Exciting times for azure-winged magpies
If you’re familiar with birds or the Bird Department here at Zoo Atlanta, you will know one thing is certain at this time of year: breeding season. With this excitement comes a whole lot of extra activity added into our daily routine. It seems like it would be easy, doesn’t it? You have a breeding pair of birds, the female lays the eggs, and they raise the chicks … and that’s that. We wish! There are many variables that play into the success of a breeding pair. Such characteristics include suitable nesting sites and nesting materials, bird personalities and more. Things can get quite challenging considering how selective some of our breeding pairs can be. One pair that adds to the excitement are the azure-winged magpies.
The azure-winged magpies reside in The Living Treehouse here at Zoo Atlanta. Azure-winged magpies are known to be wary and cautious like most of the crow family. They are super-smart, and they are sometimes challenging to get breeding in human care. To make them feel as comfortable as possible while nesting, we provided the magpies with plenty of nest baskets, wooden platforms and open-fronted nest boxes throughout their habitat. Our ideal placement of a nest basket is one where the birds feel comfortable and safe to breed but also where the care team can check in on the progression of nest-building, new eggs, or hatching chicks. After giving the magpies the opportunity to use all of our provided nest baskets, it was determined they just were not interested.
Our final effort was to place a nest basket very high up, high in the center magnolia tree, using a 20-foot extension ladder, but this did the trick! We quickly observed the magpies using the nest. Unfortunately, due to the placement of the nest basket, we couldn’t do nest checks without disturbing them. We want to know what’s happening, but our priority is having them feel comfortable. For now, we can only monitor behavior … and they’re showing us a lot more behaviors! Normally these birds are elusive and wary birds, but quickly became territorial and aggressive towards other birds and their care team. Along with this new behavior, we have also observed the female magpie sitting in the nest. These actions were presumed to be indicative of the presence of eggs or chicks. So this past Saturday, July 7, we were able to check the nest and saw that the female was sitting on six eggs. Given the date that these behaviors began, our predicted hatch date is any day now, although we do not actually know if the eggs are even fertile. We sure hope so! Sorry to keep you in suspense, but that’s all we have for now. But if you are visiting The Living Treehouse in the next couple of weeks, be on the lookout for the azure-winged magpie pair, and hopefully you’ll see some of their chicks too!