Robin

This bird is one of the most traditionally associated with the Christmas period, and can be heard singing as locally as your own garden.

Their song is utilised to mark territory and therefore it is an important sound to listen out for on a family woodland walk. Furthermore the robin is a more likely animal to spot due to its red plumage accentuated for warmth in the winter, and their fierce quest for worms on the ground result in them often being seen by visitors in woodlands and gardens.

Sparrowhawk

A very speedy hunter that uses suprise. Females are much bigger than males, so they have different prey. At Cheney, they have been seen targeting pigeons.

Sparrowhawks are small birds of prey. They have short, broad wings and a long tail, which helps them fly through trees. They are pale underneath, and darker on their upper parts. This is an example of camouflage called “countershading”. They have horizontal striping, which is often seen in woodland predators. The common cuckoo looks like a sparrowhawk which helps protect it from small birds when trying to enter their nests. The oldest known sparrowhawk lived for over twenty years.

The sparrowhawk features in a number of traditional tales. In Australian aboriginal mythology, the moon possessed fire, and refused to give it to mankind. Eventually a sparrowhawk and a pigeon take it from him and give it to humans. In Mayan mythology, human bodies were made from the dough with the animal Coyote was making when it was killed by a sparrowhawk.

Parakeet

Ring-neck parakeets are from Africa, but they have now established themselves in 34 countries on five continents. The ones which recently arrived in Oxford probably came from London or Henley.

Parakeet Facts

Ring-necked parakeets, also called Rose-ringed parakeets, are medium sized parrots. They are native to Africa and Asia, but have established themselves in many parts of the world. They usually eat fruit, berries, nuts, buds and seeds. They can mimic human speech and have been popular as pets since Greek and Roman times.

Parakeet Stories

An Indonesian folk tale called “”King of the Parakeets”” tells of a flock of parakeets who were being trapped by hunters. The king parakeet ordered his flock to play dead, and they all escaped the cage except him. He sang beautiful songs, and his owner decided to keep him. One day, he played dead inside the cage, and his owner was very sad, and held a big funeral, and the parakeet was able to fly back to his forest.

Magpies

A member of the highly intelligent crow family, magpies are clever, adaptable and good at living alongside humans. They look black and white but also have blue and purple iridescent feathers.

Magpie Facts

Magpies are part of the crow family, and are one of the cleverest animals, able to recognise themselves in mirrors. They were originally known as “pies” (meaning “pointed”). “Mag”, short for “Margaret”, was added as it was a general term for a woman, and the sound of the bird was said to sound like women chattering. Adult birds moult completely once a year beginning in June or July. 

Magpie Stories

Magpies are common in folktales.A traditional rhyme, “one for sorrow, two for joy”, imagines that the number of magpies seen can bring good or bad luck. The magpie features in a Rossini opera “The Thieving Magpie”, where a servant is sent to the gallows, blamed for the theft of items which in fact the magpie has taken. This echoes a common belief that magpies are attracted to shiny objects.