A large bull elk (Cervus elaphus) that has just dropped his antlers starts to flip his head back towards a magpie (Pica hudsonia) on a sunny morning in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

By: Dawn Wilson

This week’s featured animal is the black-billed magpie in honor of National Bird Day earlier this week. These very boisterous birds are a common site throughout Estes Valley and Rocky Mountain National Park. Check out these fun facts to discover the uniqueness of this member of the corvid, or crow, family.

Magpie Estes Park

A young black-billed magpie (Pica hudsonia) sits on a fence in a light rain in Estes Park, Colorado.

1. Estes Valley is an ideal location for magpies as one of their feeding strategies is to land on the backs of large mammals to pick ticks and other insects from the fur. The elk of this region provide an ideal location for this protein-rich menu.

2. Research studies have shown that magpies are one of the few animals that can recognize themselves in a mirror.

Magpie RMNP

A black-billed magpie (Pica pica) flys toward the camera with a stick for his nest on a snowy, cloudy day in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

3. Magpies build unique, bulky nests with strong sticks and twigs that can take up to 40 hours to construct per nest, have a dome on top, and have two entrances.

4. Black-billed magpies can use scent to locate food, a trait not common in birds.

Black-billed Magpie

A black-billed magpie (Pica hudsonia) feeds on birdseed on a deck table in Estes Park, Colorado.

5. A cousin to the local, black-billed magpie and very similar in appearance, the oriental magpie is the national bird of Korea.

Birds at carcass EstesPark

Two crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos), a black-billed magpie (Pica hudsonia) and a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) sit on a frosty tree above a carcass waiting their turn to feed on the meat in Estes Park, Colorado.

Dawn Wilson is a professional and award-winning nature photographer who lives in Estes Park year-round. You can see more of her work, join one of her Rocky tours, and purchase prints and calendars at DawnWilsonPhotography.com or follow her on Instagram: @dawnwilsonphoto.

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