"Maggie! The Black and White Beauty!"
Generally quite tame and afraid of little is our Magpie!
The Australian Magpie is a black and white beauty, is afraid of little and will be seen just about everywhere on the streets, parks and gardens, they are very common and conspicuous.
The Magpie can be distinguished by its colours, the birds head belly and tail tip are all black there are splashes of white on its back, head, wing tips and tail, the Magpie has a bluish, grey beak black legs and the birds eye's are brown.
Because of the Magpie's lack of fear and the bird's appetite for insect pests, it is very popular with gardeners. Magpies feed on ground level insects ants, spiders and smallish animals. A known favourite is the scarab beetle, which happens to be a major garden and lawn pest. They are also known to eat lizards, small frogs and human meat scraps and some grains.
Magpies have a social structure They are a little like people in away as the live in groups or flocks from 10 to 25 birds and they are territorial and cover areas up to around 8 hectors.
They will vigorously defend there territory against other magpies as this is the area is there food source. You will find them in areas where there are plenty of trees that they can use for shelter and nest and rear their young. Magpies nest between August and October they like the taller tress. The female bird always selects the nesting place and puts the home nest together, she incubates the eggs feeds the young.
During the nesting, the birds protection urge become very strong, it guards its territory like no other time, protecting the eggs and young from attack. They are known swoopers, often believing when humans pass they are invading there territory. Magpies rely largely on intimidating there intruders. They fly from there tree positions swooping low and fast over the person and clack their bill as they swoop by. The sound of their wings whistling is like a water ski on smooth water as they past and the movement of air can be alarming.
Magpies seem sense fear and will go on further with more swooping. Usually they come from behind and it is not until they are upon the person do they relise what is happening. A threatening gesture with a hat, stick will usually make the bird go back to the nest. The birds only swoop on people during the relatively short period of the nesting season, and they are great bluffers.
With all that said they are an Australian protected bird and one of our favourites.
Photo courtesy of Jon Walton