Perhaps like you, I have been seeing more magpies recently. Our Thanksgiving lasts a day or perhaps a long weekend, but for magpies, their Thanksgiving season must last all through our deer season and then some. With all the offal from field dressed deer, coupled with the increase of road kills during the fall rut, they are no doubt enjoying the biggest feast of the year. They will have things pretty well cleaned-up in a few weeks with a little help from the coyotes and others.
Magpies are members of the crow family which includes crows, ravens, and jays. Like many other members of the family, they are opportunistic feeders, feeding on a variety of invertebrates, seeds and grains, as well as small mammals and carrion. It is the abundance of offal and carrion, of course, that makes them more observable this time of year.
Although magpies are generally associated with the western part of North Dakota, they can be found over much of the state. They prefer forest edges as well as areas with a mixture of brush, prairie, and cropland.
Magpies construct arguably the most conspicuous bird nests in our region. The nests consist of sticks and twigs and are roughly a foot or more in diameter and a couple feet high. Unlike most bird nests, magpie nests have a dome or roof which apparently helps protect them from predators. The nest also provides good protection for the six to nine eggs that will be incubated for sixteen to eighteen days.
Mighty Mouse ranks pretty high among the cartoon characters of my childhood. But I would have to rank Heckle and Jeckle at the top. I was surprised to learn that they were magpies. They certainly provided kids with lots of laughs, and although my memory of those childhood comedians is fading, I do seem to recall that each episode ended with one of them saying “See you next week in a brand new show.”
One final note: You might be interested to know that the Geminid Meteor Shower is going on now and will peak the nights of the 13th and 14th. If skies are clear we may be able to see upwards of 60 meteors per hour. Consider making a special effort to watch the show if skies cooperate. The best time for viewing is expected to be after midnight.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Dakota College at Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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