Magpies aren’t my favourite birds. They usually turn up in huge flocks and act like thugs. I’ve seen them drag blackbird chicks from the nest which, of course, is natural predatory behaviour for so many animals, but the magpies’ loutish manner stands them apart, at least in my eyes, to other less obvious predators. Woodpeckers also prey on young birds but they do so a little more subtly. So, like it or not, I have this natural aversion to the presence of these guys (I think they’re all guys because ladies wouldn’t behave like that) in my garden. Although I don’t get quite as animated as I used to do, I still bang on the window to send them scurrying off if I see them trying to hang on to the feeders.
Magnus is different. When he first turned up a week or two back, we noticed he was something of a loner. He would sit quietly in the twisted willow or on the ground under the feeders, never far away from food. He hasn’t the same awareness as the others who, at the slightest human movement, are off down the field or to the tops of the big sycamores. He flies off if we go to the door but it is not too long before he is back. He doesn’t hassle the smaller birds and, I hate to say it but, I like him…
Then we discovered that he enjoys sitting on the kitchen window sill or even on the ground next to the house wall, as if he feels a little more secure near the house. There is clearly something different about him and we have been trying to figure out what is his disability. He can hop and he can fly but he isn’t quite on top of the job as the others. Our diagnosis was, until yesterday, a less than scientific, ‘he’s not quite right’. But then, I disturbed him on the lawn and he flew off down the garden. Separating the top lawn from the bottom lawn is a wooden structure which supports climbers, roses, clematis and the like. Most birds would negotiate this easily, but not Magnus. He flew straight into one of the uprights and, in doing so, gave us a clue to what might be wrong. We think he might be partially sighted. This would explain a lot. He doesn’t see danger as readily and, probably, can’t keep up with the flock. Maybe he knows there is a daily visit from a sparrow hawk and feels better with his back to the wall.
So, I guess he’ll be with us for a while and we’re happy to keep him fed and watered as long as he wants to stay but, if he can’t sharpen up his act, he may just be looking the other way when he gets hit from behind. Then, his troubles will be over and we’ll miss him.