I’ve had this set of photos waiting for several months until I found the time to post them. I finally got around to it.
I observed the male Australian Magpie shown in the photos in our garden one sunny day. I can’t remember how hot it was, but I was intrigued by the bird’s behaviour. It was quite unconcerned by my presence a few metres away, but this is not unusual. Our resident magpies are quite used to us moving about the garden, and although they are still a little wary, they will come quite close.
This one stayed almost in the one spot over about five minutes while I took the series of photos shown here. It did some preening of its feathers, but it also appeared to be sunning itself. Sunning behaviour is quite common in many Australian species. I have most commonly seen it in various species of pigeons and doves. Sometimes I’ve also seen it in association with sand bathing; House Sparrows often do this.
One of my reference books records instances where the wings of magpies can stretch above the head until touching during sunbathing behaviour. The bird I observed only briefly opened the wings.
These photos were taken mid morning. Many species will use sunning behaviour first thing on cold mornings. I guess we all need a good stretch and warming up on a cold morning.
Update Feb 29th, 2016: It is thought that birds probably sunbathe to rid their plumage of lice. Read the article Sunny Side Up for a long discussion on this.
I have seen this sunbathing behaviour in the following species: Crested Pigeon, Spotted Turtledove, House Sparrows, Red Wattlebirds, and Noisy Miners.
I have since written another article about this behaviour called Topsy the Crested Pigeon.