Mad Magpie?
July 21, 2008 7:44 AM   Subscribe

There is a magpie sitting in the middle of the grass in my garden with its beak wide open, its tail fanned out, and its wings spread. I thought it might be hurt, so I approached it, and it flew away with no apparent problems. It returned to the same spot and took up the same position a couple of minutes later.

It doesn't seem bothered by the various other birds, including other magpies as well as a couple of little brownish birds, that are hopping around nearby. Is it a teenage bird that's too big for the nest, waiting for mom to come by and give it a snack?Is it injured, but not so injured it can't fly? Is it just insane?
posted by cilantro to Science & Nature (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How hot is it where you live? Maybe the bird is trying to cool down?
posted by malaprohibita at 7:49 AM on July 21, 2008

I live in the UK, it's about 20 degrees today (65 degrees Fahrenheit). The bird (which is still there!) is in the only sunny patch in the garden, there's plenty of shade nearby.
posted by cilantro at 7:53 AM on July 21, 2008

Could it be trying to intimidate the other birds? I've seen birds in my back yard do the same thing, and it seems like they're saying "I'm soooooo big! Don't even think about it! Fuck off!"
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:54 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's sunbathing or it might be giving itself a dust bath - if it starts flinging dust around, you'll know the difference. I've seen birds do this before - they just like to sort of spread out every so often, stretch and relax. And who can blame them?
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:54 AM on July 21, 2008

If it's sitting on an ant hill, it would be anting. From the site: "Some birds spread their wings over an ant hill, fluff up their feathers and lie down, allowing ants to crawl all over them."

Otherwise, the open beak and fluffed feathers suggest it's cooling itself off by panting and increasing ventilation.
posted by hydrobatidae at 7:54 AM on July 21, 2008

It may be attempting to attract a mate - depends on where you live. In the southern hemisphere (Australia), September is the typical mating season for Magpie's... Up here in Canada, it is probably too late.

They are very intelligent birds - they can sometimes do weird things, just well, because...
posted by jkaczor at 7:55 AM on July 21, 2008

Was it behavior like this?
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 7:56 AM on July 21, 2008

Sun bathing.
posted by Nattie at 8:00 AM on July 21, 2008

Hmm, sunbathing seems the likeliest - it is a nice day out, if the bird hadn't already claimed the best spot, I might do a little sunbathing myself!

If it's not sunbathing, I bet it's trying to pretend its hurt to detract from a nest nearby, as detailed in [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] 's link. There are lots of cats on the loose around here, and my first thought was that the bird was injured so maybe the cats would think so, as well.
posted by cilantro at 8:07 AM on July 21, 2008

Here is probably more than you'll ever want to know about why birds may sunbathe. It seems that the inhibition of harmful bacteria in their feathers is among the chief advantages.
posted by dinger at 8:29 AM on July 21, 2008

I've seen this behaviour with Blackbirds in our garden for years too. They seem to derive pleasure out of sunning themselves, and I'm sure this is beneficial in some area or else they wouldn't do it, right?
posted by triv at 12:29 PM on July 21, 2008

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