Magpies – Rats with Wings

Norway Rats are one of the most destructive creatures known to man. Fortunately, the Province of Alberta is one of the few place in the world that does NOT have any rats.  What it does have are Magpies (Pica  hudsonia), which some people refer to as Rats with Wings.  A member of the crow family, they are scavengers that will eat just about anything. But much can be forgiven of them because they do not come close to being as despicable as a Rat, no matter what the movie Ratatouille might have you think.


Magpies are both beautiful and comical birds with their black and white tuxedo like coat and long iridescent tails. But their raucous voice and irritating habit of harassing me when I walk in the woods – they make me less than thrilled to have them live nearby.


They don’t migrate either. All winter long they leave their little forked foot prints all over the snow – reminders that they are still in town, and will be arriving any moment to scold me for being present in their world.

The Feather Files
Name: Black-billed Magpie
Species: Pica hudsonia
Native to and Migration: Resident, with some regional winter movements
Date Seen: April, 2012
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada

11 thoughts on “Magpies – Rats with Wings

    1. The bird tracks really are very nice, aren’t they! Even in deep snow, the birds just walk along the top and leave fairly distinct tracks


  1. It’s a blessing that you all don’t have rats. And it sounds a mixed blessing that you all Magpies. They’re a pretty bird and sound be quite nosy and curious. It’s a great thing to have a natural alarm of Magpies living in your area to warn of approaching critters. It’s always interesting to me to learn about the wildlife in different regions. 🙂


    1. I can see why so many people are birdwatchers – you don’t even have to live in the country to see them, and each species has an interesting story to tell.


    1. Every creature has a purpose. Not all of them have purposes I enjoy though, like mosquitoes – I could do without them!


  2. Wow, one can even see evidence of the ridges on the bird tracks – pretty amazing. The magpies are pretty despite their reputations and voice. Do you ever happen a magpie’s nest and/or collection?


    1. Magpies build great domed nests that can be several feet wide and high. They use many sticks to build or repair a nest, so we watch for this activity. If they try to build a nest too close to our house, then we knock it down during the building stage, which forces them to relocate. Their voices grate on your nerves, so the further away that they nest the better. A whole family of them just outside our bedroom window would be unpleasant to say the least!


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