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posted by DESPITE STRAIGHT LINES (Getty Images) alias DESPITE STRAIGHT LINES on Tuesday 15th of June 2021 09:43:59 AM

. . If the Magpie were an exotic, rare bird, people would rave about them, travel distances to view them, crave them in their private collections, but because it is a common, thriving bird with a green status of least concern on the UK conservation lists, it is perceived as a thief, can be very noisy and flays songbird chicks on your lawn it's a different story! Well, I adore these beautiful, cheeky, playful, intelligent and on occasions shockingly ruthless and violent birds, and love them for the colour and attitude they bring to my garden and local woodlands.... So there! YOU GOT A BAD REPUTATION! Let's be honest, in Public relations terms, the Eurasian Magpie has something of a problem with it's image as a thief, a murderer of innocent baby birds and a voracious predator. In history too it's not all been an easy ride. "One for Sorrow" is a traditional children's nursery rhyme about magpies dating back originally to the Sixteenth century. According to an old superstition, the number of magpies seen tells if one will have bad or good luck. The rhyme was first recorded around 1780 in a note in John Brand's (Church of England clergyman and antiquarian), 'Observations on Popular Antiquities' on Lincolnshire with the lyric: One for sorrow, Two for mirth, Three for a funeral And four for birth In 1846, Michael Aislabie Denham a collector of folklore and merchant released 'Proverbs and Popular Saying of the Seasons' in London with an extended version: One for sorrow, Two for mirth Three for a funeral, Four for birth Five for heaven Six for hell Seven for the devil, his own self And we all in the UK remember the children's TV show Magpie, which ran from 1968 to 1980 and featured an entirely new version of the rhyme in an opening song recorded by 'Spencer davis group' under the alias of 'The murgatroyd band', featuring the lines: One for sorrow Two for joy Three for a girl Four for a boy Five for silver Six for gold Seven for a secret never to be told Eight's a wish and Nine a kiss Ten is a bird you must not miss. In 1815, two French playwrights, Theodore Baudouin d'Aubigny and Louis-Charles Caigniez wrote a historical melodram called La Pie Voleuse, in which a servant is sentenced to death for stealing silverware from her master, when the real thief is his pet magpie. The play opened on 29th April 1815 Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin 18, Boulevard Saint-Martin in the 10th arrondissement of Paris. Moved by the Parisian urban myth, Gioachino Rossini set his opera La gazza ladra 'The thieving Magpie' to the same story. Thus, the poor Magpie's reputation would be forever set! Two hundred years later in tests, it was found that Magpies were not generally drawn to shiny objects and only two out of over sixty birds took items left in shiny piles by their food. This backs up many previous and subsequent tests that prove conclusively that Magpies are not uniformally thieves, and that there is no evidence of shiny objects ever being found in a magpie nest. Kleptomania and inquisitiveness are of course two entirely different things. As for killing baby birds and destroying local population of starlings, blackbirds and pigeons... again there is no scientific evidence that this has ever been the case, and it's proven that domestic cats are a bigger threat to songbirds. Nature has a balance and each species plays it's part. A CLOSER LOOK The Eurasian Magpie or Common Magpie (Pica pica) is a resident breeding bird found throughout the Northern part of the Eurasian continent and is often referred to simply as Magpie in Europe, the only other Magpie being the Iberian magpie (Cyanopica cooki) which can only be found in the Iberian Peninsula. An omnivore which eats berries, grains, caterpillars and small mammals, young birds and eggs, insects, scraps, carrion,grain,acorns and vegetables, it is highly adaptable and will incorporate a vast array of foods into it's diet. It can vary in length from 17.3-18.1 inches with a wingspan of 20.5-23.6 inches and it's tail makes up more than half it's length. Viewed as manly black and white, it actually has a head, neck and breast of gloss black, with a metallic green and violet sheen and gloss black with green or purple wings. Males tend to be larger than females, by sometimes more