April 21st   Leave a comment

Magpies are one of those birds – like gulls and pigeons – that provoke mixed feelings in people. They get a bad press because they are clever opportunists and they have been persecuted for it. But they are also very beautiful and full of character. Magpies were very scarce around Crail when I first moved here. In recent years they have been left alone and now we have about ten to fifteen pairs within about a two kilometer radius. They are still very shy of people though. There is a pair at both the top and bottom of Kilminning that I see every day, as they bicker with the local carrion crows and buzzards. They are just at the stage of laying eggs, with the male and female staying close together and close to where they are nesting. Once the female has laid its eggs and starts incubating then the male is free to cause havoc on the other nesting birds around them. I was once keeping tabs on blackbird nests as part of some research on competition between territorial birds: I left the study area in South Queensferry on Friday with a warm glow having found over 45 nests with females sitting on eggs. But on Monday there were less than 20 nests remaining still with eggs. The local magpie pair had finished laying up on the Friday and the male spent the weekend doing what I had been doing the week before – searching out every blackbird nest in the vicinity. I changed my study to one on nest predation…It’s a blackbird’s lot unfortunately to lose nest after nest to crows like magpies, and they just keep on nesting to compensate. Magpies may cause a lot of trouble to song birds but the world would be a much duller place without them, their glossy blue-black plumage shining in the spring sunshine, their absurd half flapping, half falling flight, and their evil rattle.

Magpie (JA)
And one today at Kilminning showing their half flapping, half falling flight

Posted April 21, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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