused wth mpunty. Gamekeepers catch magpes n Larsen Traps — a pretty ne way to control anythng.

The ncrease n magpes concded wth the genel decrease n songbrds and people put two and two together and made 10. Our research revealed no causal lnk between the two. Magpes do take songbrd and chcks, but so do lots of other predators, and small brds have evolved to cope wth ths and produce replacem clutches.”

Magpes fgure nto y legends of North American Indigenous people dependng on the trbe. n some trbes the magpe s vewed as an annoyance or a gossp, but n others — such as the Cheyenne, Hop and Pueblo — the magpe s a trusted frend or messenger from the Great Sprt.

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Why You Should Love the Much-malgned Magpe


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Why You Should Love the Much-maligned Magpie Advertisement By: Patty Rasmussen  | Apr 5, 2021 it’s a sure bet that the person who coined the term “birdbrain” never dealt with a magpie. Tim Birkhead, emeritus professor of zoology in the department of animal and plant sciences at the University of Sheffield, Great Britain, is author of […]

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How To Really REALIZE DREAMS COME TRUE?

Happiness is for those who plan well and pursue. A profound among us have been proven those who have true dream to live for likely REALIZED IT. It is just simply the person working toward the DREAM days and night until accomplishment. There is a phrase of efficiency a head of you. Steps and obstacles at first seem tremendous. However, just with some times those difficult steps and challenges are so easy performance for you. There are also plenty of tools including VISUALIZATIONS and helps are around you.

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COVID-19 – Effective Tips For You!

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