The stunning good looks of the Magpie bird is just one of its awesome qualities - it is also considered one of the most intelligent of the bird species. In fact, the magpie is the only non-mammal that has been able to recognize itself in a mirror.
Like the Crow, the Magpie is in the Corvidae family. There are several species of “magpie” but the Black-billed Magpie is the most abundant and the one commonly found on the western coast, and central regions of North America and as far east as Northern Ontario.
However, seeing these birds flying around your home and taking one into a family dwelling as a pet are two very different scenarios.
In this post, we will explore the magpie as a pet, what you need to know, and if it’s even legal.
The Magpie Appearance
With bold white patterns on its black wings and body, a white belly, and metallic, iridescent blue-green wings and tail, this bird is a beauty to behold.
Adult magpies have long, graduated tail feathers. They measure in from 18 to 24 inches long and can weigh up to 7.4 ounces. If you were to catch a glimpse of one in flight, you’d be impressed with the white bars running along the flight feathers, white bands around its neck and long diamond-shaped tail.
The Behavior of the Magpie
The magpie is a social bird with an inquisitive nature. They tend to flock in large groups using a variety of calls such as trills, cackles, and whistles to communicate with one another.
In flight, this species alternates between deep and shallow wingbeats, with the ability to navigate abrupt turns using their long tail feathers.
When not in flight, the magpie hops or walks along the ground, using their toe-claws to overturn the earth in search of food. They have also been known to perch on top of large mammals (such as cattle or moose) to pick at the ticks that are often pestering these beasts.
Is It Legal to Have a Magpie as a Pet?
Before you bring a magpie into your home with the intention of keeping it as a pet, be aware that in most areas it is illegal. If you have found a baby magpie, make sure it has indeed been abandoned by the parents. If so, then call a professional wildlife rehabilitator to come and get the bird. If there are no such persons in your area, then the following information will be of use to you.
Housing a Magpie
Unlike domesticated birds, the magpie is a wild animal and will need specific items to keep it safe in the home. This includes;
- A four-foot or larger cage
- 2 wooden perches
- Food and water dishes
- Paper or other suitable linings for the tray
Feeding a Magpie
In the wild, magpies eat a varied diet of grains, meat, insects, and berries. They will even prey on small rodents, nestlings, eggs, and frogs.
When keeping one in your home, you will have to feed this bird a variety of foods including;
- An insectivore-rearing mix (ask your veterinarian)
- Lean mince
- High-quality dog biscuits ground up
- Strips of lean meat
- Commercial wild bird seed
Handling a Magpie
The magpie is a social bird that will not do well left alone in a cage. However, you must be careful when handling one as the talons and beak are very sharp and powerful.
Handling one of these birds is best left up to the experts.
Fun Magpie Facts
The magpie is a very interesting bird. Check out these fun magpie facts to wow your friends with.
- Magpies are afraid of objects that are shiny. In fact, you can use glassware, or other shiny items to prevent the magpie from getting into your garden or crops.
- Even though the body of the magpie isn't that long, its tail is, making this species one of the longest birds in the world.
- Magpies can recognize faces of both animals and people. If you have a family of magpies living in your area, you better be nice, if not, this bird may swoop at you.
- Male magpies help other "widowed" females raise their chicks.
- There are 15 species of the magpie including those found in Asia, Australia, Europe, and Africa.
- Magpies spend their lives within a six-mile radius to where they were born.
- A group of magpies is called a "parliament."
- This species will build nests in both trees and on the ground. It can also be a covered nest with two entry/exit points.
- Female magpies lay between 5 to 8 eggs each season.
- Magpies can form communal winter roosts which can contain as many as 200 birds.
The Magpie & You
Before you adopt a magpie as a pet, be sure to check with your city's bylaws regarding the legality of this act. Never take a magpie from the wild to keep it as a pet. This is cruel and will most likely end with the death of the bird.
Magpies are social and intelligent and will need a varied diet to remain healthy. If you find a baby magpie you believe has been abandoned by the parents, call in the experts to rescue the nestling.