Something of this handsome bird might be said with advantage in a homely way. It appears that in captivity Magpies show an aversion to anyone who has annoyed them, as well as to anyone who looks like the person who has annoyed them. The voice of the offending person is quite sufficient to agitate the bird and cause it to rush post haste towards its tormentor to wreak a terrible vengeance. Although it is principally children and ladies that they have a grievance against, some children and ladies pass by as very good friends.
The Useful Birds of Southern Australia: With notes on other birds was written by Robert Hall and published by T.C. Lothian (Melbourne and Sydney) in 1907. It was one of very few things handed down to me by my paternal grandmother.
Happily, the magpie clans that populate our little piece of The Rock and I have come to regard each other as ‘very good friends’. I know I shouldn’t feed the wildlife. And yes, they leave the upstairs deck looking like this:
They also have a rather nasty habit of barfing up lumps of shiny hard bug-body-ambergris. It’s kind of gross, but who am I to judge.
My neighbour shoos them away from her place. She doesn’t like the way they peck holes in her lawn and she practically wretches at the thought of their poop getting into her water-tanks. But I think when they really pissed her off was when the cheeky blighters worked out that she keeps bees. Easy pickings. Meal in a box. So she shoos them off to come over to visit the crazy-bird-lady next-door who feeds them mincemeat and bacon rind. And they do.
I lob the tasty tidbits high into the air one at a time for my clever black and white friends to swoop and catch in midair all whooshing wings and click-clacking beaks. It’s a spectacular show.
The young birds wait warily on the grass below for any treats that should fall. A clumsy hurried foot-race for the prize ensues . They make me laugh.
In the mornings, they wait at my kitchen door. One cheeky male even taps on the glass to remind me they’re outside. A row of them will be on the railing singing. And oh how they reward me with their warble-garbling a cappella routines.
I don’t know if there’s a collective noun for magpies, but there should be. A beguile of magpies, maybe? Or a carol?