Though I understood the phrase intellectually, I've never gotten the impact of that old saw before- we don't have magpies in Indianapolis. I've seen magpies before, but only from the window of a train- I never heard them. Where we're staying here in Utah, however, they have them by the flock.
If you've never heard a magpie, they sound a lot like their cousins, the crow; but crows are no more talkative than other birds- magpies talk like teenagers with unlimited friends and family plans. Imagine Unitarian crows in an unmoderated open debate, fueled by fair-trade espresso. Two magpies make more noise than a murder of crows.
One such raucous caucus right outside the window gave me a lesson in the universality of life experience. There were two magpies, one slightly larger than the other... the smaller one would run in front of the larger one, tilt his head back, and open his beak wide. The larger one would make a cutting remark, turn, and walk the other way. The smaller one would gave a shriek of outrage, and run around to stand in front of the larger again... rinse and repeat. Is their a parent alive who doesn't empathize with the beleaguered magpie?