Magpies. Just a flock of stressed out folks
You know the moment. The sun’s briefly eclipsed by a dark object. Then a shadow flits across the ground in front of you. A sinister warble, a pang of fear.
For those of us who are attacked by magpies on an almost annual basis around this time of year, the birds can seem like demonic creatures. Exercising outdoors can be tough enough on its own without a sharp-beaked hell-creature lusting to peck you relentlessly in the head.
We’re coming around to that time of year again. Queensland newspapers already have magpie maps running on their websites, an essential public service. In reading up on the avian species, though, The Punch was astonished to read there are people out there who actually like magpies.
Well, maybe not astonished. But one of the country’s “best loved” animals? Really? That’s how Professor Gisela Kaplan puts it in her book, “Australian Magpie”.
Turns out magpies have it tough. They’ve got a lot of reasons for us to feel sorry for them.
Imagine this. You’re a dad, working long days scrummaging for food (and worms). Your wife’s gone bonkers. She wants to renovate the home and conceive a baby. Your neighbourhood’s filled with criminals and your wife says, “you better bloody man up and chase them off”.
If you don’t, your wife, who you love deeply and irrationally, is going to go off with another man AND YOU KNOW IT.
That’s essentially the situation magpies have to deal with when their mates are making a nest. Tough stuff, huh.
And despite their rough attitudes towards humans, Prof. Kaplan says magpies can be some of the world’s most loving creatures (plus they’re the avian equivalent of a race of Justin Biebers).
Many homeowners have long relationships with the birds based on feeding and affection, some even lasting 20 years, Prof. Kaplan says. “Most love them dearly, they’ll even introduce you to their youngsters.”
They can be tamed too. They won’t attack you if they’re familiar with your presence (for instance: if you walk through a park everyday or they inhabit your backyard), and as long as you haven’t been mean to them. Not really all that different to humans.
We might be the butt of overseas jokes about being a country infested by spiders, snakes and crocs, but you don’t really have too much to do with many violent animals in populated areas.
Rates of injury to magpies are very small. Tigers roam parts of the Asian wilderness. And in some parts of the United States and in Canada, gigantic moose and bears pose a real threat to human life.
I still reckon I’d rather have a moose as a pet, though.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: HOW TO PLACATE A MAGPIE:
1. Stop when you can tell a magpie is agitated.
2. Feed it a bit of mince.
3. Back away from their territory.
4. Rinse and repeat to make new avian friend.
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