A Pica Named Tiny

Catharina Lind is a Swedish journalist, a published author, and a fascinating person. We met through Ancestry.com because Catharina’s husband wanted to discover what happened to a relative who immigrated to the United States. It turns out that this relative married my father’s first cousin. My dad’s cousin’s husband (called Swede by everyone) is someone I knew as a child–and I played with his daughters.

Before I even knew Catharina was a writer, she wrote me a charming story about her favorite pica (magpie) in a conversational email (not a formal story). Magpies have always fascinated me, although we don’t have them in Arizona, so I was particularly tickled to read about Tiny. In fact, I wrote about my love of magpies on this blog 3 1/2 years ago. Catharina lived in the United States for awhile because of her husband’s job, but they are back living in Sweden–with a pica named Tiny.

baby Tiny

Teeny Tiny: last summer

We have between 20-23 hours of daylight during the summer–around the solstice it’s never really dark. Another thing that I miss from Dallas: warm, dark evenings with candlelight dinners.

I’m sitting by the kitchen windows, and my “little” Pica Pica almost crashed into the window right now. The snow is picking up and it’s rather windy. He is a magpie, similar to the Black-billed magpie. He is the toughest bird I have ever met.

He was born last year, a tiny, tiny little magpie with a damaged wing. Our house has two additional wings on each side, and there is a yard between the three houses. The fourth side has a very large hedge, so it’s secluded. He was such a little bird, so we named him Tiny. We fed him cat food, or more exactly the leftovers from our spoiled cat. According to a website that’s supposed to work for a Pica as they need protein and veggies.

Stefan had left some branches in a pile and Tiny moved in underneath them. Most of the days he walked around the yard, eating and poking around. When he got scared he either returned to his pile or sprinted into the hedges; he didn’t fly. We don’t know if he fell out from the nest or if it was a birth defect. His wing has a very strange angle and he can’t stretch it.

He wasn’t forgotten though–a few times per day his parents and siblings came by, spent some time with him on the ground, and then flew off. We weren’t sure that Tiny would survive the winter, but he did. He learned to fly a little, 10-15 feet at the most; but he flew. When the snow fell he sat on a lamp, curled up next to the wall.

Tiny is still living in our yard, but I think we gave him the wrong name. Imagine the largest magpie you can think of and add a big white belly. Then add an extra inch around the waist and you have a gigantic magpie with an obesity problem; that’s Tiny.

He’s getting better and better at flying, but he doesn’t fly much. He spends most of his days eating around the yard–hence the big belly. He and our cat have great respect for one another and they help each other by chasing away neighboring cats, especially the big, red nemesis next door.

Then in August something special happened: he got a girlfriend. Magpies mate for life, so I really hope this works out. We call her Tina and she is an adorable, little girl; though shy and scared of us. They are so cute together. They spend their days poking around the yard. Then she flies up into a tree, teasing him to follow her; but she is never out of reach.

His flying skills have improved tremendously since Tina came into the picture. They don’t fly far, nor high. She is a few feet above him, flying as slow as she possibly can. Sometimes she makes a loop so he can catch up. He, on the other hand, flaps his crooked wing as hard as he can and you can see how tough it is for him to keep up, but he doesn’t give up. A few times per day she needs to stretch her wings properly, so she flies high and he sits in his little tree looking at her. That bird has such a strength in him and he never gives up, regardless of the odds.

I really hope they have a nest next year.  It’s going to be interesting to see if their kids will live on the ground or fly like regular magpies.

Now this became much longer then intended, but that’s what happens when one’s favorite Pica almost crashes into a window. With flying difficulties comes bad aiming and a strange landing tecnique.

Upper left:  from last winter, with Tiny on his lamp post next to the house

Upper right: a little earlier this autumn

Lower left: Tina (on the left) with her love Tiny

Lower right: Tiny, taken just the other day

If you loved Tiny’s story, please check out Catharina’s blog! Who knew that this new relative-by-marriage was a blogger?!


Filed under Blogging, Cats and Other Animals, Family history, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

45 responses to “A Pica Named Tiny

  1. I love this post, Luanne!
    I don’t think we have magpies in this part of the country. Another blogger recently wrote a poem about magpies–apparently seeing one is bad luck, but a pair or more is fine. 🙂

    I think they’re related to crows, and I do like crows. Crows, ravens, and magpies are all very intelligent and generally mate for life.

    • I can’t believe seeing one magpie is bad luck. Maybe somebody started that rumor because they were trying to protect “his” or “her” magpie hahaha. Yes, magpies are so very intelligent. In that other blog post I talk about that mating for life bit . . . . I wish we had them here! But we do have quail and they also like their long-time mates.

