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.