Sep 192017
 


Magpies are often maligned as pests, but they’re actually quite interesting birds that are usually overlooked for both their beauty and their intelligence.

Here are six interesting facts about magpies.

Photo Credit: Jean and Fred/Flickr

1. Magpies Don’t Like Shiny Things — They’re Scared of Them

Magpies have a reputation as thieves out to steal your shiny jewelry or take ornaments from your garden, but new research shows that flashy objects probably repel magpies. The myth seems to have built up without much science to back it up, but the truth could actually be useful.

Magpies are capable of wrecking crops by digging for grain, berries and other food, so along with other bird-scaring measures, placing shiny materials in fields might deter magpies and keep crops safe from being upturned and trampled.

2. Magpies Will Eat Almost Anything, Including Bird Eggs and Chicks

While their natural diet is quite broad — including insects, small rodents, grain and berries –magpies have been known to steal other birds’ eggs, and even young chicks.

In addition, magpies have adapted rather well to suburban living, so they’ll often eat leftover food scraps. But it’s better to provide them with proper bird food to ensure they don’t eat anything poisonous.

3. Magpies Are Closely Related to Crows, Jays and Ravens

Though they may look quite a bit different at first glance, magpies belong to the bird family Corvidae, a group that includes crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws and jays, as well as lesser recognized members like treepies, choughs and nutcrackers.

As such, magpies are among the most intelligent family of birds recognized by modern science. Which leads us to our next fact:

4. Magpies Recognize Themselves in Mirrors

Photo Credit: NAPARAZZI/Flickr

European magpies have demonstrated the remarkable ability to recognize their own reflections in mirrors, something that was once thought to be a defining characteristic belonging only to humans. This might not sound that amazing, but out of countless species tested, only four ape species, bottlenose dolphins and Asian elephants have demonstrated this ability.

Scientists tested the magpies by placing a colored mark on their necks — which did not hurt or cause skin irritation. Then when placed in a cage with several mirrors, the birds were filmed scratching at their necks after looking at their reflections. With all other controls in place, this could only mean that magpies had recognized themselves in the mirrors. And not just that, the birds had differentiated between their normal physical state and their now-marked plumage.

You can watch a video of that experiment below:

For a really nerdy aside: Scientists believe that self-awareness in birds and certain mammals may be an example of convergent evolution, in which unrelated species evolve particular characteristics through different means. Another example of convergent evolution, and perhaps one of the best, is our very own set of camera eyes.

5. What is a Group of Magpies Called?

There are several names given to a group of magpies, but perhaps the most descriptive is “a parliament.” The birds have earned this title from often appearing in large groups in the spring, looking stately and cawing at each other.

6. To the End of the Tail

A final fascinating fact relates to one of the defining features of a magpie. While they share some similarities with their corvid family, the magpies possess an extremely long tail. In fact, a magpie’s tail is often roughly the same length as its entire body.

Why magpies have such long tails remains up for debate, but it may provide magpies with the ability to make swift turns while in the air. This would allow the birds to evade larger predators and make up for rather average flying abilities.

This article was first published by Care2.com on 09 Sep 2017.

 

Subscribe to our FREE Newsletter

 

Share this post with your friends





Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

avatar
Paul Seligman

What species is shown in the pic illustrationg point 4? Not a European Magpie for sure. Oh wait – just remembered, it’s an Australain Magpie which isn’t a corvid (crow) at all! Different genus altogether, may have a common ancestor a long way back. I suggest changing that one!

Alain Fossé

Yes, the two pictures with a credit show Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen), an Artamidae and not a Corvidae.

wpDiscuz

Top-Viewed Posts Last 30 Days

  1. POLL: Should Trump’s elephant trophy hunting plan be stopped? – [1177 Views]
  2. POLL: Should Dolphinariums As Tourist Attractions Be Closed Down? – [1111 Views]
  3. POLL: Should big-game and canned, trophy hunting be banned? – [1015 Views]
  4. POLL: Should babies be allowed to buy hunting licenses? – [941 Views]
  5. POLL: Should wild horses be protected from roundups and slaughter? – [889 Views]
  6. POLL: Should Wildlife Services stop its secret wildlife-killing program? – [823 Views]
  7. POLL: Should South Africa strictly enforce its anti-poaching legislation? – [811 Views]
  8. Florida Opened a Fake Alligator Farm to Catch Poachers – [806 Views]
  9. POLL: Should African Grey Parrots be protected from illegal trafficking? – [786 Views]
  10. POLL: Should gillnets be banned in the Upper Gulf to save the Vaquita? – [778 Views]

Top-Viewed Posts Last 12 Months

  1. POLL: Should hunting with hounds be banned? – [7663 Views]
  2. Gray Squirrels versus Red Squirrels – The Facts [5926 Views]
  3. POLL: Should the trophy hunting of bears and wolves be banned? – [3810 Views]
  4. POLL: Should foxes be culled to protect domestic pets? [3799 Views]
  5. POLL: Should there be a worldwide ban on fur farming? – [3648 Views]
  6. POLL: Should the slaughter of badgers in the UK be finally stopped? – [3065 Views]
  7. POLL: Should the cruel sport of bullfighting be banned? [2873 Views]
  8. POLL: Should Canada ban the hunting of seals? [2667 Views]
  9. POLL: Should the Tories be allowed to bring back fox hunting? [2578 Views]
  10. POLL: Should wild elephants be sold to Chinese zoos? [2322 Views]