Nobel-Prize Winning Magpies

Colorado Wine Boy

Nobel-Prize Winning Magpies

Jacob Helleckson

Every fall, as the grapes change color and other food becomes hard to come by, magpies begin to prey on the harvest. A magpie bird is a rather strapping feathered creature, with a clean white body, and black tail and wings. About five minutes is enough time with one however. They are the smartest grape thieves ever. 

To remedy the bird problem, we lay netting over each row of grapes. It adds another pass through the vineyard, but it can also save an entire harvest. You would think that this would be enough to keep the magpies at bay, but they have outsmarted us. Yep. Birds win the Nobel Prize for thievery.

They sit on the top wire of the vineyard trellis, and then purposefully tip over, swing down, and push the bird netting into the grapevine, causing the cluster to stick through the netting, and allowing them to pluck some off for lunch. While hilarious to watch, this "bobbing for apples" technique accounts for a small percentage of crop loss every year in the North Fork. Lesson learned: Magpies, while good looking, actually are annoying pests.