Magpie and His Human
My flock, tibicen tyrannica, has been here for centuries. Since the dawn of time, some say. Perching in the gum trees. Drinking from the water holes. Living with the Wathawurrung people and now the newcomers. But no one bothers us too much. You may not know it, but we’re smart. Not far behind the great apes and humans. The natives might have our measure, but the newcomers seem scared of us. I must admit, we do like to have a bit of fun with them each spring.
We are a defensive species. We’re territorial and will hold our own when we need to. And, get a little testy when it’s nesting season. But think about it. Having offspring when there are so many predators around isn’t easy. Smart-Alec kids that think it’s fun to steal or break our eggs. Snakes looking for a snack as they wake from their wintery hibernation. And it’s tiring work for us blokes. While Luvvie sits on the eggs for weeks, we have to go out and find food for everyone. Then, when the chicks are small, both Luvvie and I go out to find food for the little squawkers. We have to be a bit agro to try to keep them safe.
Come on, Reader. Sorry for laughing, it’s just a little game! Have a sense of humor.
I hear ya. Do you need to peck at our heads? Well, no. We could just swoop at ya and warn ya to keep away. But where’s the fun in that? Raisin’ young is hard work. There’s no time for us grownups. So, we make our fun where we can. And if that means you get a little clobbered in the process, it’s okay. I don’t think anyone has ever died because we’ve swooped at yers. Maybe lost an eye when we got carried away, made your head bleed or caused ya to fall off ya bike, but no one directly died.
Anyway, I’ve gone off track. I was gonna tell ya about my human.
You may not know it, but we’re smart. I was tellin’ ya how smart we are and was gonna tell ya about my human.
We’re clever, but not just in terms of birds; hell, anything is more intelligent than a chicken! But, when you look at the brain-to-body mass ratio, as I said before, we’re right up there with the great apes, and only humans are smarter than us – or so they like to think. Maybe we want to let ‘em think that.
I’ve got myself a human. Got him well-trained, too. It started a few years back. I watched ’em from my lofty branches across the road and in the neighborhood. You can learn a lot hiding behind those green leaves. Rarely saw him eat in the yard like other animals, though. This got me thinkin’. Where’s he gettin’ food from? He had to have it inside his shelter!
Curious, I started making my move closer to him. I didn’t swoop cos I knew that’d scare him off. I gently warbled to him to get his attention. People seem to like our warble. Think it’s musical or something. Compared to their chatter, I guess we are pretty tuneful. Anyway, this bloke started paying attention. He tried warbling back, which was hilarious! Sounded more like a wounded chook, but that didn’t matter. He wanted to be friends.
Once I had his trust, I stood at his front door and looked through the wire. To be honest, I couldn’t see much, but I could hear him in there, moving about. I warbled a little, waited for him to see me and came over for a chat. It didn’t take long before he offered me something to eat. Cheese, twiggy sticks, cabana, bread, whatever he could find.
I was on a good thing here! Anytime I couldn’t be bothered going to find food, I’d go warble at his door. Now, he opens the door and lets me inside to wait while he goes and gets me some grub.
Luvvie was told about this, and she wasn’t pleased. Thought it was a bit dangerous. But I convinced her to come and see for herself. So, she started taggin’ along. She waited in the gum, and when I came out with something, she came and joined me. Sometimes, my human was a bit stingy with the offerings, so I returned a few times to get more to share with Luvvie. Now, my well-trained human feeds all of us. Me, Luvvie, the kids. It’s great!
We don’t go every day cos we don’t want the kids to grow up thinking life is a free ride. And these humans seem to move around a bit. The kids need to know where else to eat. If our human disappears, you know…
Anyway, I noticed our youngest trying to train a human a few doors up the other day. He did okay. Got the human making wounded chook noises already. Won’t be long, and he’ll be getting invites in for dinner, too.
Ah, what a life. Think us magpies have the best of both worlds.