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Musical Magpie

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Animal Updates | Birds | Enrichment

Tuesday, April 01, 2014


Musical Magpie
Ian the magpie  | Dominique Richardson

Ian the magpie loves to tap on a panel in his exhibit in an almost musical pattern. He’ll perch near the panel and knock out a beat. I wanted to know if he would put his percussion skills to use to make more melodic music. Ian’s trainer and I gave him a children’s piano to try his hand, or beak, at.

Ian’s trainer brought the small piano into his exhibit and placed it on the floor for him. I waited outside, eager to make my observations and get pictures. As most animals tend to be a little wary of new objects at first, Ian’s trainer put some meal worms on the piano to entice him. She placed them carefully on the keys so that, as he retrieved the worms, he’d notice that the piano made fun “kerplunk” noises.

Highly motivated by meal worms, Ian hopped over to the piano and eyed it. He hopped around it, inspecting both the piano and the snacks on top. He then gingerly plucked a meal worm off the keys without making a peep. Oh well… the best laid plans…

As he was taking the worms, I started taking pictures. He paused to look at my camera and then went back to his snack. After he made quick work of the meal worms, Ian flew up to a branch where he could get a good look at my camera. With Ian so close, I was able to snap lots of photos. With each “click” of the shutter Ian cocked his head to examine the camera.

Ian’s trainer played a few keys on the piano to redirect his attention and he hopped down to re-examine the piano. Great! Ian’s going to play the piano! I started snapping more photos. Ian flew back up to his perch to look at my clicking camera. He was intrigued by something making noise, even if it wasn’t the piano.

I decided to switch to the camera on my phone since it had no shutter click noise. His trainer pressed a few more the keys on the piano, but by then it was too late. Ian was done with the piano, it had no more worms, AND now there was this fun clicky-sounding thing to ogle.

Maybe we’ll stick with percussion. Or we can help Ian branch out into other arts with a children’s toy camera to tap away at.

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