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Australian Magpie Fact File

Appearance

The Australian magpie is colored black and white though the exact positioning of these colors is highly variable across their range.

In all variants the male is colored white across the nape, upper and tail and shoulders while females have gray in this spot allowing you to tell them apart.

In most parts of Australia these animals have black feathers across the rest of the body. In the south-east, central areas, south-west and Tasmania the back and rump is white.

They have a chestnut brown colored eye. Their leg is colored black and ends with four toes, three facing forward and one facing back.

Their bill is colored light-grey at the base and black at the tip.

Australian magpies measure between 38 and 44cm (15-17in) long with a wingspan of up to 76cm (30in) across.

Diet

Australian magpies are carnivorous. They feed on insects and their larvae along with small animals such as lizards and frogs which they will forage for on the ground. Occasionally they have also been recorded hunting other birds.

Their excellent hearing will allow them to hear food which is underground.

They are an opportunistic scavenger and will also feed on rubbish.

Often they accept handouts from humans which lack nutrients and can lead to their demise.

Australian Magpie

Scientific Name

Gymnorhina tibicen

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Length

38-44cm (15-17in)

Wingspan

76cm (30in)

Lifespan

1 years

Diet

Carnivorous

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Range

Despite their name the Australian magpie is not just found in Australia. They can also be found in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. In Australia their range covers almost the entire continent.

Introduced populations of this species can be found in Fiji and New Zealand. A former introduced population in the Solomon Islands is now considered extinct.

The population in New Zealand was introduced between 1864 and 1874 to help control insect pests. They are present both on the North and South Island.

Habitat

They make their home in forest, savanna and grassland habitats. These birds can survive anywhere there are trees adjacent to an open area.

As humans have expanded this species has adapted well to living alongside them. They are often spotted at the sides of roads where they will wait for vehicles to strike animals and then they scavenge the carcass.

Australian Magpie

Reproduction

Breeding activity for the Australian magpie peaks from August to November. During the breeding season the Australian magpie will become more aggressive to intruders entering their habitat.

They build a nest which is located in the outer branches of a tree. It will be formed from sticks and twigs then lined with grass and hair.

In to the nest the female will deposit between three and five eggs which are colored blue to green with brown blotches.

These eggs are incubated for 20 days.

After hatching the female will feed them and by four weeks old they are ready to fly.

At two years old the parents will force the chicks out of their territory.

Behavior

These birds will live in groups with up to 24 birds.

Groups of Australian magpies will create a territory which is actively defended by all members of their group.

Australian magpies will perform a musical flute-like song either as a duet or with their group. They are considered to have one of the world's most complex songs.

These animals are also remarkable mimics. They will copy the calls of 35 different bird species, both native and introduced. Other species such as dogs and horses are also mimicked.

These birds will sunbake by lying down with their feathers spread out. This allows the sun to hit their skin and disturbs any parasites which may be. They will also preen their feathers to help keep them clean.

Australian Magpie

Predators and Threats

Their habit of scavenging for animals which have been struck by vehicles will lead to them also being struck by vehicles.

Well meaning humans often feed these birds mince meat which does not provide the correct amount of nutrients for them to thrive and this can eventually lead to death.

Despite these threats the birds are still relatively common and have benefited from the creation of lawns which increase the areas available for them to hunt.

Like all native Australian species these birds are protected.

Quick facts

This species is sometimes referred to as the flute bird due to their melodic call.

In Australia people will wear sunglasses on the back of their head to try and prevent magpies from swooping them.

Australian Magpie

Photo Credits

Top

By jjron (edited by Noodle snacks) – Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10825163

Middle One

By DickDaniels (http://carolinabirds.org/) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17820416

Middle Two

By Department of Sustainability & Environment – Magpie breeding seasonUploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY 2.0,

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12256724

Bottom

By Jan from Singapore, Singapore – The ThiefUploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10694760

References

Morcombe, M., 2003. Field Guide To Australian Birds. Archerfield, Qld.: Steve Parish Pub. Reptiles

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

BirdLife International. 2018. Gymnorhina tibicen. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22706288A131945700. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22706288A131945700.en. Downloaded on 04 April 2021.

The Australian Museum. 2021. Australian Magpie. [online] Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/birds/australian-magpie/> [Accessed 4 April 2021].

Birdsinbackyards.net. 2021. Australian Magpie | BIRDS in BACKYARDS. [online] Available at: <https://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Cracticus-tibicen> [Accessed 4 April 2021].

Birdssa.asn.au. 2021. Australian Magpie – Birds SA. [online] Available at: <https://birdssa.asn.au/birddirectory/australian-magpie/> [Accessed 4 April 2021].

Heathcote, A., 2021. Here are 4 things you definitely didn’t know about Aussie magpies. [online] Australian Geographic. Available at: <https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/news/2019/04/here-are-4-things-you-definitely-didnt-know-about-aussie-magpies/> [Accessed 4 April 2021].

2021. Our Wildlife Fact Sheet – Australian Magpie. [ebook] Melbourne: Victoria State Government – Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, pp.1-2. Available at: <https://www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0022/91381/Australian-Magpie.pdf> [Accessed 4 April 2021].

Wires.org.au. 2021. Information about magpies. [online] Available at: <https://www.wires.org.au/wildlife-info/wildlife-education/magpies> [Accessed 4 April 2021].

Environment | Department of Environment and Science, Queensland. 2021. Australian magpies. [online] Available at: <https://environment.des.qld.gov.au/wildlife/animals/living-with/magpies#the_territorial_swooper> [Accessed 4 April 2021].

Angus, D.J. 2013 [updated 2017]. Australian magpie. In Miskelly, C. M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online.www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

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