11 Reasons Why the Magie Should Be Edmonton’s Offical Bird
No other Edmonton resident is more controversial than the ubiquitous Magpie (Pica hudsonia). While many Edmontonians resent its 4 am wake-up calls, many of us find the Edmonton magpie fascinating. It’s the bird that Bird Studies Canada refers to as a “charming and charismatic species…easily recognized by its bold patterning and chatty personality.” Regardless of your feelings, here are 11 reasons why Edmonton should embrace the Magpie as a symbol and official bird.
Edmonton Magpie. The Bird We Love To Hate But Secretly Love
1. Magpies Are Tough
Who better to represent the continent’s most Northern large city than a bird that chooses to live here year-round? Do you really want some pretty migratory bird to represent us? Heck no! Move over, robins! Out of my way, ducks! Minus 40 outside? No problem! Whether by choice or circumstance, the Magpie is here to stay. Like most of us, the Magpie is here for the long haul.
2. Magpies Are Native to Edmonton
The Magpie has been making the Edmonton area home for three to four million years! Today’s Magpies are the descendant of Eurasian magpies that crossed the Bering land bridge. Just like some locals I know.
5. Magpies Have Been Living With People For Thousands of Years
Magpies have been following humans for thousands of years and thrive in urban habituates, making them a synanthrope – a class of animals that benefit from human activity.
“Historical records of the American West indicate that black-billed Magpies have been associates of people for a long time. Magpies frequently followed hunting parties of Plains Indians and fed on leftovers from bison kills.” – AllAboutBirds.com
The Magpies are still following us and are happy to call cities home.
4. Magpies Are Industrious
The Magpie is one of the only birds in North America that makes an elaborate domed nest that takes up to forty days to construct – way longer than most birds require. What’s more Edmonton than taking forever on a construction project?
5. The Magpie Doesn’t Give Up
“The bison herds they once depended upon are greatly diminished. And they have a long history of run-ins with ranchers…In the early part of the 20th century, many were killed as pests or poisoned by baits set out for predators. In spite of this, Magpies remain common and widespread” – Audobon.org. Despite how you feel about the Magpie, it’s a survivor, persistent, and isn’t going anywhere. It’s had its ups and downs but still keeps up with the best of them.
6. Magpies Are Smart
The local Magpie belongs to a group of birds called corvids, regarded as some of the most intelligent birds in the world. Corvids include crows and jays, are “capable of using tools, playing tricks, [and] teaching each other new things.” The ability to pass down lessons between generations makes magpies part of a handful of animals that have culture.
7. Magpies Are Community Minded
Magpies live in loose communities and share the responsibility of caring for each other. Pairs mate for life, construct their nests together and share the responsibility of caring for the young. Magpies even hold funerals. They know they’re better off working in cooperation than alone. Better off together, Edmontonians have a history of community building and is one of the first cities in Canada to adopt a community league model.
8. Magpies Aren’t To Be Messed With
Though not known as an outwardly aggressive birds, they’ll passionately defend themselves and each other from signs of danger. If a magpie could wield a machete, you bet it would. As I write, a pair of Magpies are vocally defending a young magpie against a neighbourhood cat.
9. Magpies Are Secretly Beautiful
At first glance, this black and white bird might look plain, but like the Edmonton skyline, with the right vantage point and a little sunlight bouncing off at the right angle, you’ll be hit with a rainbow of hidden majesty.
10. Edmonton Is Canada’s Magpie Capital
According to Wild Child Edmonton, Edmonton “has the highest urban magpie population in all of North America.” If that’s not a reason to claim the Magpie as Edmonton’s official mascot, I don’t know what is.
Here’s a CBC article titled “Edmonton: Canada’s Magpie Capitol,” in which Birds Studies Canada scientists discuss a 20% increase in Edmonton’s magpie population over the last five years. The second article by Metro Edmonton expands on the same findings; “Edmonton Magpie Numbers Reach An All-Time High.” Let’s face it. Magpies love Edmonton.
11. The Bird We Love To Hate For The City We Love To Hate
And yet, despite the redeeming qualities mentioned above, we still complain about the Magpie. I acknowledge that Magpies are polarizing. But that’s perhaps the most compelling reason to embrace the pie. Like Edmonton, the Magpie is underrated, under-appreciated, and underestimated. It’s the underdog of birds for the underdog of cities.
The Magpie is the bird we’re hesitant to embrace because it feels like there should be a better bird out there for us. But this is home. Edmonton is the Magpie of cities.
Order An Edmonton Magpie Sticker
In 2014, I submitted a Magpie design to an Edmonton flag redesign competition and was one of the finalists. While I don’t have flags, I did a limited run of Edmonton Magpie stickers.