A Black-Billed Magpie and A Mountain Jay

If you go to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, besides the elk, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep, you’ll see a lot of smaller creatures. Two birds caught my eye on our visit to the park last Friday. The first was a Black Billed Magpie.

I love the contrast between his ebony black feathers and his snowy white tummy feathers. A few facts:

  • Pairs mate for life.
  • They make food caches in the ground by digging a small hole with their beaks and depositing excess food. They come back a few days later to dig it out and eat it.
  • In the early 1800s on their trip west, Lewis and Clark reported that the bird would often enter their tents or steal their food from their hands.
  • They were considered a pest in the early 1900s, and were trapped and killed by the thousands.
  • Their are omnivorous, eating anything from seeds to carrion.
  • During the breeding season, the female does all the egg sitting, while the male brings food to her.

We also saw a mountain jay.

A few facts about the mountain jay:

  • They are closely related to the Blue Jay
  • They live over most of the western United States
  • Their diet ranges from seeds and berries, to rodents and lizards
  • The female lays between 2 and 6 eggs, and does all the egg sitting.
  • Besides its regular call of “waah waah” , it also imitates the call of a hawk to scare other birds from feeding areas.

He hung around us for quite a while, probably hoping for a handout. But I prefer to think that he enjoyed having his picture taken.

“This is my best side.”

“No, wait! This is my best side.”

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