Magpie’s Nest

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Once upon a long time ago, birds did not build nests. They simply sat around on branches, or boulders or even on the ground. And when it was time to lay eggs, they simply laid them on a branch or a boulder or the ground.

Not many eggs survived.

Magpie began to think that there might be a better way of doing things.
She gathered branches from the forest floor, flew up into a tree and began to weave them together to form and nice round platform. It looked very comfortable and it would stop eggs from rolling out of trees. She landed in the middle of this nest.

It was not as comfortable as she imagined it would be. The sticks were nobbly and then poked her ruthlessly.

Magpie decided that this was not the nest for her.

Crow, who had been watching what Magpie was doing, landed on the nest. She thought it was just perfect and to this day, crow has been making her nest just the way Magpie did, weaving branches together into a shallow platform. You can see Crow’s nest here.

Magpie thought and thought about what she could find to make a nest softer. “Aha!” She said flying down the the river bank. “Mud is nice and soft, that’s what I’ll use to make my nest.”

Magpie made a simple platform of sticks up in a tree. Then she scooped up beakfulls of mud and plopped them down on the sticks until she had a nice cake of mud. It looked very comfortable. But when she landed on this nest, it wasn’t very comfortable at all. The mud was sticky and goopy and it got all over her feathers.

Magpie decided that this was not the nest for her.

Song thrush, who had been watching what Magpie was doing, had an idea. She landed smack in the middle of the mud cake and using her round belly, she began to shape that mud into a nice round bowl. To this day, Song thrush has been making her nest in this way. You can see her nest here.

Magpie thought and thought about what she could use to make a more comfortable nest. “Aha!” she said, flying down to a patch of dried up long grass. “I can weave my nest out of grass and straw and little tiny sticks.”

So that’s what she did. It looked nice and tidy. She landed in the middle of it. Nothing poked her, but the nest was just too small. There was no room for her eggs.

Magpie decided that this was not the nest for her.

Blackbird , who had been watching what Magpie was doing, thought the nest looked perfect for her family. To this day, this is how Blackbird makes her nest. You can see it here.

Magpie thought that maybe she would be happier if she had a really big nest, with lots of room for herself and her eggs. She flew all about the forest picking up the longest sticks she could find. She wove them together into a huge platform. It looked wonderful. She imagined how jealous the other birds would be that she, Magpie, had such a humungous nest. She landed in the middle of it. One of the twigs on the far side of the nest popped out of place. She hopped over and fixed it. Immediately a stick on the other came loose and she had to hop all the way to the other side to fix it.

Magpie decided it was just too much work having such a big nest.

Long-Eared Owl, who had been watching what Magpie was doing, thought the nest looked like a perfect place to raise owlets. To this day, this is how Long-Eared Owl makes her nest.

As Magpie thought and thought about how to make a more comfortable nest, it began to rain. “I know what’s wrong,” she said. “None of the nests I’ve made so far have had a roof on them. If I had a roof, everything would be exactly right.”

First she made a platform of sticks. Then, working very carefully, she built up the walls and wove together a roof. She left a hole in one wall, just big enough for her to go through. Inside it was very cosy and dry, but the sticks were still kind of pokey.

Long-tailed tit, who had been watching thought that a domed nest would be perfect for her and her tiny family. She wove together a tiny dome of twigs, and then she had an idea. She gathered lichen from the trees and rocks and covered her nest with it, to keep out all the wind and rain. To this day Long-tailed tit makes her nest this way, you can see one here.

Meanwhile, Magpie was busy finding things to make her nest more comfortable. Can you think of things Magpie could use to make her nest cosy? (Moss, grass, dried leaves, sheep’s wool, feathers).

To this day, Magpie makes a domed nest out of sticks and lines it with all sorts of things, not just moss and feathers, but also scraps of cloth, yarn, pieces of cardboard…she’s still trying make the perfect nest.

Telling tip: This is my abbreviated version of a traditional English folktale.  I’ve told this at a drop-in storytelling event for National Nest Box Week shuffling through printed pictures of birds and nests. You can add in and subtract species of birds from this story as you like.

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