In the suburbs of western Sydney, Giulio Cuzzilla embarked on a mission to thwart magpies from stealing his cat’s kibble.
Crafting a homemade “owl” scarecrow seemed like a reasonable solution until the birds’ unexpected response turned it into a viral sensation.
Mr Cuzzilla’s video of magpies seemingly worshipping the peculiar effigy has garnered over 3.7 million views on TikTok, sparking a mix of fascination and humour.
Initially deterred by the makeshift owl, the magpies grew increasingly curious, eventually treating it as a revered figure or some kind of “magpie god”.
“It’s a biblically accurate magpie,” one user commented on TikTok.
“Kinda looks like a Cthulu magpie,” said another, comparing it to some Lovecraftian horror, alongside others ready to bow down and chant, “All hail the great magpie god”!
Either way, Giulio Cuzzilla, the unintentional creator of the ‘magpie god,’ took the viral attention in his stride, even lightheartedly acknowledging the owl’s less-than-accurate resemblance.
“I now know it doesn’t really look like an owl, but a dead cat rather,” he joked in response to his video.
“I was looking online to buy one of those owls on Bunnings Warehouse, but they cost a bit, so I thought I’d just make one. I made it out of paper mache and feathers that I got from the $2 store.”
Despite its comical appearance, the paper bird stood tall until a storm eventually dismantled it.
Emeritus Professor Gisela Kaplan, a renowned magpie expert, revealed that their behaviour was a territorial call, not some ancient avian worshipping ceremony.
The peculiar sound captured in the video indicated the magpies’ claim of ownership over the territory where the paper bird stood.
While the video primarily focuses on the magpies’ antics, Birdlife Australia spokesperson Sean Dooley pointed out two critical aspects.
Firstly, feeding “would have been a better outcome for the cat because it’s safer indoors, but it’s also a far better outcome for wildlife,” he said.
“Even though people say, ‘My cat is fed, so it will be fine’, it doesn’t matter how much you feed a cat; the instinct to hunt will still override that, and it will kill for the sake of it.”
Despite relocating down the street since then, Mr Cuzzilla found that the magpies, along with their appetite, continued to track him.
Although initially engaged in a feud with the birds, he has since developed a fondness for them.
Reflecting on their charming nature and amusing behaviours, Mr Cuzzilla said, “When you observe their antics, you can’t help but find them quite cute.”
“We even named one of the babies Ricky.”