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, the most appropriate term would seem to be “Charm” — The Magpie Whisperer’s Charm.
In case you’re curious about these fascinating and resilient birds, here are 13 charming things about magpies —
- Black-billed magpies are distinguished from other birds 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.
- Typically magpies are found close to water in relatively open areas with scattered trees and thickets.
- Magpies are intelligent, boisterous, and curious birds, but are quick to sense danger and become shy, and secretive.
- As opportunistic omnivores, magpies forage on the ground, for a wide range of insects, carrion, seeds, rodents, berries, nuts, eggs, and also garbage. They are known to follow large predators to scavenge from recently killed carcasses. They also pick through garbage at landfills and dumping sites, and sometimes hunt rodents.
- During the night magpies often regurgitate compressed pellets made up of the undigested parts of insects, rodents, seeds, etc.
- Black-billed magpies are also known to hoard food short-term by making holes for food caches in the ground. To protect their hoard location they will generally move it multiple times.
- The North American range for Black-billed magpies runs from southern Alaska to northern Arizona and New Mexico, but only as far east as Michigan and Iowa due to heat and humidity.
- While magpies hang out in loose flocks and tend to roost communally in winter, they don’t huddle together. Instead, each occupies its own space.
- Magpie pairs stay together year-round and often for life.
- 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.
- Historically considered to be pests by farmers for crop damage, birders for robbing song bird eggs, and ranchers for pecking at sores on cattle (ticks too), magpies were hunted for bounty.
- 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.
- Magpies give a call in the vicinity of their dead, causing a gathering often referred to as a funeral.
And here’s the sound of a normal magpie call (not for a funeral):
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