Date: 1/27/19 7:20 pm
From: Jared Del Rosso <jared.delrosso...>
Subject: [cobirds] Magpie Musings & Questions - Denver / Arapahoe
Haven't had a whole lot of time to bird lately, so not much to report.
Siskins are still hanging around Centennial (Arapahoe). In my neighborhood,
they like a yard just southeast of the shopping center on University &
Orchard in Greenwood Village. Bushtit were numerous in pines in that
shopping center lot yesterday. As for the sisks, they haven't found their
way to my yard this year, at least not while I'm watching it, even though
there fellow travelers (House Finches, American & Lesser Goldfinches...)
have.

But I'm writing about the magpies, which are doing what corvids do --
keeping me on my toes. Yesterday, I put out dried mealworm for the first
time in a while. A mapgie collected most of them, then *tried* to cache
them in my yard. Another magpie followed it closely, causing the potential
horder to lift its wings, briefly vocalize, then give up -- the second
magpie collected the mealworms from where the first left them.

Today, along the partially frozen Little Dry Creek in Cherry Hills Village
(Arapahoe), I watched a magpie unpeel a tiny, whole, frozen rodent from the
frozen surface of the creek. Couldn't get my camera out in time, though.

All this leads me to some long simmering questions about magpies in the
Denver metro area.

1. Why do magpies largely avoid central Denver, from about Hampden to City
Park? They're spotty at Wash Park, absent from Cheesman, and avoid the
University of Denver. In the year and a half that I regularly birded
Cheesman Park, I saw them once or twice, about as many times as I saw scrub
jays there. I distinctly remember crows chasing one out of Cheesman,
something I've never seen anywhere else around Denver. In seven years
working at DU, I've not seen one there. I haven't lived in Denver long
enough to know the history of jays, crows, and magpies in the city. Any
thoughts from longtime residents?

2. In my yard in Centennial, the magpies are happy to attack the suet
feeders. They'll sometimes land beneath them and "jump" up at them,
striking them with their bill and dropping food on the ground, which they
(and squirrels) swiftly collect. They'll also awkwardly land on them, their
tails jutting well beyond the feeder, and chip away at the suet. In three
years in Centennial, I've yet to see a Blue Jay on my suet feeders, even
though they seem better sized for landing on the feeders. I know Blue Jays
visit suet feeders. There are plenty of photos of them doing so online. But
not in my yard. Anyone else notice this? I don't have a good explanation,
except the magpies seem dominant in my neighborhood. They're more numerous
than jays and nest in neighbors' conifers. Blue Jays, on the other hand,
seem to stick to slightly less developed spaces -- parks, cemeteries, open
spaces -- and even there they're outnumbered by magpies.

- Jared Del Rosso
Centennial, CO

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