one for sorrow, two for joy
Nest building is normally a rather secretive affair, trying to build a home for the new family without giving away the location to predators. Most are constructed in dense cover of ivy and native, thorny hedges, some in the forks of trees that will be enclosed when the leaves are full, some even use nest boxes conveniently provided by the garden or landowner
A few birds don't really fall into that secretive category - magpies, jackdaws, rooks and buzzards, it seems.
As I write, I am watching a magpie attempting to build a nest in the cherry tree, what a large, untidy mess of a nest it is. Hampered by the close branches, many of the twigs and sticks have proved too difficult to get to the nest area and remain as litter throughout the lower branches.
Magpies are loud neighbours, often with raucous and harsh morning wake-up calls. They are known predators; of eggs and nestlings of other birds - especially songbirds. All of which is true. Predation is, however, restricted to a relatively short period, and for most of the year they take other foods. A recent survey by Birdwatch Ireland on urban Magpies showed that eggs and young birds form a very small percentage of their diet and is unlikely to have any lasting effect on the birds and their hatchlings.
Magpies are omnivorous and are mainly ground feeders, eating a wide range of food such as beetles, seeds, berries and can often be seen searching the roads early in the morning for road kill. They will also scavenge around homes, parks farms, etc. searching out scraps.
And they are serious nest builders.
As breeding season approaches, Magpies can often be seen flying to and fro with twigs in their mouths, indicating that nest-building has begun. A new nest is built each year with both birds sharing the design and build. The nests are one of the most impressive, usually positioned high in a large tree and can be massive - 1.2m high and 1m wide. And not only are they big, they are often roofed with thick domes protecting them from above. When the Magpies abandon the nest it is frequently used by other species, e.g. Kestrel, Long-eared Owl (would really love that to happen)
Magpies are both rural and urban birds, often seen close to houses and other habitated areas, bold and confident, strutting about with their tails held high though they are always quite wary. They are also hard working and dedicated pair bonded birds, industrious parental providers and arguably way smarter than any other bird in your garden (Eurasian Magpies, of all corvids were the first non mammal to have passed the MSR 'mirror self-recognition' test)
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