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Education Magpie Envy

If you live in the eastern portion of the US and have never seen a magpie–Salt Lake City is the place for you.  Those birds are all over the place–they’re like crows (not just in family but in commonality).  We have a remnant population up in northern Minnesota but not the sort of numbers you see out west. Since there are so many magpies around, there’s unfortunately an opportunity for education magpies.  It’s illegal to keep them as pets, but someone always tries and about the time the birds reach sexual maturity, the person doesn’t want the imprinted bird any more and they end up in places like Utah’s Hogle Zoo.

..who happened to be at the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival with an education magpie–so cool!  What a nifty looking bird.  I’ve worked with all sorts of raptors and a turkey vulture, but never a corvid.  Sigh, I was totally envious.  I would imagine a corvid like a magpie is a challenge in captivity–they are smart, they need enrichment to keep those little brains occupied.  As I was taking photos of this bird it began to mimic my camera shutter.  Here’s a video:

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Another group doing live bird presentations called Tracy Aviary was there.  When I walked by their display, I did a double take when I saw this bird:

I asked the volunteer what it was for confirmation and she said it was a red-crested turaco. I thought it was a turaco–a bird I’ve only ever seen in field guides.  Apparently this African species does well in captivity and many people keep them.  It was such an odd moment for me.  I collect international field guides–you never know when you are going to get an unexpected call to go out of the country…it happens a few times a year for me.  I’ve seen this bird in my African guides and have always wondered how cool it would look like in real life.  Alas, it was in a cage but still a sweet looking bird.  They did use it in a free flight outdoors program so this bird does get around.

Just some cool birds around the fest and I guess I had a little turaco envy as well.

14 comments to Education Magpie Envy

  • Black-billed Magpies are pretty common in my part of Idaho too. I have several nests close by. People tend to dislike them because they eat roadkill, but I think they are pretty and your video shows how cool they can be too!

    Doing some history research, I came across a 1927 newspaper article in the ol’ Idaho Daily Statesman announcing the winners of a Magpie killing contest in a nearby small Idaho town. The object was to kill as many magpies in one day as possible and to prove it with the heads. Magpie eggs removed from the nest even counted as a kill. I was dismayed that the winner had “taken” over 3400 magpies with the runners-up taking 2500+ birds. Back then they viewed magpies as a predatory species to be detested, but I wonder about source of information on that issue. The winners were awarded of course with nifty new .22 rifles with which to kill more magpies. It amazes me that mankind didn’t exterminate magpies 100 years ago. Must be hardy critters..and smart too.

  • Such a cool video of the magpie! And that turaco is quite beautiful.

  • farleyk

    I used to work with a woman who had a pet crow as a kid. She said it was like having a really smart cat that could fly. They kept him his whole life. I think he lived to something like 20 years old. Apparently, his feathers started to gray when he got into the advanced years. I, of course, was rather envious.

  • I got my life Black-billed Magpie in the parking lot of a grocery store in Swift Current, Saskatchewan – I was so blown away by this spectacular corvid, and the locals I was with were amused by my fascination with what was, for them, a very common bird. So gorgeous!

  • I’ve only ever seen magpies in theUK– had no idea we had them out here, too.

    The National Aviary here in Pittsburgh has all sorts of cool, unexpected birds like the Turaco. I sometimes wonder if they really ought to have birds like that in captivity. I imagine they’ve been acquired under similar circumstances; I don’t really know. But they seem happy enough.

  • The magpie is so common here, I have never stopped to think that people may not have seen it. We had the same reaction to the Stellar’s Jay when we saw it for the first time. In awe, but the locals thought we were loco!

  • Jenny

    Oooh I just love turacos! My favorite is the purple crested turaco. That magpie is gorgeous too! The only time I’ve ever seen any was at Yellowstone.

  • Oh, wow, wow, wow. I’ve never seen a magpie but have enjoyed and admired them vicariously through other’s blogs. Such a incredibly beautiful bird – all striking and sleek and smart and sassy. That they are that smart wasn’t known to me; the video is amazing! Thanks so much!

  • I’m always super proud that I live in the limited range of the yellow-billed magpie. I always get birders at working asking about where you can find them.

  • Funny, I’ve seen Magpies in Europe but never here at home in Minnesota. Idaho Birder, what a depressing thought. I can’t imagine people killing something like 10,000 magpies in one day. Happily they are still around. It sounds like there is some evidence they are pushing their range eastward.

  • Love the Magpie, I think they are neat birds. I saw them while on vacation in Yellowstone.

  • Gus

    Just saw a magpie at Sax Zim bog yesterday. First one I’ve seen.

  • What a spectacular bird. None here in NYC! I love corvids, so one of these days I’ll have to go chasing magpies.