Adult black-billed magpie pairs stay together year-round and often for life unless one dies, in which case the remaining magpie may find another mate. Divorces are possible: one South Dakota study found low rates of divorce 8% but one 7-year study in Alberta found divorce rates up to 63%.
Like other corvids, black-billed magpies indulge in anting (applying ants onto their plumage) and sun-bathing (back facing the sun, head down, wings drooped and spread wide, tail fanned, back feathers fluffed up). They also belong to that group of birds that scratch their head with their foot over the wing.
Molt begins earlier in males than in females, and in second-year birds than in older ones. Primaries, secondaries, tertials and rectrices are replaced sequentially, so the bird can still fly during molting.
Level flight is relatively slow. Maximum sustained speed is 31 mph. Non-flapping phases are often interspersed throughout the flight. Changes in direction can be extremely quick, probably helped by the bird's long tail.
The most common calls of this bird are a nasal inquisitive "mag mag mag" or "yak yak yak" uttered in a much higher pitch than that of the European magpies. Many other calls also exist such as begging calls by females to their mate, by young to their parents, idle songbird chatter, and distress calls when seized by predators.
Magpies grieve for their dead
(and even turn up for funeral)
With its aggressive behaviour and appetite for young chicks, the magpie doesn't have a particularly good image when it comes to compassion. But according to some experts, the predator may have a tender side, feeling grief and routinely holding 'funerals' for fallen friends.
Dr Marc Bekoff claims the rituals - which involve birds laying 'wreaths' of grass alongside roadside corpses - are proof animals feel complex emotions.
The raven has long been associated with death and dark omens, but the real bird is somewhat of a mystery. Unlike its smaller cousin the crow, not a lot has been written about this remarkable bird.
Ravens, known as "wolf birds" lead wolves to their prey, alert them to dangers, and are rewarded by sharing the spoils. LEARN MORE >
Ravens are one of the smartest animals
When it comes to intelligence, these birds rate up there with chimpanzees and dolphins. In one logic test, the raven had to get a hanging piece of food by pulling up a bit of the string, anchoring it with its claw, and repeating until the food was in reach. Many ravens got the food on the first try, some within 30 seconds. In the wild, ravens have pushed rocks on people to keep them from climbing to their nests, stolen fish by pulling a fishermen’s line out of ice holes, and played dead beside a beaver carcass to scare other ravens away from a delicious feast.
If a raven knows another raven is watching it hide its food, it will pretend to put the food in one place while really hiding it in another. Since the other ravens are smart too, this only works sometimes.
Ravens can imitate human speech
In captivity, ravens can learn to talk better than some parrots. They also mimic other noises, like car engines, toilets flushing, and animal and birdcalls. Ravens have been known to imitate wolves or foxes to attract them to carcasses that the raven isn’t capable of breaking open. When the wolf is done eating, the raven gets the leftovers.
Ravens are extremely playful
They have been observed in Alaska and Canada using snow-covered roofs as slides. In Maine, they have been seen rolling down snowy hills. They often play keep-away with other animals like wolves, otters, and dogs. Ravens even make toys—a rare animal behavior—by using sticks, pinecones, golf balls, or rocks to play with each other or by themselves. And sometimes they just taunt or mock other creatures because it’s funny.
Ravens use “hand” gestures
It turns out that ravens make “very sophisticated nonvocal signals,” according to researchers. In other words, they gesture to communicate. A study in Austria found that ravens point with their beaks to indicate an object to another bird, just as we do with our fingers. They also hold up an object to get another bird’s attention. This is the first time researchers have observed naturally occurring gestures in any animal other than primates.
Ravens show empathy for each other
Despite their mischievous nature, ravens seem capable of feeling empathy. When a raven’s friend loses in a fight, they will seem to console the losing bird. They also remember birds they like and will respond in a friendly way to certain birds for at least three years after seeing them. (They also respond negatively to enemies and suspiciously to strange ravens.) Although a flock of ravens is called an “unkindness,” the birds appear to be anything but.