Incredible encounter with a magpie

Incredible encounter with a magpie

The best thing about watching wildlife in the mountains is observing animals without interrupting their normal activities. I just love watching them going about their daily routine. So, I always take extreme care to keep an appropriate distance so as not to disturb any wildlife with my presence. However, the other day something remarkable happened: I had a very, very close encounter with a Eurasian magpie (Pica pica). It was such a special moment that I can’t help but sharing it with you!


I was enjoying the sunny mountain scenery while sitting in a meadow in Les Bois, a beautiful area in the Chamonix valley, when a magpie landed on a wooden fence right next to me. The bird kept looking at me while chattering softly. Afraid that I would scare it if I moved, I kept very, very still. Then suddenly it hopped of its wooden post onto the grass, it picked up a little twig and hopped towards me. I reached out my hand and to my astonishment the bird gave me the little stick! I gave it back to him, and he cheerfully hopped around with it in a little circle while chattering excitedly, and then returned the twig to me again. A ritual we kept going for a while; we clearly were playing a game! And then, to my delight, he hopped onto my hand! He looked straight into my eyes, keeping his cheerful chatter going. After a while he flew off, leaving me wondering how this bird got so tame.

Not totally wild

Eurasian Magpies are common birds around human settlements in the Alps. They are part of the corvid family and are known to be incredibly smart. They have an extraordinary capacity to remember human faces which enables them to build close relationships with humans. My curiosity about how this particular bird got so tame, brought me to the Petit Social, a local bar in the village of Les Praz where I showed the girl behind the bar a picture of the magpie on my hand. She explained that a while ago a resident in Les Bois found a young magpie that still needed some parental care. They fed the little bird, resulting in a healthy and playful magpie that now enriches visits to the Les Bois area. For me, it was an experience I won’t soon forget!

Simone van Velzen

One Reply to “Incredible encounter with a magpie”

  1. Hi Simone, That’s a great shot of you with the magpie–and great information about magpies. Most of my encounters with magpies have been in the Rocky Mountains of the US. Magpies are members of the crow family, and like ravens and choughs are very social and intelligent. Wikipedia says “The black and white Eurasian magpie is widely considered one of the most intelligent animals in the world, and one of only a few non-mammal species able to recognize itself in a mirror test. We had a neighbor who took a wounded magpie into the home to nurse it back to health. Pretty soon it was talking like a parrot and becoming so annoying that they finally released it!

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