Australian Magpies … a brief note

Australian Magpies Cracticus tibicen are such ubiquitous birds that its easy to overlook their extraordinary character and beauty.

They are also one of the most studied of all Australian species. One of my favourite bird books is Bird Life, by Ian Rowley, a respected CSIRO scientist involved in some of the early studies of the species around Canberra and central New South Wales. In the book he recounts how researchers studied the behaviour and ecology of magpies before the advent of bird banding by recognising the unique patterns and marking of individual birds – what a feat!

Australian Magpies are a single species, with a number of different forms, or races, based on geography. In central Victoria we have the white-backed race, which readily hybridises with the black-backed form that occurs further north towards the Murray River. One short post does not do justice to this marvellous bird!

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Immature Australian Magpie, Newstead, 27th April 2016

Magpie2

Adult female Australian Magpie

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Adult male Australian Magpie

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In the male the white extends from the nape to the base of the tail (obscured here by folded wings)

3 responses to “Australian Magpies … a brief note

  1. Hi Geoff! Lovely post, thank you. One thing I have been finding interesting about the magpies is how we have the black-backed subspecies in the district also, and sometimes even an intermediate! I have seen the black-backed around Bradford and Maldon, and an intermediate form in Daylesford. I wonder if the white-backed will stay the most common form into the future?!

  2. Jennifer Pryce

    Hello,
    After a conversation on the weekend about magpie nests I have been trying to track down a poem I once read to my boys in an anthology about their straggly nature. I haven’t yet found it but any suggestions would be great. I did rediscover the Denis Glover’s beautifully sad poem along the way.

  3. Hi Geoff! Interesting to read your thoughts on varieties of magpie. I’d never noticed this before.

    Another interesting book on these clever birds is Gisela Kaplan’s Bird Minds. She’s been researching magpies for a long time and has many fascinating things to say about them. If you want a taster, I wrote a bit about it on my blog ( at https://berowrabackyard.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/bird-minds/ ). I was thinking about Kaplan’s ideas through the lens of butcherbirds – but they’re a member of the same family of course!

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