Magpies (Pica rustica)are fascinating birds with a capability of talking. The different species are distributed over most of the world, in Europe, Asia and North America. They are birds of the woodland. The American and the European species are the ones best known as talkers, and have pure white patches on the wings and abdomen. The rest of the body is black with a glistening sheen. The tail is very long and black, shading to green and purple.
Magpies are very amusing and full of mischief. Like Master Crow, they are thieves for anything you own which may catch their fancy, and which they then proceed to hide. They can pick up quite a few words, and like to imitate strange sounds they may hear around them. These birds make too much of a mess to be allowed the freedom of a house. A cage four feet long, by three feet high, by two feet wide is suitable for them in the home. The larger the space you can give them the better.
If you need a good mouser, a Magpie will answer your requirements, at least during the day. Depending on how they are introduced, Magpies will have either great friendship or enmity for a cat or dog. If you own a Canary or other small bird, don't bother with the introduction, as the anticipatory gleam in the Magpie's eyes will be one of hunger rather than friendship.
In the wild, these birds kill an occasional mouse or small bird as a "piece de resistance." They also consume insects, carrion, fruit and grain. Gastronomically speaking, they are really not very difficult to please.
Other alternative feeds are soaked chicken mash, cooked potato, puppy meal crumbly moist, soaked grain, whole wheat bread, milk, and soaked dog biscuit.
FEEDING IN CAPTIVITY
For easy feeding in captivity you may make up a dry mixture of the following items:
10 lbs. Chicken Egg Laying Mash; 2 lbs. Oatmeal; 5 lbs. Puppy Meal; 1 lb. Fish or Beef Bonemeal; 1 lb. Whole Milk Powder; 1/2lb. of vitamin-mineral concentrate. These items should all be mixed well and stored in a dry spot. When feeding, add water to make it a barely crumbly consistency. This powdered feed has all the necessary elements, is convenient for you to use, and is about a three-months supply. Other alternative feeds are soaked chicken mash, cooked potato, puppy meal crumbly moist, soaked grain, whole wheat bread and milk, soaked dog biscuit.
While the above dry feed is good for them, Magpies should often have a variety of fresh food such as table scraps, mashed potatoes, grated raw carrot, etc., but do not give them cake, candy or coffee. Magpies are partly carnivorous and require the protein of some form of meat occasionally. This may be raw beef or fish (without fish bones), a mouse, cut-up rat or rabbit. Fur, skin and bone should be included with the latter delectable items, as they are apparently essential to the digestive organs of Magpies and Crows.
Vary this also with fresh greens, fruits, berries and grains (cracked corn, hulled oats, peanuts, etc.). A treat most birds relish is a piece of fresh corn on the cob, and a small quantity of milk to drink. The above diet applies also to Crows. As live food when available, up to 12 mealworms may be given a day per bird. These birds enjoy bathing frequently.
DISTINGUISHING THE SEXES
Magpie cocks and hens look alike. When cocks are fully matured (at 2 years), they are deep black and glossy. Hens are paler, although a young cock is as pale as a hen. Males are more alert and active. The young are easily hand-raised by giving them food in your fingers, their mouths being large enough to be fed in this manner. They become exceedingly tame when thus hand-raised.
Using these simple tips, you should be able to care for and enjoy your Magpie. Good luck!
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