Minnesota Zoo Forced to Boost Enclosure Security After Birds Stage Escape

by Lauren Boisvert

The Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley has had to temporarily shut down its tropical aviary after four female magpie shrikes staged an escape in July. Apparently, someone left an emergency exit open, and the birds literally flew the coop. All four birds hatched at the zoo. The magpie shrike is black with white patches on its shoulders and wings. They also have a distinct, long floppy tail.

Zoo officials found one at a nearby marsh, but the zoo entreated local birders to keep a lookout for the other three magpie shrikes in August. According to a zoo spokesperson, the Minnesota Zoo is “working on installing secondary systems for containment,” as told to Minnesota Public Radio on Thursday, September 8.

As of now, there is no word if the other three birds were located. Though, it seems like the zoo is taking steps to prevent something like this from happening again. Magpie shrikes, also called African long-tailed shrikes, are native to savannahs and shrublands. They call eastern central and southern Africa home.

The magpie shrike is slightly different from the notorious Australian magpie, although they look similar, besides the long tail. Magpies are known for their love of shiny objects and are also very protective of their young. But, the Australian magpie seems to take that protective nature to an entirely different level. There is something called magpie swooping season in Australia, where if you wander too close to a female preparing a nest, the male will swoop down at you and attempt to chase you off. This season usually falls between August and October, when magpies breed.

All About This Fascinatingly Social Bird, the African Long-Tailed Shrike

The African long-tailed shrike’s status is considered Least Concern, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Specifically, this bird is found in the African countries of Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. They like to stay in families of about a dozen birds and are a fairly noisy species.

Magpie shrikes find their prey mostly on the ground, which consists of insects, various spiders, fruit, lizards, and small mammals, such as rodents. They lay their eggs from October to January, with females laying 2 to 6 eggs. Only the female will sit on the eggs, for a period of about 16 days, with the male providing her with food. What’s interesting about magpie shrikes is that they aren’t solitary birds. In fact, when the eggs hatch, both the parents and members of the flock care for the chicks. The females will lay about 2 clutches of eggs in a season. The chicks leave the nest after about 15 to 20 days, but the first chicks help raise the next brood.