My inspiration for this story on the Aussie magpie was an amazing piece of free-form machine embroidery by Lynda Worthington. For someone like me who struggles to take up a hem, it was mind-blowing.
There is enormous affection for magpies in Australia. They are so engaging and entertaining, well except when they are attacking innocent people on bicycles!
The aggressive behavior of magpies in breeding season has long been a problem. They have been protected for many years, but sometimes the law was overruled. The following is from a Cessnock newspaper in 1946;
In commenting on a recent letter published in the Press concerning the destruction of magpies, the Chief Secretary Mr J.M. Baddeley) stated that he wished it to be clearly understood these birds were fully protected by law. It was recognized, however, that in instances where vicious birds were attacking people, it was necessary that special steps be taken to meet the situation, This was done by arranging for the destruction of harmful birds under police supervision. “The indiscriminate killing of birds” , concluded the Minister, “is against the law, and any such offender is liable to a fine of £20.
Magpies are not daily visitors to my Blue Mountains garden, but in summer they often call in for a drink. I suspect some of them come up by train, like other tourists;
A tree had to come down at our place a while back, and the maggies loved to sun themselves in the sawdust. I think they thought it was Blackheath Beach.
Not dead mate, just dozing off.
Summer also means cicadas. Oh dear, this one had an unpleasant end!
Among the pin oak leaves in autumn;
The bird pictured below was waiting for insects as I split wood recently, ready for winter 2021.
I love this verse published in 1930. It was not signed, but has a better description of a magpie’s melodic song than I could ever write;
Despite the magpie’s disturbing habit of swooping on us, we voted it our favourite bird in 2017.
This letter from the1950s accurately expresses my own feelings about them. It was headed RESPECTING MAGPIES;
Sir, – Apart from a personal vendetta with an extrovert who hoed into my meat pie while I was hitting off at golf recently, I have nothing but admiration and respect for the magpie – beautifully trim, highly intelligent and supremely self-assured.
It is not for these birds to be chattering imbeciles in cages, as the various breeds of parrots so easily become, repeating only the moronic conversation of their masters. They are far too reserved and independent to bow to the will of Homo Saps. I know this only too well. I made overtures for years to a crippled magpie I befriended. I gave – he took, and any attempt at liberties was rewarded with a sharp peck, a yodeling lecture on civil rights, and a look of supreme hauteur from his beady eyes.
Apparently they respond well to courtesy. It’s wise to greet them on sight, and thus establish a good rapport.
Magpies build a rather scruffy nest, often in a gum tree.
Sometimes a sneaky usurper comes along and lays its own egg in the nest. Dear me, the poor parent maggie wears itself out raising the wretched cuckoo chick as one of its own;
Would you like to hear that song? Here is a choral group accompanied by a harmonica, recorded and filmed back in 1977. I’m not sure the dear old chap should be feeding them bread, but never mind. CLICK HERE.