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The only nonmammal species able to recognize itself in a mirror test!


It has been said, “If you knew this bird, like I know this bird, you would like this bird.” Many people groan when they hear the name Magpie (Black-billed Magpie in this area). Yes, they are often loud; yet, an interesting, smart and inquisitive member of the crow family.

Magpies are easy to identify with their flashy long tails and bold colouring of black, white, and iridescent blue-green. Often their familiar sharp calls of, “yak, yak, yak” or “mag, mag, mag” are heard before being seen. Magpies have adapted well to living in close quarters to humans; however, it is also equally normal to find Magpies within meadows and fields with trees close by for protection from predators.

They have a wide-ranging diet, such as fruit, grains, grasshoppers, beetles and small mammals. A tiny part of their diet is raiding nests for baby birds. Carrion is another source of food, which does help to keep the roadsides clean and disease free. They are incredibly agile, as they can flip over dry cow dung to get at the beetles beneath. Indeed, these birds are also very clever because they are the only non-mammals that can recognize themselves in the mirror!

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This bird has a symbiotic relationship with deer, cattle and other ungulates. This means they eat the bothersome blood sucking tics from the backs of these large animals. Thus, provides these animals with great relief and the Magpies get a nutritious snack.

It takes a male and female Magpie about forty days to build their big nest. It is made of sticks and a mud cup in the middle, which is lined with grass that holds 1 to 9 eggs.

Next time you see a Magpie take note on how graceful they glide across the sky with their elegant long tail feathers trailing behind.


– Article by Flora McLeod

*Cover image by Tasha @beautybehindthe_lens.*