Written by Lucy Brzoska
There was a strange crackling sound coming from above. The lime trees were filled with parakeets crunching on crusty pieces of bread, which they held securely in their claws. They were releasing a fine shower of crumbs, which the pigeons below waddled after.
Magpies observed the scene, frustrated by their own innate caution, which won’t allow them to approach people scattering food for birds. Instead, they resorted to chasing the smug-looking parakeets to make them drop their booty.
But magpies have their own tricks. They dare to disappear right inside the litter bins in their search for discarded sandwiches, throwing silver foil about. They also keep a close eye on occupants of park benches. The second someone gets up, they parachute down, tails held high, and quickly scour the area.
A long, shimmering tail is a sign of a healthy bird and a desirable mate. Magpies with the most resplendent tails breed earlier and are more successful at rearing young, studies have found. Unusually, this magpie was using its tail as a handy prop while exploring holes in the wall. In this case, a few worn and dishevelled feathers would only betray its owner’s resourcefulness.