“ If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. ”
― Henry David Thoreau ~
To my surprise, there were some pretty amazing photos. The problem is, I like a bit of story line with my pics. So that would mean quite a bit of writing.
Now I do love a good story. I also enjoy sharing my stories to a willing audience.
Upon racking my brain, I did not need to look any further than my front yard for a good tale.
Now I haven’t been back to Montana but for only 4 ½ years. In addition, it has been about 12 years since I lived here.
Nonetheless, this is where I want to retire, and for good reason.
Anyway, I have lived in numerous places but have never been around Magpies before. However, I have heard many stories about these birds. And it seems that everyone hates them. The funny thing is, I’d been admiring these beautiful creatures the whole time I’d been back. I did not know they were magpies. I find the black and white contrast to be very stunning. And if you look real close, you will see a touch of blue on the side wings.
A Little About Magpies
Magpies are in the crow family (Corvidae) and just as much of a scavenger. Except these birds are a whole lot smarter and craftier. And when it comes to orneriness, they surpass all birds worldwide. Well, according to what I have witnessed, not researched.
One thing I do know, magpies are one of the few animal species known to be able to recognize itself in a mirror test.
A little note: self-recognition was once thought to be an ability found in only a few select primates. As well, researchers always thought that the neocortex was what gave these select few the gift of self-recognition.
However, the magpie does not have a neocortex. A recent study of 100 magpies showed that this bird is extremely self-aware. As far as we know, the only other creatures with this ability are humans, bottlenose dolphins, only 4 apes and Asian elephants.
My Mom Hates Them
My mother grew up on a large farm in Colorado. She came from a very big family. It was the type of family where the kids did a lot of work on the farm, from sunup to sundown. Anyway, every time I mention magpies to her, all she can say is “I hate them, they are very ornery”. She said that they were tricksters and loved to play games with your mind. They were also very destructive in the garden, reeking havoc everywhere they landed. Then they would quickly fly away, land on the nearest tree limb and laugh at you. My mother also had an additional reason to hate these birds. Her name is Margaret and everyone would rhyme her name with the dreaded Magpie. I think she said that her brothers and sister sang Magpie Margaret incessantly. No wonder she hate these creatures.
The Magpie – It More than Mocks
Magpies are very smart birds. Many ‘pet’ owners are said to have taught the bird how to talk, including words and phrases. In addition, the magpie is said to mimic a wide range of household noises. According to study comparing the sonograms of lyrebirds and Australian magpies, the mimicry of the lyrebird was “impressionistic” while the magpie was very “realistic”. So one must wonder if the magpie can actually talk and know what it is saying.
A Huge Reputation
Magpies also have a reputation for their ability to steal shiny objects and then hiding away their “loot”. Now, I’d like to see them try to hide this classic antique car (below).
It is said that the loot is for their nest. The magpie loves anything shiny and their nests will be filled with many trinkets like However, this crazy bird seems to enjoy being crafty and outsmarting every creature around, particularly humans and cats. I really don’t feel the stolen objects are just for the nest. Indeed, their stolen loot is like entertainment. And a ‘Ah, Ha, I gotcha again”. On the other hand, there are studies that indicate that magpies really avoid shiny objects. And that they like to keep a safe distance when shiny objects are nearby. Hmmm, I wonder, maybe I should take a peek in a nest. Which brings me to my next paragraph.
Going for the Face & Head
Did you know that magpies can be aggressive?
Granting, the magpie is not aggressive for better part of the year. Nonetheless, for 4-6 weeks during nesting the magpie is no different than a raging mamma bear with her cubs. Without hesitation, it will defend their territory forcefully. And if you walk near the nest, a magpie will see you as a threat and start clacking their beaks loudly. Be cautious, the clacking is a warning for you to leave. Although they usually do not attack, don’t put it past them. The bird will strike the intruder on the head with both its beak and claws. This is a large bird and there are repercussions. Just for GP’s, about 99% of magpies that attack are male. They are known to attack people in their territories at around 150 ft. (50m) from their nest. You are most apt to be attacked once the eggs hatch and especially while the chicks grow. Once the chicks leave the nest, attacks are rare.
To drive off an intruder, the magpie’s behavior can drastically escalate. The least threatening are warning calls and swoops from a distance. However, the magpie will move in closer with its swoops the more you are a threat. The bird will swoop in from behind or the side (unawares) and then loudly snap their beaks. They then go for the head, face, neck ears or eyes.
There have also been reports of the bird dive bombing the head. Generally the magpie will dive bomb a cyclist. The bird will strike the intruder on the head in full force with its chest. Note: Rarely will a magpie attack face to face. Their methods of attack are the element of surprise and often from behind.
Magpies will also form groups, even a defensive line of armament (most common when other magpies are invading their territory). As a rule, they attack in pairs (or more) when they feel defenseless. Their attack can be ruthless and cause serious injuries to the head and eyes.
Magpies Living in My Front Yard
Yes, there is a magpie nest in our pine tree that sits in the front yard.
So what do I do today (prior to my research about magpies)? I go out and investigate the nest to get some pictures. Not very wise! But I just had to get a pic or two. I wanted one of the mom, but she stayed distant. I did manage to get a pic of one of the babies though. What a bird.
Now I have to tell you, these magpies are extremely ornery. Mom is so right. I watch them taunt and tease the cats like no other. Yes, the cats are very afraid of these birds. I have witnessed two or more magpies surround a cat via ground. They slowly inch up to the cat then they do a low swoop and aim for their heads. As of late, the cats stay close by me when I am outdoors. Any sudden movement and the cats jump with fright. Now mind you, the cats don’t run. They come close to a fetal position to protect their heads. Crazy.. Well, of course I tried to get a picture of this ‘gang’ related event. No luck yet!
Until next time!
A poem by Judith Wright
Along the road the magpies walk
with hands in pockets, left and right.
They tilt their heads, and stroll and talk.
In their well-fitted black and white.
They look like certain gentlemen
who seem most nonchalant and wise
until their meal is served — and then
what clashing beaks, what greedy eyes!
But not one man that I have heard
throws back his head in such a song
of grace and praise — no man nor bird.
Their greed is brief; their joy is long.
For each is born with such a throat
as thanks his God with every note.
Just One More Classic
I couldn’t refuse.
I just had to post the pic of another classic. What a beauty! Don’t you agree?