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Australian Magpie (adolescent)

Cracticus tibicen


The Australian Magpie is a medium-sized black and white passerine bird native to Australia and southern New Guinea. A member of the Cracticidae, it is closely related to the Butcherbirds. The adult Australian Magpie is a fairly robust bird ranging from 37 to 43cms (14.5–17 in) in length, with distinctive black and white plumage, chestnut brown eyes and a solid wedge-shaped bluish-white and black bill. The male and female are similar in appearance, and can be distinguished by differences in back markings. Its nape, upper tail and shoulder are white in males, grey in females. Juveniles also have the grey nape. Across most of Australia, the remainder of the body is black. In the south-east, centre, extreme south-west and Tasmania, the back and rump are entirely white. With its long legs, the Australian Magpie walks rather than waddles or hops and spends much time on the ground searching for insects and their larvae. These birds will also take handouts from humans and will often venture into open houses to beg for food. The young guy in this photo is doing just that, not that the Magpies are fed that often. He's one of several birds that visits my Mum's garden in Sydney. NB: He could also be a she. I can only tell when they reach adulthood. It's only then that a fully mature male's nape will turn completely white.


Australian Magpies are common and conspicuous birds. A group (called a 'tiding') of up to 24 birds lives year round in its territory which is actively defended by all members, although I saw one group a couple of years ago near Bangalow in northern NSW that would have been closer to 40 birds, possibly more. It was like a town meeting! The group depends on this territory for its feeding, roosting and nesting requirements, and they can be quite aggressive during the nesting period. These birds are found wherever there is a combination of trees and adjacent open areas, including parks and playing fields. They are absent only from the densest forests and arid deserts. They are very common in suburbia, cities and towns alike.


I adore Maggies! They are intelligent, inquisitive, bold, playful, and comical. I have watched many a young bird grow into adulthood, and they always seem to remember me and know I am friendly. They display an expression and posture of recognition, and when they look at me and tilt their head to the side, it's almost as if they're summing me up. I also love them because they peck people they don't like, dive-bombing from above during nesting season (secret snigger hehe - nature fighting back!) They have never done that to me... ever, but the poor postman cops a hiding sometimes. I've travelled and lived abroad on many occasions, but when returning to Australia and hearing the native bird calls again is always a most welcoming and comforting sound. The Magpie's song is one of my favourites, along with the Butcherbirds and Kookaburras. It's always a reminder to me that I am home once again. (The video is one I found on YouTube. Have a listen).

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Neil Ross
Spotted by
Neil Ross

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Spotted on Feb 27, 2012
Submitted on May 2, 2013

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