Friday, June 14, 2013

A New Crop of Magpies

Last summer a pair of Black-billed Magpies began constructing a nest in a spruce in my backyard. I was anxious to see if they would be successful breeders. For some reason, unfortunately, they abandoned their nest when it was half constructed. This spring, fortunately, the Magpies returned and completed a nest in an adjacent spruce tree. I became hopeful again that the pair might breed successfully. And they did! Just the other day I was working in my backyard and saw three fledgling Magpies in different places of the yard.

Most people consider these birds a nuisance and I understand why. They often gather in groups and generate a continuous stream of raucous calls. They also make a lot of noise while harassing other birds and even raid the nests of other birds which, in turn, causes those birds to add to the noise when they send out the alarm of raiding birds to their other bird friends. I'm a birder so I often see birds differently. I find these behaviors and interactions interesting and sometimes entertaining.

The fledgling magpie below shows the beginnings of what will eventually develop into a beautiful blue-green iridescent tail that will grow to nearly a foot long. For now these stubby tail feathers appear to be more useful as a kickstand to contribute to a stable foundation rather than a stable or erratic flight.

Black-billed Magpie Fledgling in Pleasant Grove, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Below are a few closeup images of one of the recently fledged Magpies. Feathers are still developing around the head, eyes, and bill. Some soft downy feathers can be seen on the shoulder and back. The white shoulder stripes (sometimes called backpack stripes) are also still downy looking. All of these feathers will eventually be replaced with very sleek black and white feathers as can be seen in the last images of this post.  The bill is close to full length, but the nasal bristles will grow in thicker and longer when it reaches full adult plumage.

Black-billed Magpie Fledgling in Pleasant Grove, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)

Black-billed Magpie Fledgling in Pleasant Grove, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)

Black-billed Magpie Fledgling in Pleasant Grove, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Some people refer to Magpies as junk birds because they seem to eat just about anything from leftover food items found in a parking lot to carrion. The birds below are actually cleaning up what some person left behind. Is it worse to create the mess or attempt to remove the mess?

Black-billed Magpies Eating Soybeans Before They Have Sushi in South Jordan, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)

Black-billed Magpie in South Jordan, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
All but one of the classic field marks of the Black-billed Magpie are seen in the following image: Long dark bill; black head, back, and legs; white belly and shoulder stripes; blue-green secondary wing feathers; and, the long blue-green tail feathers. The only missing field marks, and really cool looking ones, are the white primary feathers bordered in black. Those feathers can be seen in the very last image of the post.

Black-billed Magpie in South Jordan, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
I hope the image below goes toward showing how beautiful these birds really are. They are also quite intelligent and very socially oriented. They will actually take care of one another in dangerous situations and will also gather to mourn over one that has become injured or suffered death.

Young Black-billed Magpie Gliding to Landing in South Jordan, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)

1 comment:

  1. Sweet shots Jeff, though I think I prefer looking at the adults more : )