Thursday, February 24, 2022

Cat vs. magpies vs. vole

Early one morning, Don looked out our kitchen window and saw one of the neighbor's cats in our pasture.

This is nothing unusual, as the pasture appears to be rich hunting grounds for the cats. Frankly they're welcome to take all the mice they want.

But what caught Don's attention wasn't the cat per se, but the proximity of the cat to a pair of magpies (only one of which I could capture in the same frame as the cat).

"Look how close together they are," he commented. We watched as the mapgies stalked around the disgruntled-looking cat.

But soon it became apparent there was more to this little drama than met the eye.

Can you see what the magpie sees?

Let me enlarge it for you.

That's a vole on the left, right in front of the magpie.

Sadly the vole knew exactly what lay in store for it. There was no escaping the magpie's beak; and if there was, the cat was right there to finish it off.

Meanwhile, look at the cat's expression. We missed the opening scenes of this drama, but we speculate it's the cat who flushed out the vole, and then the magpies took over. The cat wisely knew it would be dangerous to try and attack the magpies, and he looks very annoyed that his breakfast was stolen.

I don't know if the vole was injured by this point, but it hardly mattered. It was doomed. Magpies are vicious killers.

Here's the second magpie, moving in for the kill.

A direct attack on the vole wasn't long in coming.

At this point the vole (located between the two magpies) was still alive.

But the magpies kept flipping it around, doubtless injuring it more with each flip.

I felt very sorry for the vole, let me tell you.

It was hard to tell, but it seemed this was the killer blow.

Victory dance?

With the vole dead, it was never clear if or how the magpies shared the feast. I suspect there was no sharing. Magpies don't have that much altruism in their shrunken little hearts.

After the magpies had departed with their loot, the cat hung around a bit longer, no doubt hoping for another vole to show up.

Interestingly, long after the cat had departed, we noticed a lot of magpies hanging around the same general vicinity. Must be a lot of voles up there.

Just a little slice of life in north Idaho. Or in the case of the vole, a slice of death. Ain't nature grand?


  1. "Nature, red in tooth and claw".
    I wouldn't have wanted to be that vole, but I also wouldn't have wanted to see those magpies starve...

  2. Oh my, the drama!! Great photo-journalism!! Nature just isn't always cute and cuddley, thta's for sure....I'm glad to have cats roaming my country property..I have no mice in the house or garage, or barn!!

  3. From round here:

    Magpies have outwitted scientists by helping each other remove tracking devices


  4. A front row seat for Nature’s theater.

  5. Don't feel sorry for Voles; besides being flea infested vermin, they will destroy your garden if you let them in. They are worse pests than field mice or wood rats. If you have any grain or feed stored in your barn, and a Vole (or more) gets into it, it's ruined. The Magpies were doing you a favor.

  6. We live in the middle of a 20 acre hay field , so for 25 years we have watched hawks hunt with our cats , the cats do scare out the mice , or whatever , and then the hawk comes in for the kill !! When I see a cat hunting in the field often there is a hawk circling doesn't discourage our cats any tho , they must win enough to make it worth while .Animals are fascinating !!

  7. If I was the cat, I'D of eaten both magpies and the vole!