  2. Charming post, Luanne! I’ve always admired magpies as they’ve flown by overhead, especially when we travel north to Colorado. Never had a chance till now to get to know one so intimately. Wonderful photos 🙂

    • What is their flight path? Do you know, Elaine? I know we don’t have them in Phoenix, and I’ve never seen them in southern California. I’d like to search for them again!

  3. Oh I love Tiny’s story, I’m glad he’s doing well and has found a girlfriend!

  4. This is the most wonderful story I have ever read….so I am nominating you for the Mystery Blogger Award…if you would like you can pop over to my website and you will see what to do next…Thank You, Tiny and Tina I am excited to hear what happens next with these Love Birds

    • Oh my, thank you so much. I feel bad because it’s not my story, but Catherina’s! I can’t wait to hear more about the love birds either! Thank you so much!!! xo

  5. He “doesn’t fly much”? Of course not! He’s too fat! 😀
    I pray for Tiny’s survival in spite of apparent overeating and a resident housecat (probably itching to get her paws on him)! I too hope he and his beloved have offspring – which could be named Teeny and Teensy. Super photos, BTW. Good luck! 🙂

  6. What a lovely story! Tiny is so fortunate to have Catharina and her husband as protectors, although they also sound like enablers (note Tiny’s girth :)). But he does sound like a fat and happy bird and now he has a mate? How wonderful! We love watching birds (as do our cats) and it’s always exciting when there are fledglings about. Thanks for sharing Catharina’s story.

    • Marie, enablers. That made me laugh so hard. You and Ellie are of the same opinion! I actually think that Tiny is chubby because he can’t fly much and so he doesn’t get the exercise he needs AND spends extra time eating that would be spent exercising. I have a kinship with dear Tiny in this way!!!

  7. Enjoyed this story and was glad for the happy ending! Great photos too. How wonderful to connect unexpectedly with relatives in faraway places or ones you have not known previously. You two have a lot in common!

  8. That is a precious story.

  9. Good work with Tiny. I have yet to get a good magpie picture

  10. What a great love story — all the way around!

  11. Thank you for all your nice comments about Tiny and Tina, I will keep you all updated about their progress. Right now they are eating apples in the snow, it’s cold here. 😆

    I agree that’s it’s difficult to take pictures of Magpies, they are high energy birds and carefull. Though they are definitely not cowards.☺ Magpies are very territorial and Tiny’s parents live in our orchard at the back of the house, they have been here for 6-7 years.
    We have pheasants, one rooster and a lot of hens. Sverker the rooster is a big bird and cats don’t like chasing big pheasants so they usually leave them alone.
    Any way; I passed a window on the second floor and saw Sverker sprinting across the lawn, followed by a neighboring cat. I was about to run downstairs when I see Tiny’s dad do a steep dive towards poor Sverker. To my surprise he attacked the cat and chased him away.

    After that I noticed that Tiny’s dad is the police officer in our garden. He attacks everyone who tries to mess with any of the local inhabitants including the pheasants, rabbit, hedgehog and deer. He defends other species and I find that brave. Magpies are highly intelligent animals and fun to watch.

    Once again thanks for all your nice comments about the lovebirds.😃

    • Oh, Catharina, it is so nice to hear about Tiny’s dad! Hahaha, I can just imagine him. Your magpies are showing me that I have been “proven right” to love magpies so! Please send me stories about Tiny and Tina and the rest of them from time to time, and I will post them for readers! Also, Robin had a wonderful suggestion: how about writing a picture book for children about Tiny? Or maybe one for all of us :)!

  12. Little Tiny, that is so sweet and Magpies are so smart. What a lovely post! 🙂

  13. Luanne, I am so pleased that you are such a good, “new” family member! Your nurturing Catharina may end up in a beautiful children’s storybook! I could even tell you that the Smithsonian had a book series with bird stories, each book had a stuffed bird to accompany the purchase. I have one with a Robin, of course! They were called “Smithsonian Backyard books.” 🙂 Smiles, Robin

  14. It’s amazing the wonderful people you’re meeting through your ancestory search Luanne! And I just loved Catherine’s story about Tiny, although I’ve never heard a magpie called a pica before. We have lots of magpies in England, along with crows and rooks and ravens. There is a lot of superstition about them too, from way back, but as with black cats, I don’t pay attention! They’re by the roadside all the time, we have a pair who fly from our roof to neighbouring ones and make quite the chatter! They are truly beautiful. I hope Tiny continues to thrive and how wonderful to think he and his girlfriend might have a nest filled with eggs next spring! They do love to pick up shiny things too, I’ve heard of nests lined with items of jewellry before!

  15. How gorgeous is that! Thanks for the link Luanne really enjoyed reading this one.

  16. Pingback: The Real Story of Tiny and Catharina | Writer Site

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