Magpie irruption?

Magpie

Magpie

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie

This fall I have noticed that there have been many more Magpies in the area. The Black-billed Magpie is a very beautiful bird that is closely related to the Crow and Raven, as well as the Blue and Gray Jays; the family that they all belong to are called Corvids.

The species that we have in most of North America is the Black-billed Magpie. They are considered a “western” species of bird in that they are mainly a bird of the northern plains of the midwest. There is a small population of Yellow-billed Magpies that only occurs in a small area of northern California.

The Magpie used to follow herds of Bison on the plains using that to their advantage. After the Bison were almost extinct, the Magpie switched over to cattle. Ranchers aren’t real crazy about Magpies and they even had a bounty on Magpies in the first half of the 20th century.

The Magpie’s range is worldwide in that they occur in North America as well as Europe and Northern Africa. There’s a sub-species in Australia too. And this particular bird is held in disdain in many of the places where it lives. People accuse the Magpie of raiding nests of songbirds and other destructive behavior.

The Magpie also has a mystical side too, the bird is mentioned in the old and new testament of the bible several times. The most famous perhaps is the story about the pair that would not board Noah’s Arc, instead stubbornly sitting in a tree and making fun of the other animals.

The cartoon that some may remember from their childhood portrayed the birds as mischievous and intelligent.

While researching the Magpie in Minnesota on the internet, I found out that there is a seasonal movement of birds in the fall. The juveniles will search out new territories and move about in flocks as they expand their range to the east. I also read that they will follow wolf packs around and scavenge off their leftovers.

Maybe that will explain why I saw a Magpie up at Lake Kabetogama and then shortly thereafter a pack of 5 Wolves crossed the road in front of my car.

Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie

 

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