“One for sorrow
Two for joy”
If you grew up in the UK, you might be familiar with this poem, for those of us that did not, it describes how you can tell your fortune by observing magpies. Spotting a magpie is not a good sign if you are superstitious. You could say they have somewhat of a bad reputation in Europe and the British Isles. They are also thought to be little sticky fingered thieves and cunning villains, in addition to being omens of bad luck. All in all, magpies get no love in the region.
Corvids (a grouping that includes crows, ravens, magpies and even jays) have more baggage than they can carry!
Crows, ravens and magpies have long been associated with death due to their color, and tendency to scavenge dead animals and even corpses. Corvids are simply opportunistic eaters. A field full of seeds, a bush covered in berries, unattended garbage cans, small game and yes, even already dead animals are all fair game to the omnivorous corvids. Even the colorful and innocuous bluejay has a less than stellar reputation among birdwatchers because they aggressively steal treats intended for gentler, more benign songbirds.
Per their opportunistic nature, corvids are also villainized for being egg thieves. Studies have shown that the occasional egg thieving doesn’t have much of an impact on bird populations. Still, corvids are admonished for this because they seemingly put more desired types of birds at risk.
This is very strange, to have seething hate for one kind of bird yet nothing but adoration for another.
Especially because corvids do not do the things they do out of spite, they simply do it to get by. In my humble opinion, corvids have just as much of a right to be here and their redeeming traits are often overlooked. They may not be the most colorful or flashy birds, but they have interesting, intelligent personalities and unique behaviors you just will not see with other birds or even animals.
Being highly intelligent birds, magpies and other corvids are very attracted to human objects. And being that they are just birds with no concept of money, they simply take what they covet. If they see something interesting, they get curious. As many rumors as there are of magpies stealing little treasures (particularly jewelry), there are rumors of them bringing gifts to their families and even people. Like other corvids, magpies are hoarders. If they come across more food than they can eat, they will store that food for later. According to scientists, magpies are more likely to steal and hoard your sandwich than your shiny valuables. But just because it hasn’t been observed in a scientific setting, doesn’t mean it’s never been observed. There are enough anecdotes about this behavior, that even corvid researchers believe in them, even if it’s just a little bit.
Magpies will pick up just about anything.
A magpie picking up a pretty stone or piece of garbage goes unnoticed, but when it picks up something that is shiny or of any value to a human, we take notice of it instantly and think, “Of course! Those thieving birds and their love for shiny things!” Then we will probably tell this story to others.
As with many intelligent animals, magpies take special notice of the things that people seem to pay attention to. The more to try to keep your wedding ring away from a magpie, the more important it looks to the bird.
“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 to be told 🔒
Eight for a wish 🌟
Nine for a kiss 💕
Ten for a bird 🐦
You must not miss 👁
Eleven is worse 🃏
Twelve for a dastardly curse 🕸”
Looking at the rest of the rest of the rhyme, you will see that it’s only unlucky should you run across a single lone magpie. Magpies are social birds, and they mate for life. Before they find their one true love, magpies tend to stay in large social groups. They like to mob together and are frequently seen chatting amongst each other.
Maybe this rhyme is talking about the sorrow that a single magpie might feel? Magpies do not like being alone, so seeing one without it’s mate or group nearby might be a strange omen indeed.
In the UK, if you run into a lone magpie, a surefire way to turn your luck around is to greet it.
“Good morning, Mr Magpie, how is your wife?”
Even better if you salute! Superstitious or not, I like the idea of greeting magpies. I feel it makes the world a lovelier place. No matter what your personal feelings towards magpies are, it’s good to show them some respect don’t you agree?