Australian Magpies are one of the most recognisable of Australian birds. They are common over large parts of Australia.
They are also highly territorial, and in the breeding season they can be very aggressive towards other magpies, other bird species, and, on occasions, towards humans. Their swoop – usually from behind and usually unexpected – can be quite terrifying to some people. They have been know to even draw blood if contact is made with vulnerable parts such as the head. Cyclists seem to attract swooping magpies far more than pedestrians, for some reason.
About this time of the year, however, they generally have not yet started nesting. Now is the time to reinforce their territorial claims, chasing one another in wild, noisy conflicts. I witnessed the start of this only a few days ago in our mallee scrub. Our five acre patch of scrub is the junction of three different magpie territories; the boundaries are fiercely defended. On the positive side, “our” resident magpies never swoop, for which we are thankful.
On my evening walk yesterday I heard the distinctive warning call of a male magpie, one whose territory is about a kilometre from our home. I looked up, and was interested to see a partially constructed nest in the tree over head. This particular bird is aggressive towards humans, so I’ll have to be careful walking along that part of the road in the coming weeks.
Yesterday I wrote about a family of Australian Magpies that joined us for afternoon tea in a roadside rest area south east of Mildura. Today I include several more photos taken at that time.
You can buy a photo of a magpie on a coffee mug – click here.
Sydney Trip June 2011
Over recent days I’ve been writing about the birds seen on the return trip from a holiday with family in Sydney. Today I want to show a series of photos taken at the Malleefowl Rest Area south east of Mildura. we had stopped for an afternoon cuppa and a light snack of biscuits. we had just sat down at the picnic table and we were immediately accosted by a family of Australian Magpies (ssp black backed), including several juveniles from last season’s breeding.
The whole family gathered on and around the table waiting for handouts of whatever food we had in our picnic basket. I guess they are used to being fed generously by any humans who happen to drop in to their domain. If we hadn’t been smart about covering the biscuit tin they would have helped themselves.
I took the opportunity to get some very close up photos of the magpies as they sat nearby or on the table less than a metre from me. Some – like the one above – are decidedly nasty looking.
Tomorrow I’ll show several more photos.
You can buy one of my photos of a magpie on a coffee mug – click here.
Over recent weeks we have been eagerly awaiting the hatching of the baby Australian magpies in two nests in our garden. The fact that we have two nests is exciting because this is the first time in the last 25 years we’ve had two active nests on our 5 acre property.
A few weeks ago we heard the constant squawking of the young for food, so we knew it was just a matter of time before the youngsters headed out into the wild world. Several days ago I was suddenly aroused from my concentration on my writing by a bang on the window no more than a metre from my shoulder. A baby magpie – fresh out of the nest – was perched precariously on the frame of the window. When I reached for my camera it flew off to another part of the garden. When I say “flew” I actually mean it was undertaking some sort of barely controlled flapping and squawking one could loosely call “flying”.
I was able to approach the baby to within two metres with dad right next to me – quite unconcerned. I find it wonderful that they never swoop us or get concerned by our presence nearby. In fact, they will often approach us when we are gardening, looking for worms and other tasty morsels we might dig up. Wonderful.
Over recent weeks we’ve been watching an Australian Magpie’s nest on our property (see photo below). This nest has been used by the same pair of birds over the last 4 or 5 years. Each year they just refurbish it a little before settling down to the important job of raising a family.
Last week we were working in the garden and watched with delight as the adult birds strutted around where we were working, looking for tasty morsels and then flying straight to the nest to feed the newly hatched young. Each visit resulted in excited squawks from the hungry young.
I was very surprised to find out a few days later that we actually had another nest with young magpies barely 50 metres from the other. To have two active magpie nests within such close proximity has never happened before on our property in the last 25 years. All I can surmise is that there has been a very drastic realignment of the local magpie territories over the last year.
And we are so pleased that none of them swoop us while they are nesting.