Monday, December 7, 2009


I had a fun opportunity to join several other birders on a morning walk at a few locations in the area of the Denver Botanical Gardens Arboretum near Chatfield Reservoir. More on the birding in a future post.

One of the memorable experiences from this trip was seeing this pair from the vehicles as we traveled between two sites. Both species were content to remain as we observed the symbiotic behavior, despite a vehicle first backing up to get the above shot, and then pulling around the corner to watch them head on.

In the above shot, the Black-billed Magpie is seen working through the Mule Deer's coat. It is clearly enjoying a protein rich meal of mites or ticks. The deer gets a nice clean coat out of the deal, and seemed to be showing about as much "bliss" as any deer could. Deer don't seem to wag tails, or get a foot twitch going when a bird is working on just the right spot, but the look on his face at times was very similar to a certain Golden Retriever I know.

I am sure that this type of behavior isn't at all uncommon, but it was the first time I had a chance to observe it up close. Seeing it for a first time was a really fun experience. Oddest in my mind are how unsuited these two species seem for such behavior. Magpies, typically calling loudly, seem just too confrontational - and Mule Deer, while less jumpy than White-tails in my observations, still don't seem the type to just abide a good sized bird landing on their backs, no matter how itchy. Nonetheless, these two were very "chill". We observed them for long minutes, while neither seemed in any rush to break the partnership. After enjoying the view we pulled away, leaving this odd couple to help one another cope with the winter chill that has descended.

1 comment:

  1. Great captures, Dave! Wonderful insight into an interesting phase of nature!