Birds escape the Minnesota Zoo and prompt an aviary upgrade

New coop for you!

The Minnesota Zoo has emptied its tropical aviary to improve security after four birds escaped – three of which are still roaming free.

The zoo in Apple Valley, a suburb of Twin Cities, “is working on installing secondary containment systems,” a spokesman told Minnesota Public Radio on Thursday.

The four female magpies – all of whom hatched at the zoo – fled the coop in July when someone accidentally left an emergency exit door open.

One was captured after being sighted in a nearby swamp, but the zoo enlisted the help of local birders last month to round up the rest, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported at the time.

Also known as the African long-tailed shrike, the birds are glossy black with white patches on their wings and back, particularly visible in flight.

The creatures are native to the savannas and scrublands of east-central and South Africa, including large areas of Botswana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, according to the Switzerland-based International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

magpie shrike
Four female magpies escaped in July.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

The species has a designation of least concern on the organization’s list of endangered animals.

Magpies have a reputation – especially in Europe – for stealing shiny objects, as in Gioachino Rossini’s 1817 opera The Thieving Magpie.

It tells the story of a servant, Ninetta, who is falsely accused of stealing silverware and is almost executed before it is revealed that the culprit was actually a magpie living in a nearby church bell tower.

But a 2014 study by animal behavioral psychologists at England’s University of Exeter found no evidence to support the folklore.

“We propose that humans notice when magpies occasionally pick up shiny objects because they think the birds find them attractive, while going unnoticed when magpies interact with less conspicuous objects,” lead author Toni Shephard said at the time. Birds escape the Minnesota Zoo and prompt an aviary upgrade


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