Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist


We were at Ruth's on Sunday and John, who was sitting facing the bird table, saw a magpie swoop down on a starling, break its neck with one twitch of the beak and carry it off. Smart birds magpies, beautiful too.
Strange then how much we hate them.  There was an item on the news- or maybe it was one of those country life programmes- about some rural types who are going round trapping and killing magpies (with the blessings of whatever authority applies) because they believe they're responsible for the decrease in the number of songbirds (not that that's anything more than a guess). I'm very fond of songbirds too, but I think it's petulant of us to play favourites like this. Besides, if we were really serious about protecting songbirds we'd bell all the cats. Is the Natural World our garden that we can choose which species thrive in it and which don't? Well, yes, in a small, over-managed country like Britain I suppose it is- but don't expect me to approve.
We anthropomorphise our beasts. Worse than that, we characterise them in terms of the class system.  Some we think of as noble, some as rabble. Hawks kill songbirds too, but they get a pass because of their long association with the aristocracy. The glamour of the big house rubs off on them.  Magpies, though handsomer than any hawk and much more intelligent, never sat on any ducal wrist- and because they scavenge and pick up shiny things we have them down as vagabonds and thieves. Common, common, common.  Call in the gamekeepers; we'll teach 'em to know their place.   
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