Cracticus (Gymnorhina) tibicen Click to enlarge image
Australian Magpie Image: D Rowland
© D Rowland

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    tibicen
    Genus
    Gymnorhina
    Family
    Artamidae
    Order
    Passeriformes
    Class
    Aves
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    36 cm to 44 cm

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

Identification

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.

Habitat

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.

Distribution

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.



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.

Communication

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.

Breeding behaviours

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 impacts

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