Magpies are social life birds and like to stick with their mates and in larger flocks. They can roost in groups of up to 200 birds, making nests, with roofs, in trees if there is enough room. If not, they sometimes build nests on the ground. All of the community of birds settles down for the night and they are all up well before dawn.

The name for a group of Magpies is ‘A Mischief’. This probably comes from the old stories about them being snaky thieves of shiny objects. In fact we have found out recently that they are actually a little startled by things that twinkle and gleam and will investigate them but not take them away to their nests. What a shame, that is such a good old story.

There are lots of superstitions about magpies. Lots of different areas of the UK have traditions for greeting a bird when you see one on your walk. Sometimes you are supposed to tip your hat to them, or say, “Good morning to you Mr Magpie and best wishes to all the little magpies” or “Good Morning Mr Magpie and how is your Lady Wife?’ However as both male and female magpies look the same it is a bit weird that we always assume that the one we meet is a male.

A lot of people know a variation of the old rhyme

‘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’

The rhyme goes on but there are lots of different versions of it.

It was originally a way of looking for signs about what the future was going to bring you. A lot of the superstitions about Magpies come from one of those strange stories from myths surrounding early Christian stories. It was said that the magpie alone would not sing when Jesus died, so it got a bit of a curse attached to it from this unkind story. People said that that’s why it doesn’t have a pretty voice, but sounds a bit grating and bleak to our ears, it’s also why misfortune is said to be signalled by it. In reality they are clever, sociable and rather beautiful looking birds, which look bigger than they actually are because of their long tails. Their feathers have a glorious purple green iridescent gleam to them.


Cockatiels are native to the open woodlands of Australia.

Their favourite foods are acacia seeds, berries plants, fruits and grains and other bits and pieces that they pick up off the ground.
Sometimes they sneeze out dust and stuff that they snuffled up into their beaks by accident.

They are extremely intelligent and sociable creatures and have mates for life. They either stay with their mates or in larger flocks. In captivity they become very depressed if they have to live alone.

They are a prey species and vulnerable to attack so they are light sleepers ready to wake up and fly off in an instant. Because of this they are swift and powerful flyers and they get bored if they are kept in cages and cannot ever fly. They sleep at night in trees with dense foliage, facing into the wind so that they can hear any noises from the distance which would alert them to danger.

Because they don’t have to compete with all the noisy tropical birds in the rainforest, their voices are gentle and soft, only using a screeching sound if they are sounding an alarm because they are frightened or in danger. Mostly they make a lilting whistling sound and some humans who have them as pets have little noise conversations with them and say they enjoy being petted and fussed. They certainly recognise individual humans and their voices.

The crest feathers on the top of their heads tells you a lot about their mood. If the feathers are standing bolt upright, then the bird is either startled or curious. If it is pressed down flat against its head, it is a sign that the bird is feeling defensive.

When a cockatiel is relaxed and happy the crest will stand up slightly, sort of casually swept back from its forehead, its lovely red Pikachu cheek feathers will fluff up and it will make contented little beaky sounds.

They are clever birds and like a lot of company and lots of things to mess about with and do.


Donkeys are strong and powerful, intelligent and curious, and they have excellent memories. They can remember other donkeys and places for up to 25 years have a reputation for stubbornness which is really unfair. What they actually have is a well developed sense of self preservation. It is difficult to startle or scare a donkey but if you try to force it to do something dangerous it will have good think about it and make a decision based on their assessment of their own safety. If people try to train Donkeys they have to build up a relationship of trust with them. There is a saying ‘Tell a horse… Ask a donkey”.


Originally, thousands and thousands of years ago, donkeys originated in deserts and still their bodies are perfectly suited to these harsh conditions. They can get 95% of the moisture, nutrients and goodness out of the poorest vegetation. This means that their manure is useless as a fertiliser because there is so little goodness wasted in their poo. At Mudchute their diet has to be mostly straw rather than hay which is too rich in nutrients for them to thrive upon.


The long ears of donkeys mean that they can swivel them to catch distant sounds. In the desert they can hear noises 60miles away. Also those long ears help to keep them cool. Their coats have got no waterproofing in them, because they don’t need it in the desert. However this does mean that they hate the rain and getting soggy and wet.


In the wild they are herd animals and can be brave and heroic. They groom each other and work cleverly as a pack to protect each other from natural predators like wolves. There is always a lead donkey who is in charge of the pack and makes decisions for it. But if the pack is attacked it is the lead donkey who will stay behind and lead the predators away from the rest of the herd, so that they will survive even if their leader doesn’t. They are still often used as guard animals to protect sheep or goats because they do not like or trust dog like creatures and will keep them away from their ‘herd’ by rushing forward to meet them. They fight with their hooves and teeth.


Donkeys have been living alongside humans for at least 6000 years and the history of the animal stretches back millions of years.
The Egyptians used them for milk and meat and carrying loads of precious metals across Africa. The Greeks used them to carry loads of grapes between the rows of vines in their vineyards. They carried silk along the Silk Road and used by the Romans throughout their empire, including Britain, as pack animals and agricultural workers.


Throughout centuries they have provided a life line to many families, carrying loads of water, wood land cultivation, transport and other essentials. They are sometimes described as the first town planners because of their way of finding the quickest and easiest but the most safe route through a country side any up and down mountains.

Believe it or not, there are many donkeys in the world who are very badly treated.

The donkeys who live at Mudchute come from a rescue centre. It is very important that they keep working and keep their muscles excersised, because if they just sit around doing nothing then they build up fatty layers around their hearts.