Black and white Bird in Cemetery

I made all these photos in famous Parisian cemeteries. Then I was wondering why I meet so many magpies in graveyards. In some cultures, magpies are seen as birds that are attracted to shiny objects, so maybe they may collect trinkets or other items from gravesites.
In other folklores, magpies are seen as harbingers of death, and their presence in a cemetery may be interpreted as a sign of impending doom or misfortune.

So I hope for me in reality magpies are simply birds that are found in a wide range of habitats in a calm place for their nests!

Magpie symbolism

In Asia, they are a symbol of good omen and remind through their plumage the balance of Yin and Yang. In Mandarin, the name of the magpie, “xǐ què” (喜鹊), is often used to represent luck and happiness.
In Chinese folklore, they are considered supernatural beings who can denounce the adultery of a wife through a mirror or as fairies with the legend of the daughter of King Yen-ti who metamorphosed into a magpie to reach Taoist apotheosis in the sky.

They also have negative connotations in Western folklore such as being prideful and not compassionate. According to a Breton legend, the magpie originally had one of the most beautiful plumages in the avian kingdom. But during the crucifixion of Jesus, while all the birds were pitying his torture, the magpie insulted Christ and sneered while a robin tried to close one of his wounds. To punish her, God then decided to transform her plumage into an emblem of mourning, black and white.
The creator of this legend was undoubtedly inspired by Anne of Brittany who changed the color of mourning from white to black. And by syncretism, he alludes to Celtic animism with the presence of birds during the crucifixion.

In response to this old story and as you can see in one of my photos below, some magpies may have finally finished their mourning and are “rehabilitated” because their plumage covers many colors including light blue (symbol of the kingdom of heaven in Christianity).

Description and behaviour

The Common Magpie is easy to observe, for example when it walks a lawn or a garden square. The swings of his body are quite comical. When she wants to go faster, she jumps on both her legs at the same time.
She search on the ground with the beak to find insects or worms because the magpie is essentially a predator. Planting in the vegetable garden does not risk much on his part. On the contrary, they help to eliminate potential pests. On the other hand, we can fear for the broods of small sparrows with whom we like to be surrounded because she knows very well how to spot their nests. This is probably why it is classified as harmful in France and can therefore be pulled like game. However, the magpie only plays the role that nature has assigned to her. It has natural enemies to limit its population, Accipiter for example, hawk and around them. In the Mediterranean region, its broods can be parasitized by a cuckoo or a jay.
We saw earlier that the magpie enjoyed in the city. More generally, she frequently lives in contact with humans and their activities.

She is both bold and very cautious. It can get very close to homes but remains very suspicious and always on the lookout. A wrong gesture and it’s flight. In this, it recalls other corvids such as the crow, known for their high level of reflection. By gaining height from the ground, she loses some of her fear, which can lead her to nest on top of a tree in a garden, a park, a playground, yet regularly frequented. It is also possible that the urban magpie is less fearful than the country magpie.

The European magpie is often accused of being a thief, stealing shiny objects and then hiding them. For me, this is probably a legend, coming from a misinterpretation of observations. The magpie, like all corvids, hides surplus food for days of scarcity. It is enough that one day a quidam saw a magpie hiding something when he had just lost an object to persuade himself that it was his object that she was hiding. Thus legends are born. For his part, Géroudet, the famous ornithologist thinks that the magpie could be attracted to an unusual object in his environment, appropriate it and then hide it as his predatory instinct commands him to do it with prey, or even bring it to the nest as suggested by a comic book from my childhood. It is possible. Tamed corvids in any case show a certain interest in the eyes of their “master”, the only shiny part of the body, and seek to reach them from the beak when they are on the shoulder. We must be wary of it, or rather it was necessary, because the possession of these birds is prohibited by law in France.
The magpie is sedentary throughout its range. The most important movements, from 20 to 30 km at most, are made by young birds looking for vacant territory.

Jacques Julien

French photographer based in Paris specialised in black and white photographs, animal photos, architecture, portraits.