Back in July I introduced Magnus the magpie here on The Thrifty Magpies Nest; a chick we hand reared form about two weeks old. He was such an ugly dinosaur-looking beast when he came to us wacky woodland dwellers.
Since that last post he has well and truly grown into a stunning bird. His tail feathers are now full length, and after a a very scratty period of going through his molt into adult plumage, he now has perfectly iridescent wing and tail feathers and a good strong, sharp beak.
This is Magnus looking like a sea zombie form Pirates of the Caribbean. He looked a right mess while molting a couple of months ago. The difference in the shape of his head is dramatic now that he has his full adult plumage.
His main diet is ferret food which is high in protein and has all the vitamins he needs. His favourite food is dried mealworms which is gulps down so quickly one would thing we don’t feed him! Magpies are omnivorous meaning they eat meat, fruit and veg. A trait that has lead them to be a successful species in the wild. The average lifespan of wild magpie that has reached maturity is 3 years- shockingly short. However, in captivity they have been know to live as long as 21 years. Such a difference! This will be down to several factors including the struggle to find their own territory not currently occupied by a breeding pair and the long winters and competition for food. Although highly intelligent and adaptable they don’t hold much fat meaning they must eat regularly.
Magnus lives in a huge aviary near the house which has plenty of room for him to fly around. There’s also an indoor area where he can perch and play out of the poor weather and droughts. The aviary has been up for several years now and is in desperate need of a lick of paint. It’s a lovely forest green colour which blends nicely into the surrounding woodland and the paint protects the wood from rotting. It was on our to-do list this summer but we didn’t get around to it. It will be one of the first thing we do in the spring when the weather is less damp and cold.
Although Magnus comes out of the aviary to fly around from time to time, we chose to keep him housed, unlike the previous corvids we have had. We live in a farming community who persecute magpies so I fear for his safety. Being so tame would get him into trouble. Our neighbours know we have him but we had reports from people that a magpie we used to have flying free some years ago would visit their property some 3 miles away.
Magnus loves to play with object you have in your hand. If we have it, it must be good, and he want;s it too. Everything has to be held tightly or it will be swiftly taken in a swoosh and blur of black and white. Paper, brushes, earrings, food, coins, rubbish- everything. If he sees something he doesn’t like, he will let you know by giving out a a very long, very load ‘chh chh chh chh chaaaa haaaa’. In particular he hates spades and ladders. Inconveniently, these are two items that regularly pass his aviary. He also fights his own reflection. Some corvids have been proven to half self awareness, I’m, not so sure about Magnus though. This is a mid-action him attacking his reflection in the hallway.
Conveniently, he makes a pretty good ‘watch-bird’ too. If someone comes through the gate he whistles very loudly which we can hear in the house. He’d be pretty good at scaring intruders off if he was flying free. Having a magpie swoosh at you from nowhere makes most people jump. Even I jump out of my skin when he lands on my head from behind.
He loves to tease Paddy dog and the ferrets- both of which have different reactions to him. Poor Paddy cowers and disappears at the sight of Magnus, usually with Magnus in host pursuit, desperate to land on Paddy and pull his ears and tail. There ferrets, however, want to eat him. Meanwhile Magnus does a little dance backwards and forwards while trying to peak through the mesh at the ferrets.
Follow me on Instagram if you would like to see photos of Magnus the magpie (If I can get him to sit still long enough for a shot!)