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.
Last week I travelled from home in Murray Bridge to attend a meeting in Adelaide. I take the South-eastern Freeway and this takes me through the Adelaide Hills. I generally take quite an interest in the birds seen along the way, noting that more and more frequently I am seeing the wonderful Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos flying overhead.
On this occasion, however, I saw two – perhaps a pair – of Wedge-tailed Eagles soaring low over the freeway. This magnificent species – Australia’s largest eagle – is widespread throughout the country without being very common anywhere.
As is quite usual both birds were being harassed by other species, including Australian Magpies and Little Ravens. While they might be lovely birds, they are generally not loved birds; at least, not in the bird kingdom.
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.
Sydney Trip Report June 2011
On the first day of our journey home we stopped briefly in the Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens for an afternoon cuppa and toilet break, a spot we’ve enjoyed on other occasions. The large rural city of Wagga Wagga is worth a longer stay than just a half hour or so. I’d really like to explore this lovely city and the region in more depth one day. We always seem to be in a rush somewhere when we go through this area. [Sigh]
One this occasion it was quite late in the afternoon, still cold and cloudy and we still had about an hour’s drive to our accommodation for the night in Narrandera further west. I didn’t have much time for birding nor photography, though I did get some nice shots of Australian Magpies and Grevilleas (native Australian plants).
Other birds seen included:
- Pied Currawong,
- Rainbow Lorikeets,
- White-plumed Honeyeaters,
- Red Wattlebirds,
- Crested Pigeons,
Yesterday I wrote about the birds I saw while having a picnic lunch on our way to a short holiday on Yorke Peninsula last week. We stopped at the Whispering Wall, the retaining dam of the Barossa Reservoir between Williamstown and Gawler in the Barossa Valley.While we were eating our lunch a male Australian Magpie came up quite close to us. I guess it was used to getting a free lunch from people using the picnic grounds. It was out of luck with us, however.