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Magpie Lark Fact File

Grallina cyanoleuca

Credit: Lip Kee from Singapore, Republic of Singapore, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

92g

(3.2oz)

Length

29cm

(11.5in)

Lifespan

Wild 10 years

Captive 10 years

Diet

Carnivore

Invertebrates

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

The magpie lark was named by European settlers who thought it bore a resemblance to these birds with which they were familiar. Further research has determined that they are more closely related to the monarch family.

These birds are alternatively known as the pee-wee. This comes from the duet call which these birds make to reinforce their pair bonds.

They are carnivores which will feed on invertebrates and small animals which they forage for on the ground.

This species has benefited from the expansion of humans as they clear habitats that were previously uninhabitable and replace them with sites such as ovals where they can forage for food.

Read on to learn more about these beautiful birds.

Appearance

What does the magpie lark look like?

The magpie lark is covered by a pattern of white and black feathers. At the end of the body is a tail which is white with a black bar. A white bar is present from the shoulder out across the wing.

Males and females can be distinguished by the color of their throat. The male has a black throat while the females is colored white. Males have a white stripe above the eye resembling an eyebrow.

These birds have a narrow, triangular-shaped bill which is handy for catching insects. It is colored pale yellow or white. They have a pair of long legs which are colored grey. The eye is colored a pale grey.

An average magpie lark will measure 29cm (11.5in) long with a weight of 92g (3.2oz).

While having a highly similar appearance to the Australian magpie these birds are much smaller allowing them to be identified.

Diet

What does the magpie lark eat?


The magpie lark is a carnivore. They feed on invertebrates and small animals.

magpie lark (Grallina cyanoleuca)

Credit: Dominic Sherony, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Range

Where can you find the magpie lark?

These birds are native to Australia and surrounding islands including Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.

A single record of a vagrant to New Zealand was made in 2008. They were introduced to the country between 1890 and 1900 but this effort failed.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the magpie lark live in?

These animals enjoy a wide range across Australia and can be found in almost all habitats except for the most dry deserts in the center of the continent. Habitats used by this species include forest, savanna, grassland and wetland.

They are a common sight in cities where they can be seen in parks finding food.

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Reproduction

How does the magpie lark produce its young?

Breeding takes place from August to February.

Pairs of magpie larks will typically form for life and breed together each season.


Their nest is created on a tree branch. They will use mud as plaster to form the nest which is cup-shaped. It is then lined with feathers and grasses. Both the male and female will work together to create the nest.

During the breeding season a male and female will sit side-by-side and call to one another and raise their wings.


These birds are highly aggressive in defense of their breeding territory.

In to the nest they will deposit between 3 and 5 eggs. The eggs are colored white or pink with some brown markings to them. These are incubated for 17-18 days.


Fledging takes place at between 18 and 23 days old.


Sexual maturity is reached at 1 year old.

One brood per year is typical but where conditions are favorable they are able to raise a second.

Behavior

What does the magpie lark do with its day?

These birds create a shrieking call which is made up of 5 notes. It may sound like 'pee-o-wit' or 'pee-wee.''

They also produce a duet with their partner. Each will produce a all roughly a half-second apart making it difficult to tell if one or two birds are singing.

Magpie larks are clumsy when taking flight. They will use their long legs to leap wildly in to the air and begin to flap wildly so they can take off.

They are mostly seen walking along on the ground. Here they can find most of the foods they eat.

magpie lark (Grallina cyanoleuca)

Credit: Wayne Butterworth, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the magpie lark?

This species is considered common and is thought to be increasing across its range. The habitat degradation which is affecting other species in their range actually creates more suitable habitat for the magpie lark.

Humans also provide water needed for nest building in areas where they could previously have not survived.

Quick facts

Despite being named after the magpies and larks which they were familiar with by the European settler these animals are not magpies and are instead more closely related to the drongos. They are part of a group known as the monarchs.

They may also be known as the peewee as a result of their call. Other alternative names include the mudlark, Murray magpie or little magpie.

magpie lark (Grallina cyanoleuca)

Credit: JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/), CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Christiansen, P., 2019. Birds. London: Amber Books Ltd.

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

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

Birdsinbackyards.net. 2021. Magpie-lark | BIRDS in BACKYARDS. [online] Available at: <https://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Grallina-cyanoleuca> [Accessed 24 November 2021].

Miskelly, C.M. 2015 [updated 2017]. Magpie-lark. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Onlinewww.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

Backyard Buddies. 2021. Magpie-Lark. [online] Available at: <https://backyardbuddies.org.au/backyard-buddies/magpie-lark/> [Accessed 24 November 2021].

Bougoulan, N., 2021. Magpie-lark. [online] Oiseaux-birds.com. Available at: <http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-magpie-lark.html> [Accessed 24 November 2021].

BirdLife International. 2018. Grallina cyanoleucaThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22707425A131945945. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22707425A131945945.en. Downloaded on 24 November 2021.

Solutions, 2021. Magpie-lark – Australian Birds – photographs by Graeme Chapman. [online] Graemechapman.com.au. Available at: <https://www.graemechapman.com.au/library/viewphotos.php?c=324> [Accessed 24 November 2021].

Nt.gov.au. 2021. The Magpie Lark. [online] Available at: <https://nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/199953/magpie-lark.pdf> [Accessed 24 November 2021].

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