Tom Herbert

Birdie Battle: Magpie v Starlings

A few weeks ago Isabel was working from home and witnessed quite a gruesome spectacle in the back garden. The late coming of Spring seems to have delayed nature’s built-in timing system, and so fluffy sparrows, starlings and other fledglings are still flapping clumsily around on our patio attracting plenty of attention, sometimes from unwanted sources…magpie

Isabel was first alerted to the incident when she heard an almighty racket coming from behind the house. At first she thought it might be a cat fight, but it soon became obvious that one of the large, glossy magpies who regularly visit the garden had succeeded in bringing down a young starling, and was proceeding to gut and eat it in our flower bed.

Quite naturally this infuriated the remaining starling population, who lined up on the washing line and took it in turns to dive-bomb the feeding magpie, emitting piercing shrieks as they swooped to land well-aimed pecks on their foe. Eventually this forced the magpie to take its meal up to a nearby roof and finally abandon it altogether as the assaults grew more frenzied, and this was the end of the affair..

After fielding a rather traumatised phone call about the incident I did a bit of background reading about the Magpie’s cannibalistic streak. It seems that scavenging the carcases of other birds who have already passed on to avian heaven (on the sides of roads for example), is fairly common, along with the theft of eggs, but magpies actually going out of their way to kill other birds is not.

We haven’t seen our black and white visitor since the incident, and hopefully as the fledglings grow larger and more confident in the air this is the last attack we’ll see this year.

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