than twenty per cent, males weighing 210-272g compared to 182-214g of the females. Magpies were originally referred to mas 'Pies', a Proto-Indo-European root meaning 'pointed' in reference to their beaks or tails and 'Mag' actually dates back to the Sixteenth century being the shortened abbreviation for the name 'Margaret' which was once used as a term for women in general. The Pies call was said to resemble 'the idle chattering of women', and so the name became 'Mag pie'. The term 'Pie' used as a reference dates back even further to the thirteenth century, whilst 'pied' was first recorded in 1552 as a reference to birds resembling a Magpie with black and white plumage. The Magpie was first described and illustrated by Zurich born Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner in his book 'Historia animalium (History of the Animals)', published at Zurich in 1551–1558 and 1587. Carl Linnaeeus, a Swedish born botonist, zoologist, taxonomist and physician and known as the father of modern taxonomy, included the species in the 10th edition of 'Systema Naturae under the name 'Corvus pica'. The separate genus 'Pica' was first noted by French Zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson in 1760, Pica being the classical Latin word for this Magpie. In 2000, the North American Black-billed magpie (Pica hudsonia) became it's own species after the American Ornithologists Union decided that studies of vocalization and behaviour placed the Black-billed closer to the Yellow-billed magpie (Pica nuttalli) than to the Eurasian magpie. The Yellow-billed magpie has a yellow beak and streak around the eye. There are seven sub species of Magpies found throughout the world: European, Eurasian or common Magpie (Pica pica) found in the British isles, Russia, Southern Scandinavia and Mediterranean. Iberian Magpie ( Pica melanotos) found in the Iberian Peninsula, Siberia and first noted in 1857. Northern Magpie (Pica fennorum) found in Northern Scandinavia and North western Russia and first noted in 1927. Russian Magpie (Pica bactriana)found in Siberia, Caucasus, Iraq, Iran, Central Asia and Pakistan and first noted in 1850. Kamchatkan magpie (Pica camtschatica) found in the northern Sea of Okhotsk and the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East and first noted in 1884. Others include Pica leucoptera and the separate species of Pica mauritanica, Pica asirensis, Pica serica and Pica bottanensis. INTELLIGENCE The Eurasian Magpie is believed to be not only among the most intelligent of bird species but also the most intelligent of all animals, it's Nidopallium (the region of the avian brain used mostly for executive functions and other higher cognitive tasks), is relatively the same approximate size as those in Humans and chimpanzees, with a brain to body mass ratio equal to Great apes and Cetaceans (Aquatic mammals of the order Cetacea). They have been observed by one Japanese university campus, waiting at traffic lights and placing tough nuts in front of the wheels of stationary traffic. As the lights change and vehicles move away, the shells are crushed. They are accomplished food cache thieves as I have observed in my own garden where Magpies made several false raids on the food stores held by a dominant pair of Carrion Crows (Corvus corone) in my birdbath, before making a real attack. Magpies also work in pairs and use decoy tactics for this purpose, the female in my garden drawing the attention of the crows and flying off with them in hot pursuit, only for the male to nip in and grab the food to rendezvous back at their nest! They even have the ability to learn from their own burglary efforts and guard their own food cache against others. Like crows, Magpies will attend a funeral for their dead. Often a single bird will call for others on finding a dead magpie. Anything up to forty responders have been recorded, gathering around the dead bird for up to fifteen minutes before leaving. On occasions they have been observed laying wreaths of grass like flowers. They have been recorded 'showing happiness or joy' when playing, and are highly social. They are also fond of stealing shiny objects or items which interest them. Magpies are capable of passing the self recognition 'Mirror self recognition MSR' test' or 'Mark test', developed in 1970 by American psychologist Gordon Gallup Jn. Yellow spots were placed on some magpie throats and three out of five birds spotted these marks in