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Magpies among most flexible of birds

Tom Wiesen, Naturalist News
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Spend any amount of time in the Vail Valley, and that flash of tuxedo white on black will catch your eye. The lon, graceful tail gleams iridescent greens and blues. With a stately black bill and a sparkle in its eye, the black-billed magpie is difficult to ignore.

First of all, magpies are smart. They belong to a grouping of birds known as corvids, which include ravens, crows and jays. Corvids have the highest brain capacity of all birds and, therefore, seem to rule with ease no matter where you travel.

A smart bird is an adaptable bird and, therefore, feeds and shelters itself easier.

Magpies build elaborate nests which look like a basketball-sized jumbled mass of sticks. You’ll often see magpies flying about in April with a twig in their bills. They build a sturdy platform, and then cover it with a roof of interwoven twigs. Often the roof contains thorny sticks, which serve as barbed protection from predators, such as the great horned owl.

The very clever magpies can add or remove twigs from the roof for climate control to provide ideal temperature for eggs or chicks.

As for finding food, magpies have an open mind. There are magpies on the road enjoying fresh squirrel burger. There are magpies emerging from the Dumpster, outside of the bakery, with a delicious flaky croissant. There are magpies riding on the back of a grazing elk picking insects off of the animal’s back.

There’s just no end to the possibilities. To magpies, the world is full of opportunities.

Aside from feeding, free time is important to magpies: time to attend social gatherings, time spent alone reflecting and time to just relax in the sun and watch the world go by. Add a little play to everyday, and the season whirls by for a magpie.

The next time you see a agpie, regard him as a wise friend. A sutiable motto for the bird would be: “Work smarter not harder, in all aspects of your life.”

Tom and Tanya Wiesen are the owners of Trailwise Guides; a snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and wildlife watching guide service in the Vail Valley. Contact Trailwise at (970) 827-5363


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