Sunday, March 09, 2014

Lessons for Mothers ... from Magpies

I feed lots of birds that arrive in our back yard each day, and, of course, that includes magpies.  Bullies, they are, these magpies, mainly because they are bigger than the normal clientele.  They simply stalk up to someone else and take their food.  The butcher birds are simply too polite, or merely too canny, to fight, though the lorikeets will object and sometimes win, so gamely.



This is one of the recent crop of baby magpies.

"Bubbacluck" because he clucks as he eats rather than make the baby noises he would use with his mother to be fed.

I wonder, sometimes, if the lump on his heel is a cancer, but it doesn't seem to concern him.

The parents feed normally most of the time, swallowing down each morsel as it comes, but then suddenly they will start collecting the morsels, waiting for each one, until they have a huge beak load.  Then they will fly off.  And it's then that I know they are feeding babies.

Eventually, when the babies can fly and fend for themselves to a degree, the parents bring them to our back yard.  I had gathered from previous years that there is a fairly high level of communication between parent and offspring.  This year I am starting to understand some of it.

I like all the birds, but I tend to get cross with the bullying.  Most, even the kookaburras, will wait their turn, but the magpies seem most prone to stealing, especially when they have young ones.  What made me really cross this year was when they would bring a baby - or more likely the baby would come begging and then along would arrive the parent, only to severely box the baby's ears.  Well, magpies don't have ears, as such, but that's what came to mind - give the baby a severe pecking until the baby cowered on the ground whimpering. What a horrible mother!  Poor baby - do you want him to eat for himself or not?  I learnt to feed the mother until she was full and either then shared with the baby, or left and then I could throw food to the little one.  Strange!!

That is not what happened in our human household when there were babies around.  You feed the hungry baby, even if that means postponing your own meal, or organising things around the hunger.  We do not neglect our children in favour of our own needs, much as we would be tempted to do so!!

And yet, here is this mother magpie making sure she is fed before the baby gets a look in, and soundly punishes him if he even tries!

And then it came to me - that amazing instruction when we are embarking on a flight.  When the oxygen masks come down, make sure you fit one on yourself and only then, attend to your child.  You cannot look after your child if you have no oxygen yourself.

I think that has amazed and astounded more people than just me ... and also made perfect sense.

And that's what that magpie mother was doing - making sure she was fed well enough that she could feed her baby.  

Lesson to learn - Mothers need to take care of themselves if they want healthy babies!  Duh!  From a magpie!

P.S.  Is that really what was going on?  Please comment below if I have this whole story wrong!!  I do know that the mothers and fathers encourage the babies to sit down very still until they arrive with food - obviously for their safety, but I think this is another issue.

Either way I it's a valuable lesson!!






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