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Clive Tester
2010-Mar-23, 12:52 PM
My theory on the magpie superstition: I have noticed that I see magpies in pairs in the springtime, as they are gathering nesting material. That is a team task.

I tend to see magpies singularly in the autumn and winter months. I guess that they are foraging for food, and not involved in the team effort of building nests.

I reason that hundreds of years ago, the mortality rate was somewhat lower in spring and summer, compared to autumn and winter. Hence the association with one for sorrow and two for joy.

Swift
2010-Mar-23, 01:19 PM
An interesting idea.

I don't know a lot about magpies (we don't have them around here), but I believe they are related to crows and other blackbirds. I know many of the crow and blackbird species are very social. Crows often forage in small family groups.

WaxRubiks
2010-Mar-23, 01:50 PM
three for a girl and four for a boy must be about hormones in the local water then. :D

rommel543
2010-Mar-23, 02:17 PM
One for sorrow. Two for Joy.
Three for a girl. Four for a boy.
Five for silver. Six for gold.
Seven for a secret never told.
Eight is a kiss. Nine is a wish.
Ten is a chance never to be missed.


By the way the reason you see more together in the spring is partially correct. Magpies will work together to build nests and feed their young. The reason you see more of them alone in the fall is it's the younger birds who haven't mated yet. Magpies can have up to 6 young in a single clutch and they leave the nest very quickly compared to other birds.

Nick Theodorakis
2010-Mar-23, 02:54 PM
An interesting idea.

I don't know a lot about magpies (we don't have them around here), but I believe they are related to crows and other blackbirds. I know many of the crow and blackbird species are very social. Crows often forage in small family groups.

Magpies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magpie) are indeed corvids (crow family). "Blackbird (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackbird)" means different things in different places; in Europe the common blackbird (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Blackbird) is a kind of thrush.

Nick

Strange
2010-Mar-23, 03:38 PM
I reason that hundreds of years ago, the mortality rate was somewhat lower in spring and summer, compared to autumn and winter. Hence the association with one for sorrow and two for joy.

I'm not sure you need to bring mortality into it: spring is a time of optimism, new growth and longer, warmer days. Winter is brrrr...


in Europe the common blackbird (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Blackbird) is a kind of thrush.

Although in Malta it can be a type of falcon (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033870/) :)

rommel543
2010-Mar-23, 03:51 PM
In Canada (at least living on the farm) their called shot gun targets....

Gillianren
2010-Mar-23, 06:08 PM
Incidentally, after magpies first came up in Terry Pratchett's Carpe Jugulum, he started asking people how many variations on the rhyme they knew; two appear in the book. The woman who answered twenty-four then went on to write The Folklore of Discworld, about how traditional folktales inform the Disc and its narrative causality.

JohnD
2010-Mar-23, 08:40 PM
If you haven't bothered, here's the Wiki entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Magpie
Lists six versions of the rhyme with two more variants, and I know another. Standard folklore fare then.

But I don't agree with what that says about it being highly territorial. We have seen up to 14 magpies at once in our garden throughout the year, EXCEPT wheh they are nesting, when the birds occupying the local nest drive others out. And we are about 40 miles from Manchester (see Wiki).

But the theories above ahve no more validity than the other tales and lore about birds. Humans HAVE to have explanations for phenomena, and in the abscence of science, theories abound. The Wren is the Bird-King - maybe that's based on the Goldcrest and Firecrest, though their crests are more jewel-like than crown-like. The Robin (European) Redbreast burnt himself in various ways. Ravens and Crows are bad luck, Blackbirds are good luck!
It's all enjoyable nonsense!

John

Middenrat
2010-Mar-24, 03:51 AM
Canny birds, magpies, they display many of the corvid family's renowned mental faculties.
Their territorialism expresses itself in familial groupings, so the fourteen which JohnD observed are likely the combined offspring of related pairings which gather together for mutual protection and coordinated hunting. These 'creches' disband in maturity, as individuals develop successful hunting/scavenging strategies.
Like jays they apparently possess a detailed mental map of their turf which is constantly updated and modified as food sources wax and wane and which can contain innumerable point locations where food can be hidden and stashed for future consumption. Incidentally, their fondness for thus stashing acorns carries no benefit to the parent oak tree, which might be expected to propagate from forgotten stashes, since the magpie nips out the germ to prevent germination in the event of a long period between stashing and consumption.
Less appealing is their fondness for the nestlings of other species, which are relentlessy preyed upon, the magpie relying on observation of nestbuilding activities earler in the season to winkle out even the best-hidden location.
Love them or hate them, all that purposeful activity does seem to lend itself to human interpretation of consciousness, and subsequent absorption into lore.

