Animal Species:Australian Magpie

The Australian Magpie has one of the world's most complex bird songs.


Australian Magpie

Australian Magpie
Photographer: G Little © Australian Museum

Standard Common Name

Australian Magpie


The Australian Magpie is black and white, but the plumage pattern varies across its range. Its nape, upper tail and shoulder are white in males, grey in females. 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. The eye of adult birds is chestnut brown.

Size range

36 cm to 44 cm

Similar Species

Pied Butcherbird, Magpie-lark


Australian Magpies are common and conspicuous birds. Groups of up to 24 birds live year round in territories that are actively defended by all group members. The group depends on this territory for its feeding, roosting and nesting requirements.


Australian Magpies 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.

Feeding and Diet

The Australian 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.


A loud musical flute-like song, often performed as a duet or by groups. An uncommon alternative name for the Australian Magpie is Flute Bird.

Mating and reproduction

Although the Australian Magpie is generally quite tame, during the breeding season some individuals become aggressive towards any intruders, including humans, which venture too close to their nest sites. Peak breeding season is August through to November. The nest is a platform of sticks and twigs (occasionally wire), with a small interior bowl lined with grass and hair. The nest is constructed in the outer branches of a tree, up to 15 m above the ground.

Economic/social impacts

Some Australian Magpies can be very aggressive during breeding season and attacks on humans and pets can occur.




What does this mean?

Ondine Evans , Web Researcher/Editor
Last Updated:

Tags BIBY, bird, birds, Australian, magpie, identification,


Walkingzebra - 8.11 AM, 17 November 2011
We have a magpie couple who breed and visit us with their young every year. this year the first nesting produced two babies which disappeared. we have now found that our magpies have built a second nest and now have a new set of young. have you ever heard of magpies nesting and producing young twice in the one season?
Jaynia Sladek - 12.11 PM, 01 November 2010

Yes, they are really intelligent birds and you are correct in saying that not all magpies attack. It tends to be male birds who attack, and they can quickly come to recognise individual people. Preferred targets seem to be joggers, cyclists and the poor old postie on his/her bike. Attacks aside, I find them to be a generally very charming species.

creaturecomfort - 4.10 PM, 29 October 2010
I love the Aussie Magpie. They are only aggressive when they have a nest with eggs or young and will usually only attack instinctively, i have had a few nest in trees in my grandmother's backyard and they are surprisingly intelligent birds. Once they realise that you are a permanent fixture in their habitat and you are no threat, they are fine and rarely attack. *Though i guess ever animal has it's own personality. They have had 3 different families now, at first they would try to steal the catfood, so i figured that i wouldn't be making the situation much worse by feeding them scraps and leftovers in a different area to where the cat eats. They would only come occasionally and/or only when they had young, obviously loving meat scraps. Anyway, very gentle, smart birds as long as you treat them correctly.

Report misuse