I love magpies.
They’re sturdy-looking birds, and some of them can use tools. If you approach most other birds, or even just pass by them too closely on the sidewalk, they’ll flutter away, terrified of the massive human-beast who no doubt wishes to eat them.
A magpie, however, will tilt its head toward you, look you up and down, and take the time to decide if you’re worth its effort. Most of the time they think not. They’ll stand their ground, maybe hop a few inches away if you move closer, but otherwise they seem to almost ‘think’ beyond instinct in a way most animals aren’t capable of doing.
And I like that about them. They seem clever. Their actions seems more rational than those of their feathered colleagues.
That being said, I have seen some massive magpie fights since I’ve been here in Montana. They peck and squawk and posture at each other for hours, each of them trying to come out on top and achieve some mundane goal. But they really get into it. Each throw-down is undertaken with life-or-death ferocity.
This is what’s sad about the whole situation: magpies are smart, very smart for birds, and yet they still don’t seem to realize that the fights they find themselves embroiled in are not life or death. They don’t need to be on that particular branch, yet they will risk their lives to try and sit there. They don’t need that particular worm or other bit of food, but they’ll kill to achieve it.
I know some very smart people who get caught up in unimportant issues the exact same way. I’d venture to say we all do it sometimes, in fact: we get so fixated on something small and silly and blow it out of proportion. It seems like a life and death situation, when all we’re fighting over is one silly branch out of hundreds.
It’s worth thinking about, that even intelligent people can find themselves embroiled in something that, if they stopped and thought about it, pulled themselves out of the moment and saw things from the perspective of a passerby from another species, they’d realize wasn’t really an issue after all.
At least one not worth losing any feathers over.
Update: April 7, 2017
If I had a spirit animal, it would probably be a magpie, octopus, or elephant.