Lying around


Last year, or maybe it was earlier this year, there were huge flocks of magpies and Indian mynahs in the gasworks, all mixed up together. Most of the magpies have dispersed but a bunch of them, perhaps a family group, have taken up residence around the junction of Emerald and Hamilton streets. There’s about half a dozen adults and a couple of juveniles. I came across these three the other day, singing their heads off right in the ¬†middle of the street.

If these three were the melody then the two up in the tree were the harmony. It was all very beautiful.

And, just to one side, was a juvenile magpie lying flat on his back on the pavement! I actually thought he was dead and so I didn’t get my camera onto him until I was almost upon him, at which point he jumped up, looked at me with that defensive-aggressive “What?!” expression universal to adolescents, human and bird, and flew off.

I was gobsmacked, but noodling around a few bird forums it turns out that this is not entirely uncommon. Someone suggested that it might be anting activity but this bird was definitely not anting, he was just lying there for the hell of it, doing what teenagers the world over do: lying down while the grown-ups get on with the work of singing and standing around in the middle of the road.

This poor magpie-lark wasn’t fooling around though.

Dr Jambo gave him a full-body examination.

His diagnosis? A fatal case of death.