Easterners touring the West slow their cars and exclaim when they see a large black and white bird with a long tail fly from the road and disappear into a nearby thicket. They have seen nothing like it at home. The object of their interest is the American magpie (opposite), a flashy, vociferous, resourceful critter which, although admired as a pet, is one of the most hated birds in the country.
When widely scattered throughout an area the magpie is not a menace, but when it congregates in large numbers it can cause damage to the poultry, livestock and grains of the rancher and farmer. Feeding heavily on carrion, its eating habits are decidedly vulgar. In the West it is regarded with the same aversion with which its relative, the crow, is looked upon in the East—only more so. Hence thousands are trapped or poisoned. But always avoiding extermination, the canny bird continues to engage in a conflict of interests with man just as it did when it hung around the camps of the Indians. For all its bad reputation it is a spectacular addition to western wildlife. The picture on the right shows this bird in a characteristic mood: it is pondering some new devilment or hanging its head in shame.