Magpie Rising In Iridescent Splendor

Iridescence in Black-billed Magpies is fleeting but quite spectacular when you can catch the light just right.

Some of the magpies on Antelope Island have already begun early nesting activities. They’re hanging around nests used in previous years and beginning to refurbish some of them by adding new twigs. Mud to line the interior of the nests will come later (it was all frozen yesterday morning). These activities will slowly increase over the next few weeks.


1/3200, f/8, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed this one yesterday morning as it took off from the top of one of the domed nests on the island. I was happy to get large amounts if iridescence in both the left wing and the tail and the position of the right wing was just about perfect to avoid blocking our view of either one. Good light on those photon-trapping deep blacks of the head and upper torso even gave me some detail there and excellent eye contact and a catch light topped it all off.

This time of year there’s no greenery on the bushes containing the nests so these settings are never very attractive. Large amounts of color in the magpie, on those relatively rare occasions when I can capture it, helps to compensate for that deficiency.

In my area magpie nest-building is one of the first tangible harbingers of spring and it really perked me up to finally see it. It’s been a very long winter and I’m damned tired of it.


PS – On previous occasions when I’ve posted magpie images with large amounts of iridescence I’ve been asked if I played around with colors or saturation during processing to get it. The answer is no, I don’t do that. All I’ve done with this photo is crop, adjust exposure slightly and sharpen.


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