Magpies

magsMagpies are a most familiar bird in the Peace Country, and in many areas of the world.  Large, raucous, and distinctly coloured, the magpie is a bird that is hard to miss.

They are also very interesting – and intelligent – birds.  As part of the crow family, they are crafty and resourceful.  They are also quirky.

Here are just a few interesting tidbits about magpies:

The name magpie comes from Pied Margot (pied meaning black and white, and Margot… perhaps a rather vocal person someone once knew?).  In Macbeth, Shakespeare uses both “magot pie” and magpie to describe the bird of ill-omen:

“The craftiest murderers have been exposed by the mystical signs made by crows and magpies.”

The latin word for magpie, pica, is also the origin of the name of the eating disorder.  People with pica will eat strange things, just like magpies.

Magpies make caches for their food, digging holes with their beaks and stuffing them with choice bits for later.  They’ll check the cache, and check to see if anyone saw them making it.  They might come back (magpies have wonderful memories) or they might not.

Magpies build large, messy nests that almost always include a hood, or roof on top, or a nest shaped like a dome or a hive.  It takes the magpie couple over a month to build a new nest.  Wouldn’t you think they could make a neater job of it with all that time to work with?  Yet, the nests must be comfortable since they are reused by magpies or taken over by other birds.

Magpies mate for life.  Well, unless they want a divorce.  Curiously, studies with much different results seem to show that Albertan magpies separate far more often than their counterparts in South Dakota.

Magpies place ants on their feathers for grooming, enjoy sun-bathing, and can scratch their heads with their feet like dogs.

Anyone have a great picture of a magpie?  We’d love to post it here on Town Spirit 🙂  Email any tips, pictures or news from the Peace Country to townspirit@hotmail.com and share with the rest of us!

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One Response to Magpies

  1. I know some people hate them but I always thought they were pretty and fun to watch. But I understand that people would hate them for belonging to the crow family. I don’t like to see crows fly off with baby robins. Don’t know if magpies do the same.

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