Thursday, September 6, 2012

Female Australian Magpie using fake injury on humans

I am not sure if that is the correct words for the title of this post but it will do. I have come across something very suspicious about the female Australian Magpie that visits my front lawn wanting food from me. A recent discovery tells me the bird is probably faking it and using the fake injury to make me feel sympathetic toward her so I would feed her or something to that nature.

It all started about 3 - 4 years ago when the male Australian Magpie had to find a new mate. His previous mate suddenly got a scare of her life by something unknown and invisible, and simply flew away never to be seen again. That happened on my front lawn which I witnessed. But as this occurred after their chicks had hatched, the male had to raise the juveniles alone and they had 2 chicks to feed.

Anyway, it was a week after the male got a new mate (the following Spring) when she suddenly developed a curled up right foot. Her foot was fine before then and she walked normally. Ever since then I had always seen her limping on her right foot as it curled up as she walked and ran along the ground. Here is a picture of her:

The female Australian Magpie is the bird to the left.
This photo was taken on the 20th August 2012. I don't really have any earlier photos of her with her right foot curled up - that is noticeable anyway. She would walk like this all the time in my presence. She has been doing this for about 3 years now.

In between the time of 20th August and when I took this next photo I saw her in a paddock near the creek. She was near the fence line of my neighbour's property, well within the range of identifying her visually as I walked passed her. Normally I talk to the Magpies as I walk into town to let them know it is just me. But when she just stood there looking at me her right foot was not curled up at all. Actually both her feet were stretched out into the normal position. She did not seem anxious or nervous about my presence at all and seemed relaxed to just stand there without moving. But the moment I opened my mouth and began talking to her suddenly her behaviour changed. She suddenly curled up her right foot, turned around and began limping as fast as she could run to get away from me. After about 10 feet she stopped running and just stood there with her right foot curled up just looking at me.

A lot of thoughts went through my head at this point - the main one was "She's faking her injury!" But why would this female Magpie do such a thing just to gain my sympathy? Did it have anything to do with the fact that I had already formed a bond with her male mate? Or did it have a much deeper meaning? After all the male's previous female mate formed a really close bond with me, and I could actually hand feed her, but when she suddenly disappeared and was never seen again, perhaps the male Magpie didn't want that to happen again so he told his new mate to not get close to me nor properly trust me. That does seem to be happening here and she does not get physically close to me. But she does respond to me calling out to her even though she is always weary around me.

Photo taken 12th August 2012 - CAUGHT IN THE ACT!
To this next photo.... I was quite surprised when my brother, Daniel, took this photo of the female Magpie on my front lawn attempting to eat a chicken drumstrick. She has her left foot curled up, yet her right foot is wrapped around the chicken bone. This photo is proof that she is faking her injury.

However, the female Magpie was curling up her left foot in the presence of my brother, Daniel, not me.  Why suddenly change which foot is injured in the presence of another human who is also familiar with this bird?

Something is going on in this female Magpie's head - but what is the question? 

I have, momentarily, read somewhere on the internet that the curling up of a foot is an actual disease within the Australian Magpie population. If this is an actual disease and this female Magpie has the disease then why are her offspring not affected by it? Why are their feet normal and healthy? Why does the female Magpie only display this behaviour in the immediate presence of humans and not when no humans aren't around? The adult male Magpie does not display this behaviour at all. In my opinion this curling of the feet behaviour is a psychological behaviour rather than an illness or disease. It also may be a submissive female adult behaviour. The female Magpie may consider me to be the alpha female considering I have sort of bonded with her mate? Who knows really.

Whatever is going on with this female Australian Magpie her behaviour is not normal for a Magpie. Her behaviour around me may be the clue - that she is always weary of me and does not fully trust me. Or maybe it is not me she does not trust but something else that she can see but I cannot and she fears it? Perhaps she fears she will be chased off by unseen forces like what happened to the male Magpie's last mate?

There is something else too. I have noticed that in some cases where Australian Magpies have sort of become domesticated (got used to being close to humans and have somewhat bonded with them) that they exhibit this curled up foot behaviour. I have no idea what that means as I am not able to read the minds of Magpies or tell if these birds are stressed out or not. All I know is that it means something!

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