Mountain Marauders

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Size - 11 1/2 X 23

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Black Billed Magpie (pica hudsonia)

Anyone travelling in the Rocky Mountains is familiar with this large, loud, very conspicuous, black and white bird which is generally found in the higher elevations of the western United States. Known for its over-size domed nests and the fact that it is one of only three of American “song birds” whose tail makes up more than half of its body length, it’s as much a part of the high country scenery as the mountains themselves. At first glance this gaudy bird seems to be two-toned, comprised only of a black and white color scheme, although on closer examination one will find that its wings and tail possess areas of blue, blue green and & purple iridescence which flash colorfully in direct sunlight.

Campers and picnic groups know the Magpie as a winged marauder and food thief of the highest order, brazenly approaching picnic tables to snatch food from unattended plates, even with people sitting right next to them. Once they’ve obtained any food the battle is only half over for then they have to protect it from other Magpies. To that end they’re also food hoarders hiding caches of food that have been placed into hollowed out areas they’ve scratched, or pecked, the forest floor. Lastly, another very significant aspect of the Magpie is that it is one of the very few creatures within the animal kingdom who can pass the “Mirror Test” which means it can recognize itself in a mirror.

In “Marauders”, given its mainly black and white content, I chose to use India Ink and a few Luma Dyes to create the final rendering. Also, a small amount of white opaque was used to illustrate a number of the high-lighted areas.