When you come across a dog or cat on the road, you might say “Hello, you furry creation of Mother Nature!” But have you ever said the same to a bird? Well, if you’re in the United Kingdom (UK), you may have to. And not just to any bird; you’ll have to greet a magpie if it’s sitting alone!

Magpies are little black and white birds whose tales seem to shine in shades of blue and green. Strangely, when anyone comes across the bird in the UK, they’ll perhaps salute it and say something like, “I salute you, Mr. Magpie.” Or they’ll greet the feathered creature by saying, Hello, Mr. Magpie! How are you today? Where’s your wife, your child, and your family?”

So, why exactly do the British talk to magpies? Do they know bird language? Or is it that the magpie understands English? Well, the whole idea of greeting a magpie if you see one is to avoid bad luck! It is believed that if you just walk away from the bird, you’re bravely inviting trouble.

In British folklore, big blackbirds like ravens and crows — no matter how nice they might be in reality — are thought to be evil and white birds are seen as a symbol of something good. Now, since the poor magpies are both black and white, the British think that it’s safer to just greet them instead of ignoring them to face back luck later. Bad luck or not, we think it’s sweet to chat with birds and animals if they’re sitting alone.