In southern Utah Magpies are rarely seen. But travel north 300 miles and they are everywhere. When we arrived at the University of Utah Hospital to see our Son, there were two Magpies walking on the grass. Inside the covered Parking area there were a zillion Pigeons, three fake Owls (hoping to fool the unwanted Pigeons into leaving), and one curious Magpie looking for a handout. The hospital sits at the edge of Salt Lake City, close to the giant “U” and merges with the mountains that surround Salt Lake. This seems to be an environment they like.
Later that same day, in the middle of the City, where the trees are tall and plentiful, there were even more Magpies in the tops of the trees, creating a raucous. That’s what Magpies do best. They make lots of noise, fight over who gets what to eat, argue with strangers, and complain to anyone and everyone. In spite of all these bad traits, Magpies are simply beautiful. Their shiny feathers are black, green, and white and they have a really long tail. I want to oooh and ahhh whenever I see a Magpie because of their beauty, and because I live 300 miles south, where there are no Magpies.
I’ve heard lots of stories about ‘those nuisance birds’, but is that the real picture? Are they rats with wings? Are they pesky noisemakers? My Honey says they remind him of flying bears. Magpies, like Bears, are adaptive and use whatever food source becomes available during the season. Magpies will eat anything from roadkill to the raspberries in your garden. Another interesting bit about Magpies is that they are seen on the backs of Sheep and Elk herds, grooming these large animals by eating the ticks that plague them, making the herds healthier and keeping diseases down. Each of us fills a niche on this planet. Each has a role to play.
Brenda Rusnell has drawn the Magpie with color pencils. If you have questions about birds or the Red Cliffs Audubon monthly activities call 435 673-0996.