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Free birds: Minnesota Zoo boosts security around enclosure after avian escape

by Staff
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New coop for you!

The Minnesota Zoo has emptied out its tropical aviary so it can beef up security following the escape of four birds — three of which are still on the loose.

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

The four female magpie shrikes — all of which were hatched at the zoo — flew the coop in July when someone accidentally left an emergency exit door open.

One was captured after being spotted at a nearby marsh but the zoo appealed to local birders last month for help rounding up the rest, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported at the time.

The birds, also known as African long-tailed shrikes, are glossy black with white patches on their wings and backs that are especially visible in flight.

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

Four female magpie shrikes 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’s falsely accused of stealing silverware and nearly executed before it’s revealed that the culprit was actually a magpie living in a nearby church belfry.

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

“We suggest that humans notice when magpies occasionally pick up shiny objects because they believe the birds find them attractive, while it goes unnoticed when magpies interact with less eye-catching items,” lead author Toni Shephard said at the time.

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