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Ta-da . . . Hedwig the magpie swipes a burger ring from Lee Eastmead’s bag. PHOTO: HELEN HOLT

by Helen Holt

Whoever said you can’t befriend a magpie hasn’t met Hedwig, the Eastmead family’s feathery friend.

Hedwig has made herself very much at home in the Eastmeads’ Temuka residence. She sleeps indoors, helps herself to cat food, and snuggles by the fire on cold days. During the day she will fly around, just as a regular magpie would.

The Eastmead family found Hedwig as an abandoned chick on the side of the road in October last year.

“She wasn’t in a healthy way,” Kirsty Eastmead said. “We wanted to see if we could nurse her back to health.

“Once she was well, we tried to find her mother but with no luck, so she’s been here ever since.

“Our boys named her after the owl from Harry Potter.”

Lee Eastmead said Hedwig ruled the household.

“Between her, the dog and the cat, she’s the boss.

“Jeffery (the cat) is her best friend. We have so many photos of them snuggled up together or play-fighting.”

Hedwig’s favourite hobbies include helping Mrs Eastmead hang out the washing, unravelling toilet paper, stealing mice from Jeffery, and pecking at the webcam during Zoom calls.

“We’ve never had a pet who made us laugh so much,” Mr Eastmead said.

“Some days we see her at lunch, sometimes we don’t. She just does her thing.

“We didn’t see her in the storm last Sunday , but the next morning she was knocking on the door and helping herself to food.”

Mrs Eastmead said they’ve had some interesting comments from friends about the pet magpie.

“Some people ask if I worry about the mess, or if she poos in the house. But I just say three boys. They probably make more mess in the house than she does’.

“Often it’s unusual to get this close to a bird because often they’re either timid or territorial.

“She knows us. If you’re walking around then she’ll fly down from the tree and stand on your shoulder.”

The family considered starting a social media account for her, after some popularity from Mr Eastmead’s posts on the Temuka Community Facebook group.

“Our sons are talking about putting her on TikTok or Instagram,” Mr Eastmead said. “She was on the wild bird page in the UK, until they found out she was a pet bird and removed her.”

This isn’t the first time the family has raised a bird.

“A couple of years ago our boys found some pukeko eggs to try and raise them,” Mrs Eastmead said.

“I wasn’t so sure about it, but we managed to raise one. Crikey was part of our family and used to sit by the fire with the kids. Eventually he decided to be a real pukeko and leave us.

“Occasionally I see pukeko about and I wonder if one of them is Crikey.”

Mrs Eastmead said they are mentally preparing for Hedwig to become independent and leave the family for good.

“We know that one day she will leave us to become a real magpie. For now she’s very happy living with us.

“We see her join in with other magpies from time to time. Other times they’re a bit territorial.”