Interesting Magpies at Lameroo

Male Black-backed Magpie at Lameroo, South Australia

Sydney Trip Report June 2011

The various races of Australian Magpies make a fascinating – albeit confusing – study. Here in Murray Bridge, South Australia, the magpies are almost all of the White-backed variety. The further one drives east, the Black-backed magpies become the dominant race until over in Victoria and into NSW they are all Black-backed Magpies. Travelling north into Queensland or south into Victoria and the races (and amounts of black v. white change). Travel to Western Australia and the races change again. It can be quite confusing , especially when the races interbreed. Layer upon this the colour variations of juveniles and you have a recipe for a headache trying to identify which race you are seeing.

On our trip to Sydney earlier this year we stopped for morning tea at Lameroo in eastern South Australia. In the picnic grounds of Lake Roberts I took the photos on this post of a nicely coloured male Black-backed Magpie (see above and below). Interestingly, it was accompanying a White-backed female (see photo below). They were feeding together. I wish I was visiting Lameroo in the coming weeks to see if these two individuals breed together, or are just being sociable (as magpies are known to do).

Special offer: A few months ago I reviewed a wonderful book about Australian Magpies called The fearsome flute players. You can read the review and order the book by clicking here. There is a special offer when you mention you heard about the book on Trevor’s Birding.

Male Black-backed Magpie (left) with female White-backed Magpie (right)

Male Black-backed Magpie at Lameroo, South Australia

Male Black-backed Magpie at Lameroo, South Australia


Some birds can be destructive

Female Australian Magpie gathering nesting material from a mat

From a human point of view, some birds are destructive. Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are well known for taking to woodwork around houses in some parts of Australia. Many species enjoy eating fruit in orchards (like the Mallee Ringnecks that eat our lovely pears – before they are ripe). Galahs, Cockatoos and Corellas can destroy an almond crop and Ravens and Crows steal eggs from chook yards. Honeyeaters, Silvereyes and Lorikeets enjoy grapes and the list can go on.

My recent experience is amusing rather than annoying. Little Ravens and Australian Magpies have been ‘borrowing’ fibres from a mat on our back veranda (see photo above). This mat is for wiping our boots as we come in from the garden. As you can see in the photo, the mat has definitely seen better days and is near the end of its useful life. It’s therefore good to see that it is being reused as nesting material. We’re really into recycling and reusing in a big way so obviously the magpies have been learning from us.

Good birding.

By the way: if you’d like to learn more about Australian Magpies, I can recommend an excellent book called The fearsome flute players. It is both informative and entertaining; you’ll laugh out loud at some of the antics these lovely birds can get up to and are recorded in this book. To order click here – and there is a special deal for readers of Trevor’s Birding.

Magpies like flowers

Australian Magpie on our back veranda

We always enjoy having a family of Australian Magpies in our garden. They are friendly and never swoop or attack us, even at the height of the breeding season. They strut around the garden as if they own it – which I guess is how they view it. This is their territory; we are the aliens. When we dig up the garden they are there immediately to catch any worms or beetles that are unearthed. When I mow the grass they follow the mower for insects like grasshoppers.

They are also very sociable and will join us for morning tea or lunch on the back veranda. They casually walk around our chairs less than a metre away, quite unafraid of our presence. We think that’s wonderful. They also leave evidence that they visit our chairs and table when we are not there. Several days ago I was passing the glass sliding door leading out to the veranda and saw this magpie perched on one of our chairs.

Was it admiring the flowers in the pot on the table?

Not sure. Perhaps it was watching to see if any insects were buzzing around. Whatever the reason it made a great photo.

If you want to learn more about Australian Magpies, I can recommend a great little book about them. The fearsome flute players (click here) is an excellent read, and there is a special offer if you mention you read about it here on Trevor’s Birding.

Australian Magpie on our back veranda

Australian Magpies on a hot day

Australian Magpies sitting in the bird bath on a hot day (43C or 109F)

As I write this article the temperature has just topped 43C (109F) under our back veranda. I haven’t seen or heard many birds all morning which is understandable. As we were having lunch we watched three of our resident Australian Magpies sitting in the bird baths. They came to sit in the water and occasionally have a sip of water.

Before lunch I filled a bucket of fresh rainwater to top up three of the bird baths we have in our garden. The magpies shown in these photos moved only about a metre away while I tipped in the water. They obviously were too hot to move further away. As soon as I left they were back in the water again and have stayed there for the last few hours. Can’t say I blame them. It’s mighty hot out there.

During lunch the only other birds to come for a drink were a solitary Crested Pigeon and one Australian Magpie Lark. I’m not sure where all the other birds are holed up against the oppressive conditions. Usually there is a steady procession of honeyeaters (at least 5 species), thornbills (2 species), pardalotes (2 species), sparrows, parrots (3 species) and doves.

For a complete list of species that have visited our bird baths, click here.

Australian Magpie sitting in the bird bath on a hot day (43C or 109F)

Australian Magpie sitting in the bird bath on a hot day (43C or 109F)

Clever Magpie

One of our resident magpies gave us a good laugh yesterday. It was cold and wintry – despite it being in the middle of spring according to the calendar. The wind was bitterly cold and the rain was pelting down. Said magpie was spied sheltering underneath our car in the driveway. I guess any car in a storm is good. It was too far and dark to get a photo – so here’s one I prepared when the sun was shining.

Australian Magpie, Victor Harbor, South Australia