tweeter's picture

Magpies:aggressive behaviour

Last Friday, whilst at work in Milton Keynes, I noticed a Magpie taking an aggressive interest in a Water Rail which was clearly becoming agitated about the approach of the larger bird. I didn't see the Magpie actually make contact but had I not been there I think the Magpie may well have made a full attack.
Perhaps, like me, the Magpie was surprised to see the Rail - it had been cornered against a brick wall presumably having been blown off course by the strong winds that day. There are reed beds not far - about 200m away - where I know Water Rails hang out. Luckily the Water Rail found an escape route and ran off towards the car park - but it wasn't followed by the Magpie.

What other species have been seen being approached ( or worse attacked) by Magpies? Is there a worrying trend for bolder more aggressive Magpies? I note there have been other forum postings on this point.

I'd be interested to hear from you.




Alurophile's picture


No, Magpies have not suddenly evolved into something more aggressive. It is just that they are big & obvious & easy to watch. Thus, they tend to attract suspicion from people unfamiliar with usual animal behaviour - & there is also a tendency to judge in terms of human society.

Corvids are all rather intelligent & a strange object (& you have to admit, a Water Rail IS strange) in an unusual place will attract attention. From the point of view of an omnivore, the question is likely to comprise elements of: Is it a meal? Is it dangerous?

It is important to remember that every species in existence to-day comes from a direct line of the best competitors over evolutionary time. As the many wildlife programs on television have shown, the weakest in the flock is usually the target of the predator. The Magpie's behaviour is altogether correct, in terms of evolution.

If you think about it, competition for resources remains part of the everyday interactions of humans. Such behaviours as social climbing; career ladders; betrayal; theft; sneaking; spying; threatening; intimidating - let alone actual killing - are just the current versions of what made the best competitor in Homo sapiens.

Jonathan's picture

Though thankfully, there is

Though thankfully, there is more than one route to success, or there would be too few species to make iSpot interesting and no one would spare the time to indulge in such an idle pursuit! ;-)

University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)