Monday, August 12, 2013

Los Angeles - Paradise for Weird Birds

Los Angeles is a city of odd immigrants. Yes, people move here from all over, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Look around SoCal and you'll see that almost every living thing evolved somewhere else. That lawn? Probably European. Those eucalyptus trees? Australian. The neighborhood pigeons? North Africa. With all these transplants it's easy to become blase about unusual flora and fauna. Even wild parrots don't cause most people to look up anymore. Go shopping in Old Town Pasadena and you're almost guaranteed to see a flock of them eating, nesting, or playing with the local crows.

Magpie-jay enjoying the sun - photo by Gabriel Hardman
That said, there are still a few visitors who can turn heads. And one of them has taken up residence at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank.

Pictured here is a beautiful black-throated magpie-jay, a native of Mexico that normally ranges from southern Sonora to northern Colima. The first report that I could find about this particular bird indicated that he's been living near the studio at least since 2010. Given his striking colors and big personality, it's a safe bet that he was an aviary resident before that or he would have been noticed sooner. Or he may have traveled up from southern San Diego county, where a flock of magpie-jays have become established after apparently escaping from wildlife smugglers in Tijuana.

Either way, it's not too surprising that a magpie-jay would do well at a studio. They're omnivorous, like the crows they are closely related to, and smart. Studios are a lot like big campuses, filled with people constantly dropping food, so there's plenty to eat. Lots of big trees help too. Corvids of all types love to play and are very curious, so it's common to see them carrying sticks and bright objects. This guy is no exception, as he was brought to my attention when my husband Gabriel was working on the lot recently and spotted him lugging twigs around.
Carrying a stick - photo by Gabriel Hardman

Black-throated magpie-jays are fairly common in their native territory, but recent reports have seemed to point to a drop in their population. It's unknown if there is only one magpie-jay at Warner Bros. or perhaps a couple, which could lead to a breeding community. Chances are that this guy is all alone, but clearly he's doing okay. As a member of such a long-lived and intelligent species, hopefully he'll grace the studio with his colorful plumage and shrill voice for many years to come.


  1. That black-throated magpie-jay is truly a beautiful bird, and I hope he has a nice, long life!

  2. I've never seen this bird. What a beauty!

  3. Me too, Keith! Tapirgal, I knew you'd like this guy! :)

  4. Beautiful! Wish they were around here - wishing him a long & healthy life

  5. Yeah, it's really nice that he's doing so well, Peggy and Brizel!


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