Sitting high, high up in the tree, he spots something that nothing else in the animal kingdom has seen yet.
Early-morning runners and cyclists have pounded a hamburger bun into the slushy pathway so much so it’s almost unrecognizable. But he knows what it is.
“Mine!” he squawks.
The Magpie dips his shiny grey beak towards his meal and floats to the ground.
One quick bite before Magpie hops away to avoid a jogger. He waits as she plods past him and his prize. The bird eats whenever there’s a meal to be had. The days aren’t so cold now that spring is on the way, but the river valley this past winter was a barren wasteland. Food has been scarce: buried in snowdrifts, encased in ice or eaten by something else – not Magpie. Not so today. He puffs out his chest and bounces back to his bread, poised for another peck.
“I want a piece!” screeches Gull, flapping above. Magpie shakes his head before grabbing some sesame seeds and gobbling them. Gull lands close by – too close. She twists and turns her head at Magpie.
“Share?” she asks, her orange beak curving towards the bun mushed into the path.
If Magpie says yes, she’ll bring her friends. They’ll tear the bread into crumbs and there won’t be any left.
“No,” he says, jumping beside her, hoping to scare her off. On yellow webbed feet, Gull saunters a couple of steps down the path. Magpie wants her to fly away. But there’s now a bigger threat on the horizon. A crow cartwheels in the weak sunlight over their heads.
“Out of my way!” Crow caws, coming in for a landing, feet first. He settles on top of the bun and jabs at it with his glossy black beak. He chortles, happy with his reward.
Magpie looks at Gull, who looks at Magpie. Side by side, they stretch their wings, their plumage touching ever so slightly. Together, they march towards the large thief. Crow blinks at the advancing avians. Then blinks at the food.
“Can’t a guy eat in peace?” he asks, cocking his head at his feathered foes.
Crow flutters a couple of metres down the path but Magpie and Gull corner him. The trio stand in a circle, tilting and bending their heads at each other. All of a sudden, a hare, coloured half for winter, half for spring, leaps out of the bushes at the side of the trail. Gull shrieks and flees towards the half-frozen river.
Magpie doesn’t move. Neither does Crow. Hare jumps onto the empty road and bounds once, twice, and then disappears onto a golf course.
“It’s me and you,” says Crow. “Corvid to corvid.”
Magpie turns for a good look at the prize. Just in time to see three little brown birds darting around the remaining morsel of bun. Finches are tiny, but they have big mouths.
“You snooze, you lose!” chirps one. Magpie sighs. At least it’s still early.
Lea Storry owns a writing, editing and publishing business, Our Family Lines. She’s also a published and indie-published author. Lea and her husband live in Edmonton where they like to watch the birds, especially the magpies, fly, squawk and bounce around the neighbourhood.
This article appears in the March 2022 issue of Edify