Magpie Kids Sleepovers
Magpies let their children bring their friends for Sleepovers
Incredible, you say!
We thought so too. Until we saw it with our own eyes.
The first time we saw this was in 2002. Fatty and Molly were the adult magpie parents who lived behind our house. Billy and Lily were their young from their latest clutch, born in September 2001. Our dinette has glass sliding doors giving us a clear view of all the going-ons on the lawn. All four birds would come to our yard opposite our dinette for a sing-song and a feed. One morning, Billy and Lily were in front of us eating. Molly stacked some food in her beak like she used to when feeding them when they were babies. She flew behind our kitchen and returned a few minutes later. We could hear another young bird squawking in the lemon tree behind the kitchen. Our first thoughts were that the baby squawks must be coming from Billy and Lily, except it was a weaker voice than theirs and besides they were sitting on the lawn in front of us.
Molly restacked her beak and flew back while Fatty placed himself near the corner so he could keep an eye on his kids on one side and Molly as well as the back of our house. We ran to the back window to see if we could spot the bird who was squawking. Imagine our surprise when we saw Molly feeding another juvenile magpie in the lemon tree. The new bird was hiding at the back feeling too shy to come out and join the others. Molly and Fatty both took some food and fed it as if it was their own.
Our first thoughts were that this must be another babe of theirs. But that didn't make sense. Where had the young bird been all this while. Billy and Lily had been coming to our yard for months and this new bird was about the same size and colouring, so would be around the same age. If he was a third baby of Molly and Fatty from a second clutch that season, surely they would have been stacking food and making several trips to the nest and back. We would have heard his voices from the earliest days.
Later that afternoon, the four brought the new bird with them to the front bank and were quite proud to show it off to us and us to it as well. The next day too the bird came with them. Feeling more confident with us the bird played with Billy and Lily and ate with them in front of us.
Then we didn't see the bird again.
Months later we saw another young bird visit for two days. We have also seen Gemmie who was the only babe in Maggie and Vicky's first clutch go away for two or three days at a time and then return. She was not quite four months old when she started making her trips. Molly and Fatty had another young bird stay over for a few days when their kids Bunty and Kimbie were only a few months old. And we have also seen very young juveniles come over by themselves and chat with Maggie and Vicky's kids over the years.
Sparky is Maggie and Vicky's two year old (born 2005). She would make trips to other parts of the land quite frequently, disappearing for two or three days at a time. She liked travelling from an early age and during her first trips Maggie would accompany her to her hosts and return by himself. Two days later he would go and bring her back. How do we know this? Because they would both disappear while the rest of the family were still around where we could see them. Hours later, in the evening when we could call for Sparky and worry if she was okay, Vicky and Maggie would come by themselves and sit with us. Then Maggie would disappear for a period of time. A little while later Vicky would call us out and we would see Maggie fly over with Sparky in tow from way across the valley.
As Sparky grew older and more confident, she made the complete trip by herself. We knew she was not around for sure (as opposed to being hurt and injured), because when we called for her, the rest of the family would leave briefly then return without her and stay with us. It's their way of showing us that they have checked and the missing member is not around. When Sparky would return a few days later, she would call us out and hang around the back with her Mum Vicky or older sister Sophie until we went out and saw her.
Vicky and Maggie have always been very particular to tell us that their kids are alright. Magpies (and many other birds) call for their clan members if they can't find them, especially when it's time to settle for the night. So they understand the importance of knowing that the whole family is present and accounted for and make sure that we are not worrying about them at bedtime.
Wow! Who would have thought that magpies being such territorial birds could be would be so loving and hospitable.