Alexander aka Zander
It was the beginning of June, actually June 6th when he came into our life. I was in the office going over my email when Ed entered the house and announced, “There's a young Magpie just behind the house, must have just fallen out of the nest and the cats haven't found it yet.”
I of course, had to have a look. With all our barn cats around, (eleven) he wouldn't last long at all. I threw some pants on ,(mosquito season you know) and stepped outside. I could see a small dark spot on the grass. Ed said, “Better watch out, it'll probably bite you.”
I lifted my eyebrow and replied, “No it won't, and if it did, it won't hurt!”
I couldn't help but roll my eyes as I walked up to the wee bird. I picked him up and decided he probably needed some food. He sat quietly as I took him to the house and put him into a small box I'd found in the garage. He didn't make any noise or try to escape. I thought to myself, (What a nice little fellow or he is just scared to death!)
Leaving him in the office I went to the garage and found a trowel before heading for the garden. After digging up around five worms and shaking the dirt off as best I could, I took them to the house thinking, 'It's probably a good idea to look up what Magpies like to eat.'
I really didn't have a clue, all I did know was I have always admired their pretty black and white plumage as they flew around the yard. But also had to admit they definitely made a lot of racket with their constant babel. I'm pretty sure that is one of the main reasons that they are not popular with people.
Once in the house I took the worms to the box and looked inside to see what the little guy was doing. As soon as he saw me, he flapped his tiny wings, opened his mouth and squawked! I grabbed a worm and dropped it in, he swallowed pooped and yelled for more. After eating all five of the worms he pooped again and fell asleep. I now took the time to have a good look at him. He had many pinfeathers on his wings and around his head. His tail was about one inch long, and his beak was one quarter pinkish baby beak the rest was black. He had white on his shoulders and breast contrasting the rest of his black feathers.
I needed to get to the computer and look up the food and habits of Magpies. I soon found out that from the feathers and beak, this little guy was around two weeks old. The parents fed them “Animal matter”, which was; insects, dead animals etc. After getting the most immediate information I planned to go back later and read all about Magpies.
I knew it was Wikipedia time;
They belong to the family Corvidae . Which contains; the crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies and choughs just to name a few. They are considered the most intelligent of the birds, and among the most intelligent of all animals, having demonstrated self-awareness in mirror tests (European magpies) and tool-making-ability (crows, rooks). Skills until recently regarded as solely the province of humans and a few other higher mammals. Their total brain to body mass ratio is equal to that of great apes and cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), and only slightly lower then in humans.
Luckily I had pulled out some minced turkey that needed to be used up that morning and thought, 'Minced turkey is animal matter and sure is easier to feed the bird rather then running around digging up worms all day.'
When I looked at him, he was ready for another feeding. I was able to shove bits of turkey down that pie hole of his without much trouble. Which is what I did whenever he squawked at me and that let me tell you was often!
When the sun went down close to 10pm I covered his box with a pair of my shorts and thought, 'Hopefully he will be alright.'
By the way, Ed worried that he wouldn't be able to breathe so he pulled the shorts from one corner. He who said, 'No birds in the house!'
In the morning we went through the same routine, me feeding him when he yelled. Only now I was shoving pieces of paper under his bum just before I fed him. It was amazing, in one end and immediately out the other end. So for the first four or five days it was sleep, squawk, feed, poop, repeat.
After two days I decided he or she needed a name. From what I saw of images online, you really couldn't tell the males from the females. I just thought he seemed like a male so decided on Alexander, Zander for short. But also called him honey, sweetie, baby, brat, etc. It wasn't hard to get his attention since he would come running as soon as he heard one of our voices!
By the end of the week I decided to take him outside to see if he would look for his parents. He was willing to be put on a lower branch of one of trees near the house. He quickly hopped/flew up out of my reach. One of his parents came over to within a few feet of me yelling and pecking at a branch. I guess that was to scare me away.
Zander was quiet at this time, and I watched for awhile before going into the house. I looked out the window every few minutes to see what was happening, he stayed in the upper branches. Finally about one hour later I saw that Zander had come down to a lower branch. I went outside and he flew to my shoulder. I guess he had had enough of the great outdoors. Even though I watched with binoculars I never saw the adult feed Zander, or Zander make “Feed Me” noises.