the mirror and tried to remove them. That confirms that they understand and recognise a reflection of themselves in the mirror, a test successfully passed by only a handful of other animals including the great apes (including us humans), just one single Asiatic elephant, dolphins, Orcas and the Cleaner Wrasse (a marine fish). Magpies have demonstrated abilities in the game 'hide and seek' comparable to those of human children aged around 5 years, and in some tests they have managed to fashion simple tools from metal or wood to use as retrieval tools for food in human made puzzles, outsmarting seven year old children performing those same tests. Results published in the journal 'Nature', by researchers from the University of Western Australia and the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, on work that began in 2013 studying the behaviour of 56 wild magpies, individually tagged, living in 14 territorial groups of between three and 12 birds in the Perth suburb of Guildford. Those studies found magpies living in larger groups appeared to be smarter than those in smaller groups, and also that clever female birds seemed to make better mothers, with a higher success rate when it came to both hatching their eggs and raising their young. The findings seemed to back up the 'social intelligence hypothesis' that posits intelligence in animals evolved in response to the demands of living in complex social systems according to Study co-author Dr Benjamin Ashton. So there we have it, a brief look at the Eurasian, common or just simply Magpie, pie, or 'those bleedin' black and white things!' as my mum and dad always refer to them. Public opinion will no doubt never be swayed, but to my eyes they are magnificent birds with anabilty to please and shock, to entertain, to brighten my day and to bring nature to my daily life. My time with magpies is never dull, never predictable, never boring. I love the little beauties! Paul Williams June 8th 2021 ©DESPITE STRAIGHT LINES (Paul Williams) . . ©All photographs on this site are copyright: ©DESPITE STRAIGHT LINES (Paul Williams) 2011 – 2021 & GETTY IMAGES ® No license is given nor granted in respect of the use of any copyrighted material on this site other than with the express written agreement of ©DESPITE STRAIGHT LINES (Paul Williams). No image may be used as source material for paintings, drawings, sculptures, or any other art form without permission and/or compensation to ©DESPITE STRAIGHT LINES (Paul Williams) . . I would like to say a huge and heartfelt 'THANK YOU' to GETTY IMAGES, and the 39.000+ Million visitors to my FLICKR site. ***** Selected for sale in the GETTY IMAGES COLLECTION on June 11th 2021 CREATIVE RF gty.im/1322331837 MOMENT ROYALTY FREE COLLECTION** This photograph became my 5,046th frame to be selected for sale in the Getty Images collection and I am very grateful to them for this wonderful opportunity. ©DESPITE STRAIGHT LINES (Paul Williams) . . Photograph taken at an altitude of Fifty one metres at 13:01pm on a mixed afternoon of sunshine and passing rain showers on Wednesday 26th May 2021, off Chessington Avenue in Bexleyheath, Kent. Here we see an adult Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica), standing on a stone birdbath during one of those fleeting showers. Found throughout the Northern part of the Eurasian continent, it is also known as the Common Magpie, and is part of the Holarctic radiation of monochrome magpies. They can measure up to 18 inches in length with a 25 inch wingspan, and have a life expectancy of up to 3.7 years. They are also amongst the most intelligent birds and all non human animals. . . Nikon D850 Focal length 600mm Shutter speed: 1/500s Aperture f/6.3 iso125 Tripod mounted with Tamron VC Vibration control set to ON and position 3. Image area FX (36 x 24) NEF RAW L (14 bit uncompressed) Size L (8256 x 5504) Focus mode: AF-C AF-Area mode: 3D-tracking Priority Selection: Release. Nikon Back button focusing enabled. 3D Tracking watch area: Normal 55 Tracking points Exposure mode: Manual mode Metering mode: Matrix metering White balance on: Auto1 (4790k) Colour space: Adobe RGB Picture control: Neutral (Sharpening +2) Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2. Nikon GP-1 GPS module. Lee SW150 MKII filter holder. Lee SW150 95mm screw in adapter ring. Lee SW150 circular polariser glass filter.Lee SW150 Filters field pouch. 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