Magpies are considered some of the most intelligent birds in the world. Their problem-solving abilities make them adaptable and their bold curiosity makes them nuisances. As opportunistic predators who eat almost anything in the absence of insects, magpies are frequently seen rummaging through trash or feasting on roadkill. They are brash birds capable of mimicking many different sounds, including human speech, but become shy and secretive in the presence of danger.
Striking in appearance, magpies have black and white feathers with a blue-green iridescence. The two most common species in America get their names from the colors of their beaks: the black-billed magpie and the yellow-billed magpie. Both have black heads, backs, and tail feathers, with white patches on their bellies and shoulders. Their sharp beaks are useful for catching insects, tearing the skin off dead carcasses, and cracking open nuts.
Black-billed and yellow-billed magpies are prevalent throughout the Western United States. Their preferred habitats include streamside groves, farmlands, suburban areas, and lightly forested locations near open water. Yellow-billed magpie are commonly found near groves of oak trees where the mistletoe they use to build their nests grows in abundance. Although the birds prefer to eat insects, they readily devour fruits, nuts, grains, carrion, the eggs of other birds, and small animals.
Are magpies known to enter homes or yards?
Magpies do not enter houses but frequently live in residential yards, fields of crops, and public places such as parks. They are inquisitive birds, and, in areas where they are not hunted or harassed, may become bold enough to pick up strange manmade objects and examine them.
Do magpies harm people or property?
In the absence of their preferred food, magpie flocks cause significant damage to crops, gardens, and even newborn livestock. The birds are known to pluck out baby lamb and calf eyes, as well as devour eggs and newborn chicks on poultry farms. Additionally, the birds can imitate a wide range of sounds and plague surrounding residents with their loud mimicking of construction equipment, animal cries, and human voices. Flocks of magpies leave behind a large quantity of droppings, which create unpleasant odors and tarnish building facades.
Control and Safety
Various methods can be employed to make surrounding areas less favorable to magpie habitation. Clear lawns of brush and thin out trees that may serve as potential roosts. Scarecrows, pyrotechnics, and propane exploders can effectively scare the birds off, but usage should be varied since magpies are intelligent enough to figure out that these things pose no real danger.
Trapping and Removal
In small numbers, magpies can be beneficial to humans since they eat grasshoppers, flies, beetles, and caterpillars. However, they are unpredictable birds and may make nuisances of themselves at any time. If problems with unwanted magpies arise, residents should contact the wildlife control experts at Critter Control to humanely handle infestations.
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