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.

Magpie embroidery

Magical! Thanks Lynda.

There is enormous affection for magpies in Australia. They are so engaging and entertaining, well except when they are  attacking innocent people on bicycles!

Magpie Attack

Look out! (Photo Courier Mail)

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.

Magpie cartoon

 

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;

Magpie at the station

Stand well back. Photo courtesy of Scott Clancy.

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.

Magpie sunbating

Dosing off.

Magpie

Crikey!  ….how long have I been asleep

Summer also means cicadas. Oh dear, this one had an unpleasant end!

 

Cicada snack for a magpie.

A little snack.

Among the pin oak leaves in autumn;

Magpie among pin oak leaves

 

I love this  short piece 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.

MATERNAL MATTERS

Magpies build a rather scruffy nest, often in a gum tree.

 

Magpie nest

Magpie nest (Photo- Bird Spot)

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;

Magpie feeding channel billed cuckoo

Oh good grief!

The late Judith Wright summed the birds up beautifully,

Magpie Poem by Judith Wright

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments
  1. Love that video! I was so intrigued with your post I was thinking about trying to find a video so I could hear them, and lo! you posted one right here. Thank you for sharing. I love the descriptions and the poem as well. I have often wondered what magpies sounded like. Now I know. 🙂

    • Pauline

      Our magpies are very different to European/English ones. I love their caroling.

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