In an interview with The Conversation, Dominique Potvin, an Animal Ecology professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast revealed how a mischief of magpies had actually displayed a rare cooperative behavior which saw the birds help each other get rid of the trackers the researchers had placed on them.
The researchers had created a magnetic backpack of sorts that were placed on the magpies that would be used to track them. They even created a special feeding station that could wirelessly charge these trackers and remove them magnetically if needed, but it seems that a few days into the study, the researchers discovered a female magpie removing the harness of the tracker off one of the younger birds.
Eventually, the other subjects had their trackers removed, even the dominant male in the group who allowed members of the group to assist him in the removal as well. According to Potvin, “We don’t know if it was the same individual helping each other or if they shared duties, but we had never read about any other bird cooperating in this way to remove tracking devices. The birds needed to problem solve, possibly testing at pulling and snipping at different sections of the harness with their bill. They also needed to willingly help other individuals, and accept help.”