Thursday, June 23, 2011

Black-billed Magpie

Erika and I are just back from a quick road-trip to Olympia, Washington. We had a good time visiting family but were generally disappointed with the relatively low numbers of birds we listed.  Fourteen hour days in the car probably did not help but, for us, definitely beat flying. Obligations back in Northfield kept us from dallying.

In our unscienctific survey, however, we thought we saw more Black-billed Magpies than in previous western trips.  North American magpie populations, found in the northern Great Plains and northern Minnesota, are said to be stable.  In the Dakotas and in Nebraska numbers falling (Trost 1999). Magpies often eat poisons left to kill predators.  Also a pesticide called Warbex is often sprayed on cattle to control fly larvae.  Magpies often pick these larvae off cattle and die by ingesting this organophosphate.  West Nile Virus may also take a toll.

Magpies live in harsh climates in North America.  Magpies use their black and white plumage to regulate their temperatures. In the cold, they face their warmth absorbing black breasts towards the sun.  In the heat, they perch with their reflecting white sides against the rays of the sun.

No comments:

Post a Comment