Saturday, July 21, 2007

Magpies

I've grown up with magpies all my life, and they've always fascinated me - maybe because they are still worth watching in January, when it is 20 degrees below zero and all the summer birds have gone south. The iridescent black back and wings against the white chest is much flashier than a robin's red breast, and magpie activities are more intelligent. They are everywhere, in the garbage, on the dead gopher in the road, sociable creatures always talking and quarreling. I read once that if magpies only lived somewhere exotic, they would be prized instead of reviled. But whether you love them or swear at them, magpies seem to suit the extremes of weather and terrain we have in Montana.

Then again, maybe magpies fascinate me because I sense a kindred spirit - there is too much to life to focus on just one area, to specialize. Magpies explore everything, eat almost anything, and are well known for their attraction to shiny things (which they often incorporate into their nests). I'm a lot like that with ideas, picking up anything shiny and trying to find a way to incorporate it into the way I think; my favorite bits and pieces are those that change the way I think about something, the way I see the world. Sometimes my brain feels like a magpie's nest, a ball of twigs filled with shiny bits from everywhere. Now if I can just find a way to make it all make sense...

For a nice summary of magpie behavior, see Rich Adams' entry. For possibly more than you wanted to know about magpies, see Magpie in Myth and Nature.

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