Virginia Barton

11 August 2017: One for Sorrow, Two for Joy


11 August 2017


The pica pica bird has moved in. I speak of the magpie, a handsome toff of a bird with glossy plumage. But mean.

I grow quite savage when I see one and rush into the garden flapping a tea towel and making great whooshing noises as ugly as the bird’s raucous chattering.

For this flashy creature has no proper song. He is of the family corvidae, a numerous group, threatening in size and appearance. However, his coz, the crow, is a rare visitor with his caw caw and knows to keep his distance; as do rooks, ravens and jays. I haven’t knowingly seen a jackdaw for years.

The magpie is pushy; a gate-crasher and unwelcome guest who doesn’t know when to leave. (Pigeons are positive poppets by comparison.) Blackbird and robin used to wake me in the morning, now it’s a wretched magpie.

As they are protected, one can’t shoot or poison them. (Would you really do either of those things, Gin?) The only way to get rid of them is with Larsen traps; large and cumbersome cages, baited preferably with a female magpie — caught previously in a Larsen trap… (Eh?)


Are they decimating our songbird population? Not according to the RSPB website. Well, I’m not so sure about that.

I personally have witnessed one dive-bombing a hedge where I know sparrows nested and now no longer do; and they were guilty of the wanton destruction of a row of house martin’s nests in the eaves of our roof. I saw them do it.

Handsome is as handsome does, and magpies do not.


Here’s a silly rhyme you can chant in the garden instead of flapping a tea-towel. It’s called “NIMBY”:

Cocky robin, little wren, cheery blackbird, crow!
Come and hop among my flowers
Where nasturtium grow.
Blue tit, pecker, sparrow-chick
Bathe and splash and dip,
Only see the magpie off
lest I hurl a brick.

It will take more than that feeble verse to persuade Mr Magpie to move on, I fear.





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