Magpies – Part 2 – Scare them off the premises?

I dreamed last night that I was wandering barefoot through a lush landscape, surrounded by green green grass, buzzing bees and butterflies, flowers everywhere, warm sun basking my face, a symphony of songbirds filling the air. I woke up to a loud ‘ghak-ghak-ghak-ghak!’ Oh yes, the magpies. They have built a nest in our front may tree just a stone’s throw from our upstairs bedroom window.

Magpies are no songbirds. How could they possibly be? But according to Google – magpies belong to the Corvidae songbird family that also includes ravens, crows and jays. Songbird? Really? Their language includes a variety of trill, crackle and whistle calls. In other words, they are noisy. They are also aggressive scavengers, omnivores, who will eat just about anything- insects, fruit, rancid food, sick animals, pluck baby songbirds out of their nests, get into your garbage and make a mess, eat leftovers off your patio table. Are they so aggressive that they would hop right up next to you as you’re eating your dinner on the patio, and be willing to pluck your eye out trying to snatch the food off your fork?

Yeah, I wasn’t thrilled in early March to discover magpies building a nest in our front may tree. They were well into their nest building but we could still stop it! I approached David. Hit him up with all the arguments per above, emphasizing the threat to our hitherto relaxed dinners on the patio watching the robins. Honey, you could get out the adjustable 50′ ladder – climb up there and just knock down that nest!

“The nest is fine,” said David. Wha…?

So I was left to my own devices. Google was full of ideas, because apparently, a lot of other people were trying to scare off magpies as well: Did you know that they are a protected species by law? According to federal and many state regulations, they cannot be hunted, harmed or killed without a permit to do so. So you have to get creative. Aha, magpies don’t like shiny objects. So now we have a use for our voluminous outdated CD collection. Hang a dozen CD’s around the nest! You have to use multiple tactics. So how about we also dangle half-filled plastic water bottles from the tree branches, they’ll blow and slosh around like wayward ships in the southeast Idaho wind and scare the crap out of them! Magpies don’t like loud noises. I could blast some acid Rock music toward the nest off our front porch roof! Maybe that would run them off. Or send our next door neighbors over here to run us off.

You can make a scarecrow and stick it out there, but you have to move it around every few days to keep the magpies guessing. Stuff a shirt and pants and stick them on a pole. Stuff a paper bag with newspaper for the head and draw a big face on it, affix it to the body and shove the pole into the ground. Except I don’t know how you’d keep the head from blowing off the body with the winds around here. Watch it blow off and roll like a tumbleweed across your neighbors’ yards to the end of the block where the road curves north.

You can use decoys, like fake owls and such, but again, the magpies quickly catch on to your tricks. I called my dear friend, Rene, and told her about the magpies. Ugh! She was sympathetic alright. She had had a problem with crows last summer. She had smartly ordered a dead crow decoy to hang in her yard as a stark warning to crows (since they’re so smart!) – this is what happens to you if you stick around. Except, the thing took weeks to arrive, having been shipped from China. The crows had already moved on by the time she got it. No worries. She gave it to me, still in the box. Surely magpies will be frightened by a dead crow. Except I caught David hauling it out to the trash. Hey, stop! That’s the dead crow I’m gonna use to scare the magpies! It might be too late to remedy the nest situation but we might need it later when those pesky birds get into the vegetable garden. Here, I took photos of it.

It’s dead all right. And creepy. Even if it doesn’t work on crows or magpies, it might be enough to scare young children from tromping through your garden.

As I investigated strategies to chase the magpies off, I also learned a lot more about magpies. One of the things I read, “If you are more stubborn than a magpie you can reclaim your home from the winged pests.” Well, as Merlin the Wizard might say, “It is possible, but not certain.” Case in point, this homeowner in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, named Patti Fellows, trying to prevent magpies from nesting in her cedar tree. She rallied her neighbors who helped her wrap her tree in burlap. Then they drew a big face on it. The magpies hopped on the material and ripped it to shreds. Fellows ended up chopping down her cedar tree to be rid of the magpies. The photos are pretty funny. Here’s the link to the article:

Last but not least, let me just share this link: Studies have shown that magpies can remember a face for up to 5 years. They will remember someone who was good to them and equally, those who weren’t so good, like doing mean things to be rid of them. As I’m hanging those CD’s (likely wearing a hazmat suit) I could sing to the magpies “Everything is Beautiful … in its own way” by Ray Stevens. (A 1970 Grammy-Award winning song only recognizable by boomers.) As in, beautiful if those magpies decide to nest somewhere else next spring?

The magpies are not roosting yet. Both of them are hanging out scavenging for food and certainly keeping an eye on the nest. I was watching them interact with a squirrel. Both of them hop alongside him as he’s foraging for food. Are they trying to steal it from him? Are they making friends with him? The squirrel nearly buried himself in a snow drift right outside our kitchen window, plunging head-first to dig out something with only his hind legs and tail to wrench himself back out. One of the magpies stood just 10 inches away watching him, just as I was. The squirrel resurfaced with his bounty and bounded off with the magpie hopping right behind him. He tried to race up a once familiar tree (now with the nest) when both magpies swooped in, dived bombed him, and chased him half way across our neighbors yard to the west. Okay, so magpies know about that policy, “keep your friends close but your enemies closer.”

Yeah well I’ve decided just to try and be friends with the magpies. I’m glad the nest is in our front yard and not our back yard. I’m hoping to enjoy some relaxation on our back patio this summer without being swooped and dive-bombed by nesting magpies.

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