Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Australian Magpie.

The Australian Magpie is a largish, black and white bird, but the plumage pattern varies across its range. Its nape, upper tail and shoulder are white in males, grey in females. I’m not an expert on “Maggies”, but according to an article from the Web, across most of Australia, the remainder of the Maggies body is black, but in the south-east, centre, extreme south-west and Tasmania, the back and rump are entirely white. The eye of adult birds is chestnut brown.
Although I have only heard them referred to, as Magpies or “Maggies” apparently there is an uncommon alternative name for them as the “Flute Bird”, which refers to its loud musical flute-like song, often performed as a duet or by groups.
Another article described this song as “a beautiful "Warbling Carol" (carolling) which is heard across Australia every day in the bush, on farms and in Urban backyards They call for partners, and also to warn other birds this is their territory The notes become shorter when distressed, and a young magpies "begging for food" call is most insistent.”
They are common and conspicuous birds, 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. Groups of up to 24 birds live year round in territories that are actively defended by all members of the group. The group depends on this territory for all their feeding, roosting and nesting requirements.
The Magpie walks along the ground searching for insects and their larvae. Birds will also take handouts from humans and will often venture into open houses to beg for food.
Although the “Music “ from these birds is beautiful and they can become tamish, they are also quite aggressive at breeding season, and especially males who fiercely defend their nest and territories by basically dive bombing any perceived threat whether in the air on the ground including humans, sometimes resulting in a jab to the back of the head, or at the very least a huge fright. They prefer to wait until the quarry is not looking, so often the first you know of it is when wings are beating beside your ears.
Now you can get fuller and more complete information on our magpies by checking out the Web for yourself. All the above is for, is to try and set the scene a little for you if you have no idea of what a Maggie is, so that I can tell a few stories of our own backyard and magpies, in subsequent blogs.

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