Magpie are fairly new arrivals to our district

The magpie is not common in Rainy River District. But it is here—and it is unmistakable.
The Black-billed Magpie is a large bird, about twice the size of a robin. Black and white in colour, the flashing white feathers of the wings when it flies are a sure give-away.
And it has a really long tail—about as long as the rest of its body.
Once you have seen this bird, you will recognize it anywhere.
The magpie (Pica pica) is a widespread northern species. In North America, it ranges from Alaska to California, and east to Manitoba, the Dakotas, Kansas, and New Mexico.
But its seems to be extending its range eastwards (quite a few species appear to be doing this) and it is becoming more and more common around these parts.
In the Old World, it lives all across Europe and Asia, and even into North Africa.
Related to crows, ravens, and jays, magpies have many of the same bad habits. They will eat other birds’ eggs and young ones, including those of domestic chickens, and destroy the nests of birds like partridge and pheasants.
They are said to attack weak or injured cattle and sheep, picking at them incessantly, enlarging wounds or sores. They often attack and kill newborn lambs.
And apparently, they even are worse than whiskey-jacks for swiping the lunch from your plate when you are camping in the woods.
Again like crows, magpies are very fond of carrion. They will gather wherever there is anything dead—deer, dog, skunk, or whatever.
They certainly help to clear up road kills in the west.
They also do eat a lot of grubs, beetles, grasshoppers, mice, and other small pests. They pick ticks from the backs of cattle, elk, and deer.
We are told that there always were lots of magpies along with the buffalo, in the days when the west was really wild.
Magpies, in spite of their bad habits, often are kept as pets, especially in Europe. They can imitate human voices, and even can be taught to say a few words.
Like the crow, the magpie will get completely tame—so much so that he becomes a real pest around the house.
The nest of the magpie is a fairly unique affair. In a shrub or small tree, it builds quite a large structure—sometimes as big as a bushel basket.
Basically, it is a mud cup lined with fine roots, hair, moss, feathers, and other soft stuff. But the whole thing is covered with a big dome of twigs, often briars and hawthorns, and it has two entrances.
The magpie takes no chances—they is always an escape route.
No singer, this bird has a terrible voice, mostly a quickly repeated “kak-kak-kak,” which goes on almost forever. It also has a few other “yaks” or “awks,” none of which even remotely could be considered musical.
The Black-billed Magpie seems to be moving our way from the west. That’s fine, as long as he doesn’t come in too large a number.
It is an impressive bird, but one with a bad reputation.

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