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Magpie Talk

          The robin flies low, just barley missing Nikki’s head. Then lands making a sharp“Chit Chit Chit” sound. A few more tail pumps and Nikki is bombed again. In our study of bird language this is fantastic. I feel a little bad causing such stress to the mother who feels that she needs to defend her nest with such aggression. But it is sure interesting to watch.

Nikki is really not that much of a threat. In fact most of the time Nikki can walk right by this robin with out her rustling a feather, so why the agitation today? It is not really Nikki that is causing this. It is the magpie sitting on her shoulder.

Nikki and I have had the opportunity to help rehabilitate this captive magpie destine for release. Magpies are curious and smart birds. They also have been known to raid the nest of smaller birds. The robin is so intent on defending he nest from the magpie that it thinks nothing of flying close to Nikki’s head. The magpie on the other hand would rather be somewhere else than sitting on Nikki’s shoulder. He squats trying to avoid being hit by this frantic mother.

This magpie has been a great teacher for learning bird language. Not only does he cause alarms in nesting song bird like in the video of the dark-eyed junco and robin. But he has keen eye sight. On one of our walks the magpie took on a very squat and defensive posture. It was as if he wanted to become invisible. In a moment we saw the cause.

A prairie falcon came gliding over the ridge.

Leaning bird language has been a fun. It has also helped tune my awareness of different relationships in the world. Once I started paying attention. I began to see the different alliances and conflicts. How the cotton tail rabbit and the Richardson’s ground squirrel will share the same wood pile, both will duck for cover when the robin gives the alarm of a weasel in the neighborhood.

The more tuned Nikki and I become to the language of the bird and other small mammals the more interactions of wildlife we notice. We hear when the goshawk hunts in the forest by the silence that follows her. We can tell when the harrier hunts on the edge of Pine Butte by the wing-shaped alarm of the ground squirrels the sweeps along in front of him.

If Nikki and I are really listening, we may hear the birds scolding the deer or coyote sneaking away from our approach…

As I continue to learn bird language I keep reminding my self that none of the noise the birds make is random. Each one has significance. I won’t always be able to know the meaning of each sound. But if I continue to be curious and ask my self what could that song or call mean. I continue to learn, and the window into the world of bird language may widen to be a door I can walk through.

Bird alarm video links:

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