Tis the season of thieves. We were repeatedly warned. “Lock your doors! Bring everything inside at night,” they cautioned. The bandits enter silently in the wee hours of the morning, before the break of dawn. We were on high alert, ready for any robber who would vilify our sanctuary…or so we thought.
Early in the morning, as I was taking a shower, I spotted the thief in the garden. He was a pugnacious, omnivorous, and fearless intruder. His sentinel was perched in the closest mango tree warning the thief of a possible predator in the distance. The sentinel signaled the thief with one high-pitched alarm call. As I approached silently, armed with my camera, the guarding magpie frantically warned the thieving Urraca with a series of 3-6 shorter notes.
The Urraca, with a belly full of our ripe papaya, made a rapid getaway, heading for the safety of the highest mango branch. The Urraca earned its reputation honestly. It is the Spanish name for magpie, derived from the Latin word furax, which means “thievish”. The Urraca has a tendency to collect and hoard shiny things, sort of like the TV show, “Hoarders: Buried Alive.” I also learned that it has a voracious appetite for fruits, especially papayas.
Santiago and I were rocking on the porch yesterday, resting after cleaning the coconut trees and burning out wasp nests. He recounted the legend of the Urraca after I expressed my frustration with the large, loud, and obnoxious birds. “Did you know that during the time of Jesus, the Urracas could talk?” he asked. “No,” I responded surprised. “Did they speak English or Spanish?” I joked.
According to Santiago, whose father is a preacher, the Urracas and the parrots were the only two species of birds that could talk. When the Jews crucified Jesus and he was hanging on the cross, the Urracas tried to steal his crown of thorns for their nests. As a result, God punished them by removing their ability to talk because he wasn’t very happy with the obnoxious birds…like me.
Santiago stacked a bunch of coconut fronds at my front door. I’m going to make a coconut frond scare crow to put in the garden. I’m not hopeful that it will deter the pugnacious birds. We’re still on high alert. Our neighbors were right…tis the season for thieves. Only our obnoxious intruders steal our papayas.