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Magpie Mutualism

March 20, 2012

FeederWatcher Patricia Jones-Mestas was lucky enough to catch this moment of mutualistic behavior recently in Parker, Colorado.  Black-billed Magpies are known to pick ticks off of the backs of deer, moose, and other large mammals.  This behavior is mutually beneficial for both species — the Magpie gets a meal, and the deer gets rid of ticks.  Unfortunately there’s no option for “deer” as a FeederWatch feeder type!

Black-billed Magpie snacking on ticks, photo by Patricia Jones-Mestas in Parker, CO.

3 Comments
  1. Victoria Runnoe permalink
    March 20, 2012 6:41 pm

    My horses used to have magpie riders in the summer months, sometimes several at a time. They seemed pretty nonplussed by their avian riders. The horses did not have ticks, but the birds could have been snagging flies.

  2. Sandra permalink
    March 21, 2012 5:31 am

    Herd this Bird to Wisconsin.

  3. March 22, 2012 11:25 am

    That is so cute. Great pic!

    I love counting birds for FeederWatch http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/ and I’m looking forward to NestWatch http://nestwatch.org/ after April 6! Come on all you Minnesotans – join in the fun!!

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