Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Black-Billed Magpie

I grew up in the foothills of Salt Lake City, above City Creek Canyon, and had a pet magpie as a youth. It's name was Pica, after the scientific name for magpie: Pica hudsonia. I was probably about 10 or 11. I used to roam through the hills and climb trees to look in the ubiquitous stick nests for magpie babies. Magpies are known as nest predators, eating eggs and young of other bird species. I was a reverse predator.
Black-billed magpie on Antelope Island.
With the help of my kind-hearted and enabling mother, I raised Pica and ultimately allowed Pica to return to the wild. Pica came back to the backyard of our home on occasion, for several years, after I let him go. I got occasional reports of Pica following the mailman. 

I now live in Southern California and we do not have magpies. I love and miss them. So it was with fondness that I photographed several magpies on a recent visit to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.
This range map from Wikipedia reveals the dearth of magpies from Southern California. Utah is fully magpie country. 
I've posted on the Russian black-billed magpie, a subspecies of the Eurasian magpie, seen in Uzbekistan, but not the black-billed magpie, also known as the American magpie, which are very common where I spent the early part of my life. 
A solo magpie flies above the striated flats between the island and the shore.
The magpie has a long tail, about half its length. It is black, including feet, bill and eye, with white shoulders, a white belly, large white markings on the primaries, particularly visible in flight (see the photo below), and iridescent dark blue and green wings and tail (see the photo below). 
Beautiful, beautiful wings.
Blue/green color permeates the wings and tail. 

1 comment:

  1. I love your introduction and am glad that you got to relive part of your childhood. That last photo is really beautiful.