Magpie Song is a painting in watercolour and Indian ink illustrating the traditional rhyme which goes:
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.
The European magpie (Pica pica) is a species of crow, and as with all corvids, they are incredibly intelligent. They can recognise themselves in a mirror, proof of self-awareness. In folklore they are reckoned to be attracted to shiny objects, but there is no scientific proof for them being bling thieves. In my painting Magpie Song I have illustrated 10 birds from all angles to make the most of their gorgeous plumage and glossy, long tails. For a black and white bird, they are amazingly colourful – their plumage can appear green, blue and purple in certain light.
They live in loose family groups and can often be seen in some numbers (at least where I live!)
Some people consider them to be a bird of ill omen, but this is a daft superstition. Fake news! One magpie is always a joy.
Collective nouns for magpies are many – a tidings, a mischief, a charm, a flock, a gulp, a murder, a tittering, a conventicle, a tribe or a congregation. Take your pick! I like ‘mischief’. You have to be clever to make mischief and these glorious birds are exactly that.
Signed prints of my painting Magpie Song at size A2 are available now.
This painting celebrates the incredible work of my hero, the scandalously unsung Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace came up with the theory of natural selection independently of Darwin and established the study of biogeography.
This painting is no longer available, and is shown here for your viewing pleasure and for the glory of Wallace.
Read more about Wallace here.