The Bold and Beautiful Magpie Jay

Magpie plotting his next move

The white-throated magpie jay is one of Sugar Beach’s more flamboyant – and brazen – visitors.  Large birds, measuring up to two feet, with regal blue and white plumage, black necklace and a dainty crest, they are eminently photogenic and such unfailing food beggars as to make for an amateur photographer’s dream.

As with all members of the magpie jay is intelligent and inquisitive.  Indeed, their distinct lack of shyness can become outright brashness: true to their magpie name, these omnivorous birds been known to steal food from unwary diner’s plates, and can often be seen tearing greedily into stolen sugar packets, a favorite treat.

These birds are also highly social, and flocks are primarily led by a dominant female, who is aided by her mate and other female relatives.  Unattached males may wander in and out of the group, to share a meal or some gossip.

Indeed, the flocks can be heard calling coarsely through the canopy throughout the day over a territory 12 hectares, or 30 acres in area. Their raucous sounds have earned them the homophone moniker of ‘urraca’, though they can whistle very sweetly when so disposed.

In fact, the magpie jay can produce an astonishing array of more than 60 sounds, including caws, chirps, whistles, whoops, pops, clips and yells, all of which can be heard at virtually any time of day at Hotel Sugar Beach.

C. Keogan