By Felicity Davey
Not too many magpies have their own Instagram account. But Penguin, the magpie, is a rare bird.
She was just a tiny three-week-old chick when she fell from a tree on a windy day in 2013.
A Sydney schoolboy, Noah Bloom, rescued the injured magpie and took her home.
Noah and his brothers, Rueben and Oli, called her Penguin, because of her black and white feathers.
Her nest was an old cane washing basket and the Bloom family took turns feeding her special magpie porridge (made from crushed insects, eggs, Weetbix and parsley) 10 times a day.
A good distraction
Penguin landed in the Blooms’ life at a very stressful time.
The boys’ mum, Sam, had recently come home from hospital after a terrible fall from a balcony. She couldn’t walk, was in a lot of pain and was feeling very unhappy.
“After the accident, mum was depressed and Penguin gave our family excitement,” says Noah, who’s 13. “She gave mum something to look forward to every day, to feed her and play with her.”
Social media sensation
Their dad, Cameron, a photographer, began taking photos of Penguin and the family, and pretty soon @penguinthemagpie had thousands of Instagram followers.
Cameron and Sam believe Penguin helped rescue their family, just as they had rescued her.
Oli, who’s 11, remembers lots of Penguin’s funny antics, like the day she jumped on his toothbrush while he was doing his teeth.
“Sometimes she’d snuggle into bed with me and fall asleep,” he says. “She’d wake up in the morning and stretch her feathers out, just like we stretch our arms. Then she’d yawn. She had pretty stinky bird breath.”
Penguin loved to sing and hang out with Sam and always seemed to know when the boys would get home from school. She’d wait in the same tree each day about 3.30pm.
A special bird
Rueben, who’s 15, says Penguin was a very special animal to care for.
“We’ve never had a dog or anything, so it was quite unusual to be looking after a wild bird,” he says. “And then having her captivate such a huge audience of people through Dad’s photos. It was random.”
Penguin has left the Blooms, and made her own nest. Her Instagram account has almost 150,000 followers.
A book about her, Penguin Bloom, is an international best-seller and is about to be made into a film.
Late last year after a big storm the Bloom brothers rescued another two magpie chicks.
Six months on, Panda remains a guest at the Blooms’ Sydney home. Puffin is an occasional fly-in, fly-out visitor. And the magpie porridge is still very popular.