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The Magpie

The Magpie is a very pretty and cunning bird. It is easy to teach it to

speak, and it may be rendered very tame. Where high trees abound, the

magpie chooses the very highest and most difficult to climb for its

nest. But otherwise, when secure of not being injured, it will often

build in low bushes round about houses. This is particularly the case in

Norway and Sweden, where an idea prevails that it is unlucky to kill


An interesting account is given by a gentleman of a pair of magpies that

built for several successive years in a gooseberry bush near a house in

Scotland, where there were no trees for a considerable distance. In

order to secure themselves from cats, &c., they brought briars and

thorns in quantities all round the bush, and pulled rough prickly sticks

so closely and in such numbers in amongst the branches, that even a man

would have found the greatest difficulty in getting at their soft warm

little abode within. The barrier all round was more than a foot thick.

They were kindly protected by the family to whom the garden belonged,

but one day the hen magpie was ungrateful enough to seize a little

chicken, which she carried up to the top of the house to eat; the poor

little thing screamed loudly. But the hen, who can be brave enough when

her young are in danger, hearing the cry, flew to the rescue, and soon

obtained possession of her chick, which she brought safely down in her

beak; nor did it utter one cry then, though I daresay mamma pinched it

sadly. I think I can find you one more pleasing story of the magpie.

Some boys once took a raven's nest and put it in a waggon in a

cart-shed. A magpie, whose nest they had also plundered, hearing the

young birds cry, came to them with food, and continued to supply the

little ravens until they were given away by the boys.

In Sweden, as I said before, neither the magpie nor its eggs are ever

touched, whilst Mr. Hewitson, writing of Norway, says: "The magpie is

one of the most abundant, as well as the most interesting of the

Norwegian birds; noted for its sly, cunning habits here, its altered

demeanour there is the more remarkable. It is upon the most familiar

terms with the inhabitants, picking close about their doors, and

sometimes walking inside their houses. It abounds in the town of

Drontheim, making its nest upon the churches and warehouses. We saw as

many as a dozen of them at one time seated upon the gravestones in the

churchyard. Few farm-houses are without several of them breeding under

the eaves, their nest supported by the spout. In some trees close to

houses their nests were several feet in depth, the accumulation of years

of undisturbed and quiet possession."