The Magpie Whisperer’s Charm

There are many collective nouns used to describe a group of magpies — congregation, gulp, murder, tiding, tittering, etc. But after watching this video about one woman’s interactions with these birds — she calls herself the Magpie Whisperer — the most appropriate term would seem to be “Charm” as in The Magpie Whisperer’s charm:


In case you’re curious about these fascinating and resilient birds, here are 14 charming things to know about magpies —

Black-billed Magpie (Photo credit: Dan Dzurisin )
  1. Magpies are members of the corvid family, which also includes ravens, crows and jays.
  2. Black-billed magpies are distinguished by their size and striking black and white color pattern with black areas on the wings and tail showing iridescent hints of blue or blue-green.
  3. Typically magpies like to be close to water in relatively open areas with scattered trees and thickets.
  4. Considered intelligent, boisterous, and curious birds, they are also quick to sense danger and become shy, and secretive.
  5. They are opportunistic omnivores. Magpies forage on the ground for insects, carrion, seeds, rodents, berries, nuts, eggs, and also garbage. They are also known to follow large predators to scavenge from recently killed carcasses.
  6. Like other birds of prey, magpies often regurgitate compressed pellets during the night. These pellets are made up of the undigested parts of insects, rodents, seeds, etc. 
  7. They hoard food. Like squirrels, they make holes in the ground for their food caches and will generally move it multiple times to protect their hoard location.
  8. In North American, the Black-billed magpies’ range runs from southern Alaska to northern Arizona and New Mexico, but only as far east as Michigan and Iowa due to heat and humidity.
  9. Magpies hang out in loose flocks and tend to roost communally in winter, but they don’t huddle together.  Instead, each occupies its own space. 
  10. Magpie pairs stay together year-round and often for life.
  11. Magpies nest once a year. The usual clutch size is six or seven. The female incubates, for 16–21 days. The young fly 3–4 weeks after hatching.
  12. Historically magpies were hunted for bounty as they were considered pests — by farmers for crop damage, by birders for robbing song bird eggs, and by ranchers for pecking at sores on cattle (and ticks too).
  13. Because they are omnivores, magpies are susceptible to toxic chemicals used to poison wildlife and insects.  The are also particularly vulnerable to West Nile virus because they often nest near water and are exposed to mosquitoes.  
  14. Magpies give a call in the vicinity of their dead, causing a gathering often referred to as a funeral.

You can listen to various magpie calls at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology — HERE. Enjoy more videos of the Magpie Whisperer’s charm — HERE. And find more great information on magpies at Audubon , Wikipedia and A-Z Animals.


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