Magnus was a helpless, boney chick with feather quills emerging from his pink skin when we took him in at about a week old. He was an eating and pooping machine living in a pretend nest made from the hood of Dave’s old hoodie inside a plant pot.
His feathers grew at an astonishing rate. I’ve raised many chicks over the years but each time I’m mesmerised by how fast they grow. The change, even between morning and evening was dramatic.
As a chick we fed him a varied picnic including boiled egg, ferret food, peas, mealworms, and earthworms. When he was in the nest his food was prepared into individual tupaweares lined up along the counter top next where his nest lived. Now he eats pretty much anything he can get his beak on.
After a couple of weeks Magnus left the nest and spent most of his time hopping around the front room or in a parrot cage where he slept. On a morning he would hop over the duvet, getting the hang of using his legs, as we sat drinking our cups of teas in bed. He had bursts of activity for about 10 minutes and then would settle down for a nap.
Once he could fly and land confidently, he moved into the large aviary measuring 8 x 6 meters which is filled with a few young trees, lots of branches for perches and natural ground flora. It gives him plenty of room to stretch his wings and explore. The aviary has a birdhouse attached to it so he has a warm and dry place to go if he chooses.
When we are outside he flies around free, but always under our watchful eyes. Farmers in the area catch and kill magpies so I’m extra carful he doesn’t wander too far. Boris, the rook I had a couple of years ago, suddenly disappeared one day. I like to think he met some other rooks and started a new life but it’s always in the back of my mind that he could have been shot. I try not to think about that possibility too much.
The way Magnus explores and engages with everything shows how bright he is. He explores everything with his beak by carefully touching an object to test how it responds then starts pecking the object roughly to see what happens then. He can use his beak so delicately and accurately to open something up or move things around.
From a distance, the colours of the magpie can appear to be just back and white. Yet up close, the black feathers are iridescent, like oil floating on water. Just look at the beautiful colours of Magnus’ feathers in the photo below of him sunbathing. When birds sunbathe they go into a trance-like state. It’s rather hilarious.
Many people believe crows and their cousins are evil yet they get their bad name due to being inquisitive, clever and so deeply misunderstood. Old folk laws still live on, hundreds of years after the stories were first told. Some are true though- magpies do love shiny thing! All corvids do. We had a jackdaw that would collect shiny objects (and anything else he could get his beak on) and hide them in a bucket that was used as a shower in the caravan we lived in. Before each shower the bucket had to be emptied before it was filled with water. I’ve raised several corvids over the years, some of which you can read about in this post.
The name of this blog, The Thrifty Magpies Nest, was derived from my love for magpies and their reputation for collecting treasures, and now the blog has its very own mascot.
To conclude, I have written a little rhyme: