Australian Magpies

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Australian Magpie (Cracticus tibicen)

As all of the plants shut down and insects, lizards and mammals are no longer active due to the cold weather, this pair has made a regular appearance near the back-door each morning for the last week or so.

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Coming closer for their feed

They turn up at the same time and announce their arrival with a wonderful, carolling song.

You can listen to it here, as well as a brief description by David Attenborough.

The clip is only 2 minutes and gives a wonderful sense of what I hear each morning:

BBC Radio ‘Tweet of the Day’ : Australian Magpie

These relatives of the Butcher-Bird (unlike the European Magpie ours are not related to the crow) are calling me for a morning feed, and they now have me trained so well that I even bought cheese and mince for them at shopping!

Magpies are not timid birds: but over the course of the week they’ve come closer and closer for their breakfast…even venturing onto the covered porch:

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Cheese for breakfast

I have heard they will eat from your hand once they trust you sufficiently.

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Is this my best pose?

Many Australians don’t like Magpies as they are seen as aggressive towards people during mating season. You can watch a clip of it here:

You-tube video of Magpie attacking a cyclist

Now it is true in Spring that some male Magpies will dive-bomb passers-by who venture too close to their nests after the new chicks have hatched, but like many Australian birds, Magpies are very intelligent, social and live for 25 years.

I have only ever been attacked twice in almost 50 years, and it was when I was young.

New research has shown that they have a very good facial recognition: point in case the Magpie in the you-tube clip stopped the attack when the helmet was removed.

So, by feeding this pair, I’m hoping to ensure my protection in the garden come October, but at any rate, they feed on all sorts of garden pests so even if the male of the pair is prone to dive-bombing, for the other eleven months of the year they are very beneficial.

Happy Gardening 🙂

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43 thoughts on “Australian Magpies

  1. I’m not a proper Australian, yet. I haven’t fallen in love with magpies. Not because of their swooping tendencies, but because of their worm eating tendencies. My soil in Canberra was terrible; the house had just been built and I don’t think the plot had been cultivated for decades before that. I spent hours digging cow manure in and mulching and as soon as the first worms appeared, the magpies had every one. As soon as they saw my spade there would be five or six surrounding me picking the worms out. Infuriating!

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    • The birds that eat the worms always leave something behind that will encourage more worms. Earth worms unlike composting worms are seldom seen so I’m sure that they did not get ‘every one’.

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    • They love grubs of all descriptions. Mostly they go for lawn grubs and beetles in my garden, but I’m sure they were attracted by my clearing more of the grass away for a future garden bed!

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  2. When I was in boarding school in Maitland the Dads of the day girls would come with shotguns to shoot the diving magpies every spring. It used to be an exciting event in the school calendar; we were all bored senseless. They can’t do that today, of course.

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  3. Great post, I enjoyed listening to the Magpie song, which reminded me a little of flutes. I have been divebombed by our redwing blackbirds when I got too close to their nests, but your magpies look much more lethal.
    ,

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  4. Our English magpies are very timid. It is of course spring here, and we are currently entertained by the bigger birds attempting to reach suet balls. A pigeon and a magpie are battling for supremacy, and the pigeon is winning. Both disappear when the rooks arrive.

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    • It’s cute to think that a Magpie is being beaten by a pigeon: that would never happen here, during mating season, these birds take on all sorts of animals many, many times larger than themselves!

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  5. I was totally unaware of the “Tweet of the Day” – thanks!  By the way, David Attenborough is the best; I have almost all of his nature series’ on DVD and refuse to even consider watching the American-dubbed versions.

    You have such fascinating birds (and animals) in Australia!

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    • Thanks! The ‘tweet of the day’ came from Christina over at myhesperidesgarden…before that I had just found clips on you-tube, but this one show cases hundreds of different birds from around world 🙂

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  6. I have a “thing” about magpies. I adore them. When we lived in W.A. we had a crew of the little thugs that would visit us every day for bread, cheese, mince, anything that we had going really. We started out throwing a bit of bread out for a trio of crows that were hopping around in our garden. The maggies must have seen the free feed on offer from the lofty heights of their tall pine trees not too far away and decided to check it out. Within a few months we went from one or two of them strutting around on the garden wall to them bringing their babies to be crammed full of mince. The second generation were not so timid. They came to the front door and the lounge room window and tapped when they wanted something to eat. When we moved to Tassie we found out that Tassie maggies are a very different species to mainland maggies and they are pretty timid. We tried to lure a few down to take bread but they tended to stay away when we lived in the city. We ended up with a flock of noisy minor birds (the Aussie natives, not the imported Indian minor) that were better than any alarm clock invented for waking you up at the crack of dawn 😉

    When we moved out to the country I figured that we should be able to entice the maggies again but alas, they really are timid here and so we have to make do with currawongs prancing up and down our deck railing in search of cheese cubes and insects on the outside of our house. There is something quintessentially “Aussie” about magpies singing. They sing because they are happy and their song brings out the best in me. I used to walk at dawn and would stop near a house in the city where a magpie would, most mornings, be singing in the sunrise. It was almost a religious moment just me, and that magpie rejoicing the new day.

    Just a little note about the maggies and the dive bombing. In Albany W.A. we had the whole crew of maggies from the pine trees down for regular feeds. EVERYONE else in the street was divebombed except us. We could walk down the street with complete immunity where our neighbours were swooped mercilessly. Seems like you are the clever one Matt 😉

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    • Thanks! I didn’t know the Tassie magpies were timid…that is such a shame. I love the song of the Magpies, it is so happy. I’m 100% convinced that the Magpies can tell people apart easily and will never dive-bomb someone who they think is a friend – hopefully they nest in one of the taller trees in the garden and then I’ll have immunity for generations to come 🙂

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  7. Really lovely post Matt, what an interesting bird this is, sounds like a grand plan to feed them too. We were dive bombed by Terns last year as we were too near their ground nests, it really hurts!

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  8. And I thought the birds here were agressive – they have nothing on your magpies! That’s a remarkable song; I’ve never heard anything like the mellowness and range – not in a bird song! Our songbirds tend to trill or warble. Here’s hoping your magpies stay friendly and keep your garden free of pests 🙂

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    • They have such a lovely song, but honestly, so many birds in Australia have such melodic bird-song, that the heavens are rarely silent. The absence of bird-song is one of the first things I notice whenever I travel overseas.

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  9. European magpies are know as thieves because they take shiny objects to decorate their nests; they have been known to take diamond rings from bathroom windowsills but more usually foil or silver paper.

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  10. patsquared2 says:

    Of course we don’t have magpies here in PA but we do have mockingbirds who willingly attack cats and dogs who “get too close” and actually peck nice round holes in them when the dive bomb. Beautiful bird and beautiful song!

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  11. Another great post! I do enjoy your blog so much. Butcher Bird is an ominous name. Your birds are so interesting and exotic to my eyes…and ears, today. I was attacked by blue jays once. It was my own fault, I was trimming a hedge. I didn’t realize they had a nest in there. Ouch

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  12. What cool birds! Thanks for the links, I really enjoyed both the song and the helmet experiment. Reminds me of a line from the poem ‘Terra Australis’ by James McCauley:
    There you come home; the magpies call you Jack
    And whistle like larrikins at you from the trees.

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  13. Hi, I once tried to go to the rescue of a young magpie which was caught in some wire netting and was mercilessly attacked by its protective parents. Luckily, my aunt came to the rescue of myself and the young magpie. She was left unscathed by the adults which she regularly fed. Apparently they knew the saying about not biting the hand which feeds you.

    In this region of Victoria, the male magpies have a white back. The calls of the local magpies are just as melodious.

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    • Their attack is merciless when they feel threatened – I’m hoping that by giving them food that they’ll leave me alone this October…although we’ve had very low temps for about two weeks (between -5C & -9C most mornings) and I haven’t seen them at all….maybe they have gone closer to the coast where it is warmer to nest.

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