Black-billed Magpies aren’t appreciated by everyone. Their raucous behavior and scavenging habits put some folks off but I’m quite fond of them for their relatively high intelligence and incredibly interesting behaviors (examples – they conduct ritualistic “funerals” of up to 40 birds around the dead bodies of other magpies and you haven’t lived until you’ve seen one tormenting a cat by repeatedly pulling its tail).
That said, they’re very difficult photographic subjects. Their black plumage soaks in the light while the bright white feathers reflect nearly all of it so getting exposure and detail in the overall bird is incredibly challenging. I probably delete a higher percentage of images I take of magpies than I do of any other species I regularly photograph which makes getting an image I like especially rewarding . I enjoy meeting the challenge…
1/1250, f/8, ISO 500, 500 f/4
When the light’s at the right angle you can sometimes get impressive iridescence in the blacks which also helps to bring out some of the detail there. This bird had just taken off from the sagebrush that its nest is deeply buried in. And it was even considerate enough to give me a pleasing head turn and eye contact as it did so.
I’ve photographed this bird and its mate at their nesting site for three years now (and yes I’m very careful not to disturb them). Can’t wait for early spring to try it again.