I decided to take him out again later that afternoon, putting him in a tree west of the house this time. A robin dive bombed at Zander once but that was all. He didn't seem to care. Glancing around I saw that there were no cats were around so I decided to check out the goats water tub. It needed cleaning and rinsing out.
Afterwards I went to see the batch of baby kitties we had stashed in a building we had set up for the dogs. Suddenly, I heard a racket. I ran out to find my little Zander on the ground with that robin and three starlings surrounding him while another starling dive bombed him. He was squawking and flapping at them. He is no wimp, I'll say that for him, plus it helps to be slightly bigger in size.
I came to realize that the great outdoors was pretty intimidating to the wee guy. He was happiest in the house or sitting in a tree, covered by leaves. I suppose that is how young birds survive in the wild. There are certainly plenty of predators out there. I figured Zander had enough of the great outdoors for that day.
On Friday night as Ed went through the local paper he came across a farm auction about twelve miles away that was offering two antique bird cages. We decided to go and see if one of them would do for Zander. It turned out they were in really in bad shape and way too small for a growing Magpie.
On the way home we decided to take Zander and go visit my Mom. We hadn't see her in a few months and our time was free for the next few days. I found a small cat carrier put some sticks in for a perch and paper on the bottom and threw Zander inside. We quickly packed some clothes and other essentials of course forgetting a few items. But did take enough food for Zander and Amy, our dog, and hit the road!
An hour later we drove into Brandon and had a late lunch before continued on our way to Winnipeg. From our farm to the city it's about four and a half hours drive. We arrived about four pm surprising Mom.
We had a good visit and Mom fell in love with Zander, he had begun to make different kinds of squawks and other noises by that time and she couldn't get enough of him. He talked to her and she talked right back at him, it was hilarious to watch the two of them.
In the short time we had Zander we came to realize he loved to have someone talk to him. He soon ran out of the minced turkey I had brought so I scrambled a couple of eggs for him which he seemed to enjoy just as much as the turkey. We took him outside sitting him on the patio table or let him wonder around in the grass. I even put him on Amy once. She was not impressed at all. She got up causing him to fall off as she walked away.
He was becoming more and more active with each day, exercising his wings and running around on the floor. Sometimes he would walk or hop other times he would sprint across the room. We went back home on Monday again stopping in Brandon for a bite to eat. It was good to see Mom and have a weekend away from the routines at home.
Now I have to tell about my first embarrassing moment and I am positive it won't be my last. We had decided to go to Quiznos for a quick sandwich before the last leg of our journey home. Before going into the restaurant I decided to feed Zander first.
I opened the door to the car and put him on my hand carefully positioning him so he would do his business on the pavement. The thing is I didn't notice that my arm wasn't far enough away from my body. So when I finished feeding him I put him back in his cat carrier and went inside. I wanted to order then go wash up. I saw that there was a small lineup where you gave your order so I decided to wash up first.
While waiting to get into the girls room I looked down, to my horror I had a huge poop down the front of my top. Of course there was a guy waiting to get into the men's room just a few feet away from where I was standing. What could I say but, “My Magpie did this to me!” He laughed hilariously and I just knew from my burning ears that when he went back to the lineup he would be telling all his friends about me.
What a disgusting mess! I shook my head while waiting to get into the restroom hoping no one else would come along. Finally I got in and quickly cleaned up as best I could. When I got back to the order line I asked Ed, “Why didn't you tell me I had poop all over the front of my top?”
All he could say was, “I didn't look at you!” I rolled my eyes at him.
After having our sandwiches we had to make one more stop before heading on home. We needed to get some groceries. Since Zander seemed to be doing well on the minced meat, I decided to stock up and get a few items we were low on as well. It had turned out to be a hot day so Ed stayed with both the dog and bird with the door to the car open. I quickly got the shopping done and we were soon on our way once again. An hour and a half later we arrived home. As the saying goes it was good to get away and good to get home again.
Zander had done some major growing of his feathers in the first week we had him. His wings were elongating rapidly, his tail wasn't quite as fast. I had read that they start to fly between three and four weeks. Well Zander was doing short flights to the floor or horizontally by this time.
Stay tuned for the next episode of the continuing story of Zander the Magpie! I know you will be back. lol