slang
2010-Mar-24, 07:50 AM
Magpies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magpie) are indeed corvids (crow family). "Blackbird (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackbird)" means different things in different places; in Europe the common blackbird (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Blackbird) is a kind of thrush.

There's a pair of magpies making a nest about 30 meters away from me right now. One of them just now (literally as I read your post) scared a bunch of blackbirds (the thrush kind, with the beautiful song) out of "their" tree. It's amazing how large the nesting material is that they fly in. Other birds fly around with bits of straw, perhaps some leaves, but these magpies carry branches bigger than themselves. I have a few pictures but the bird is just out of focus :/

HenrikOlsen
2010-Mar-24, 07:35 PM
Rommel543 quoted the version used in the 60s and 70s childrens TV show Magpie, for completeness sake it should be mentioned that there was traditionally dozens of magpie rhymes, now all but forgot because that show taught a generation of children only one.


One for sorrow. Two for Joy.
Three for a girl. Four for a boy.

or
One for sorrow, two for mirth,
three for a wedding and four for a birth,


Five for silver. Six for gold.
Seven for a secret never told.
Eight is a kiss. Nine is a wish.
Ten is a chance never to be missed.
or
Five for rich, six for poor,
Seven for a witch, I can tell you no more.
or
Five for England, six for france,
Seven for a fiddler, eight for a dance
or
Five for heaven, six for hell,
Seven, you'll see the devil himsel'.


The woman who answered twenty-four then went on to write The Folklore of Discworld, about how traditional folktales inform the Disc and its narrative causality.
In the foreword of The Folklore of Discworld, which incidentally is where I got the other versions, Pratchett says her answer was "about nineteen":)

sarongsong
2010-Mar-24, 07:46 PM
...Blackbirds are good luck!
It's all enjoyable nonsense!
...The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!...

http://www.rhymes.org.uk/sing_a_song_of_sixpence.htm:)

HenrikOlsen
2010-Mar-24, 07:52 PM
There's a pair of magpies making a nest about 30 meters away from me right now. One of them just now (literally as I read your post) scared a bunch of blackbirds (the thrush kind, with the beautiful song) out of "their" tree. It's amazing how large the nesting material is that they fly in. Other birds fly around with bits of straw, perhaps some leaves, but these magpies carry branches bigger than themselves. I have a few pictures but the bird is just out of focus :/
We saw one flying with a twig that was about three times its length, held by a side branch about 2/3 up and hanging down below it as it flew.
Took about four tries to get the right grip that allowed it to take off.

Gillianren
2010-Mar-24, 07:59 PM
In the foreword of The Folklore of Discworld, which incidentally is where I got the other versions, Pratchett says her answer was "about nineteen":)

I stand corrected. I'm not sure where my copy is and therefore could not double check.

rommel543
2010-Mar-25, 05:22 PM
Rommel543 quoted the version used in the 60s and 70s childrens TV show Magpie, for completeness sake it should be mentioned that there was traditionally dozens of magpie rhymes, now all but forgot because that show taught a generation of children only one.

I remember if from a freaky movie where some little girl was walking around singing (saying) it with her voice all echoed.

Fazor
2010-Mar-25, 07:43 PM
I thank the lot of you. All this "One for" "Two for" etc now has "One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready now go cat go." stuck in my head!

I was much more content repeatedly singing 'Wicked Garden'. But Elvis? Not my forte.

Clive Tester
2010-Mar-30, 12:00 PM
Rommel543 quoted the version used in the 60s and 70s childrens TV show Magpie, for completeness sake it should be mentioned that there was traditionally dozens of magpie rhymes, now all but forgot because that show taught a generation of children only one.


That's the version I remember, from the Magpie theme song; I was a child of the 70s. But I was more of a BluePeter child. Valerie Singleton and Lesley Judd had a certain appeal to me.:)