One of the matriarchs of the tribe of magpies who thrive around my stations, has broken her leg maybe even a hip or rib – a bad break which causes her to huddle on the ground with her wing all askew. But she’s survived 5 days and, more importantly, nights now. She sits like a duck among the grasses and the customers throw her bits of food. She can fly and perhaps she has found a safe place to huddle in a roof or tree at night.
Concerned zoo volunteers encouraged me to ring the zoo vets. You have to be a true animal lover to be a zoo vet- willing to come out a chase a wounded magpie round a golf course in your own time. They’ve come out twice with nets and boxes but she’s too smart and quick for them – still fit and vigorous despite the leg.
“Perhaps you could try and throw a coat or something over her and then wrap her up” suggests the vet. “Then ring us and we’ll come right out and get her. But be careful. They have a savage bite.”
As if I need warning. I’m scared of that huge beak. (so are most of the customers – sometimes feeding the magpies looks more like a mugging) And I’m scared of the rest of the tribe too. Australian magpies are sophisticated social creatures with long memories who regularly blind school children in territorial disputes.
I’d be willing to be more courageous if I was more certain of the cause. But the zoo vets say they will probably have to euthanize her if they catch her. And she’s still alive and full of beans and pecking at her fledglings when they try and move in on her food.
Do I work towards this death for her- she may be in a lot of pain – or shall I let nature take its course? She may get better. Although probably not. She may survive with one leg. Lots of birds do. Or she may die a horrible slow painful death or be eaten by an urban fox. I do wish she could sign one of those voluntary euthanasia forms.
So that is my Magpie Dilemma.