Monday 19 April 2010

A short Appreciation of the Eurasian Magpie

I recently saw a stunning image of a Eurasian Magpie on the Internet (but sadly forgot to memorize or save the link), and the title of the image was something like

Eurasian Magpie - the Northern Hemisphere's Bird of Paradise

I couldn't agree more.
The Magpie is a common breeder throughout Germany, but is mostly confined to settlements. It is rather unusual to find a breeding pair out in the fields or forest edges, and I actually cannot recall even finding a single nest in the countryside - or rather couldn't recall until recently.
Within the cities, Magpies prefer nesting in high trees and the main factor influencing their breeding sites seems to be the height of the tree (the higher the merrier), not the species, degree of disturbance (by city noise, traffic, etc.), and also not the location (in gardens, alleys, etc.).
In Leimen, all things birds & birding are different, of course.
There are barely any high trees within the city limits (well, legally it's a city, but really it is not), and as a consequence, Magpies are a comparatively scarce sight.
However, and quite surprisingly so, there are quite a few Magpie pairs breeding within the roughly 1 km² of open fields and hedgerows to the south of Leimen (commonly known as the Boredom Flats and faaaamous for being the birding haunts of yours truly), and there it is one of the most conspicuous bird species.
Well, the latter sentence might better be re-phrased: There it is one of the only - few - bird species to occur.
The lack of competition is likely what had me find a whole new appreciation of the Magpie, but this is not undeserving. It is indeed one of the most striking species in Europe (or wherever it roams), and a species often neglected by birders for lack of scarcity. This is a sorry fate it shares with the Eurasian Starling, the Mallard and the House Sparrow, amongst others. But this post is dedicated to the Magpie, and thus without further ado, here are a few images taken during my recent stroller expeditions.

I hope you do enjoy them as much as I enjoy seeing Magpies. I know - I need a better camera.


Laurent said...

Nice to learn about YOUR local birds.......

Hilke Breder said...

I have always enjoyed watching magpies, they are flashy birds and so amusing. Last summer, while in Germany, I kept watching a magpie pair that had built its nest in a climbing rose bush against the brick wall of an apartment house opposite from our balcony. I often saw the magpie disappear into the nest and become completely invisible. Curious, I did some research: when single magpies build a nest they construct a cover to conceal it from predators. The nests remain open however when the birds are nesting in a colony. I posted a picture of the nest with a magpie disappearing into it on Flickr at

baz said...

magpies are really common arond merseyside nowadays ithink they put a roof on thier nests to protect thier eggs ,being egg thieves themselves its just a clever little safeguard.beautiful birds all the same though and along with most other corvids they are amongst the worlds most intelligent birds

Jochen said...

@Laurent: yes, I am planning to blog more about Germany. Mostly because I am running out of yet un-blogged bird pics from my time in A2!

@Hilke: Magpies are lovely. They tend to build nests mostly with cover as I have the impression Magpies experience high nest predation by Carrion Crows, and vice versa. The two really seem to keep each other's population "in check".

@baz: yes, I recently read an article that Magpies are the only species besides certain chimps and of course man who can recognize themselves in a mirror.
That is amazing!!
And regarding predation, see my reply to Hilke, above.