Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Not Elvis Presley, nor even Elvis Stojko (the Canadian ice skater)

Today's blog is about Elvis, Elvis the Bird. You may not have heard of him, but he was pretty famous at 570 South Main Highway in Clifton.

When I was a kid, my dad hated magpies and was always figuring out ways to get rid of them. I thought they were kind of pretty but if he hated them, I figured there was probably a good reason. He said they were a filthy bird, but years later changed his mind when he realized how much they helped the environment.

Originally, magpies were simply called pie birds--for pied, or piebald...meaning black & white; the "mag" part was added to the "pie"...for reasons that make me queasy. I don't know why black & white cows are called holsteins, nor if the Pied Piper was pied, so you'll have to ask somebody else about that stuff.

From what I've studied, the black & white magpies are called Holarctic, meaning living north of the equator; that must make me Holarctic, too. There are Oriental magpies that are blue and green. India has a beautiful turquoise-y bird called a green magpie. I don't recall seeing a magpie nest, but the pictures I found show them looking like most bird's nests, just with a dome. Magpies have long tails, generally half the length of their bodies. Their average life span is 4-6 years. Their chatter is noisy enough to be labeled obnoxious, a fact I can verify. They also hop around a lot. There was a poem in a little book we had around the house that went like this:

There was a little bird
That went hop hop hop,
And I cried: "Little bird,
Won't you stop stop stop?"
I was going to the window
To say: "How do you do?"
When he shook his little tail,
And far away he flew.

(I am constantly mystified as to why I can remember stuff like this and yet forget where I hid my grandkid's Christmas presents. I spent a couple of hours on Christmas Eve tearing the house apart looking for two such presents and finally found them in little bags under the tree...right where my granddaughter had put them two weeks before...when I asked her to wrap the presents.)

Studies suggest that magpies may mate for life, even staying together year-round. Studies can be whatever people make them, but Elvis and his wife spent their summers at the Magpie Riviera...atop my parent's house. I don't know when they named him, but probably at least not until he returned the second year, proving he wasn't fickle. I am assuming they named him Elvis because he sang a lot; perhaps they called his lady Priscilla. I should ask Mother sometime.

We would all be excited to hear when Elvis arrived each spring. Then one year Elvis came alone; it was pretty melancholy.

A year or so later, Elvis quit coming. We mourned.

A lesson in perspective...

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