A Few of My Favorite Birds (16): Chattering Magpies

 “He prayeth best, who loveth best; All things great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us; He made and loveth all.”
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Magpie in tree  Most of the birds I’ve written about are native to Michigan and daily companions, feeding just 3 feet from my desk at our bird feeder, Magpie hunting for food but in honor of my recent trip to South Korea, I want to write about magpies, which were daily visitors to my son’s backyard…and everywhere else we went! Magpie on roof top Magpies are common throughout western America as well as Europe, Asia, and Africa. They are large members of the cordivae (crow) family, often more than 18 inches long (although half is tail) and with a wingspan of nearly 2 feet. Magpie looking for food Magpies have bold, black and white coloring, and they’re just as bold in personality. Two hundred years ago, Lewis and Clark recorded in their expedition notes that magpies entered their tents to steal food! Magpie 1 They are bold and clever.  Magpies are the only birds able to identify themselves in mirror tests and are believed to be not only the smartest of the bird family but among the smartest of animals generally, having a brain to body ratio rivaling that of great apes. In captivity, they’ve been known to imitate sounds, count, use tools to clean their own cages, and perform other very clever tricks. Magpie 2 Magpies are always notable because they are extremely social and fill the air with raucous, cackling calls as they glide from tree to tree overhead, but they move so fast and are wary enough that I found it extremely hard to photograph them.  Magpies in treeBesides being gregarious generally, they have one special custom. They mate for life and display grief over loss, holding funerals for one another! Magpies flying away If a magpie finds a dead fellow magpie, it will call until a group of up to 40 birds gather, where they all cackle together for 10-15 minutes and then disperse in silence. Isn’t that amazing?   So, when I talk about birds “in the hood,” I’m not just alluding to human social behaviors. God created our feathered friends to have true community too. May we take joy in them and learn from them! Magpie 3“Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?” ~Rose F. Kennedy DSCN0064“Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.”
(Psalm 150:6)


One response to “A Few of My Favorite Birds (16): Chattering Magpies

  1. Incredible. So interesting. Thank you for sharing.

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