Species group: Exotic Songbirds
Other common names:
Scientific name: Cracticus tibicen
The Australian Magpie is a striking black-and-white bird found throughout Australia and New Guinea. There are nine recognized subspecies of this bold and hardy songbird. Despite the name and patterned markings, the Australian Magpie is more closely related to the butcherbirds than to the classic Eurasian Magpie or the familiar magpies of western North America. There is still some debate about its proper scientific name, and you may sometimes find it called Gymnorhina tibicen.
This opportunistic ground feeder consumes lots of scarab beetles, a common lawn pest. Therefore, human settlement has allowed this species to increase its population.
During the breeding season, territorial males have been known to attack humans. Running or bicycling too near an active nest may sometimes stimulate the urge to attack. The government of New South Wales, Australia advises people to get off their bikes and walk through an area where Australian Magpies are nesting. Keep your helmet and goggles on to protect your head and eyes. Despite its aggressiveness, the species is protected and widely admired because of its high consumption of agricultural pests.
They are relatively rare in captivity. As an aggressive softbilled species, the Australian Magpie poses some challenges as a pet or aviary bird that usually makes them a choice only for more experienced bird owners. Because the singing males are so widely regarded for their talent, Australians may entice them to visit their property by offering food to wild birds. But there are legal restrictions on keeping this species in captivity, so always check with your local wildlife authorities before choosing an Australian Magpie.
In early 2013, the Toledo Zoo reported on what they believed to be the first breeding of this species in an American zoo in many years. The young Australian Magpies were hatched in an incubator and hand-fed by humans to achieve this success.
The adult male Australian Magpie is a striking black-and-white patterned bird with a bold red eye. Depending on the subspecies, females and juveniles can have varying touches of gray.
227 - 340 grams (8 - 12 oz.)
38 - 43 centimeters (15 - 17 in.)
20 - 30 years
Behavior / temperament:
The Australian Magpie is bold, sings freely, and sometimes even learns to mimic sounds like barking dogs or human speech. However, the challenges of keeping a feisty predatory bird means that most people will be better off enjoying this talented species as a wild bird rather than a pet. Some breeding males are downright dangerous and have been reported to attack human heads or eyes.
Australian Magpies are extremely aggressive and territorial in breeding season, with males known to attack humans as well as any competing males or other bird species. Expect to provide the pair or family group with its own large well-planted aviary.
Australian Magpies are considered omnivorous, but their wild diet is extremely high in prey items caught on the ground including insects like scarab beetles, lizards, frogs, eggs, and other small animals in addition to some fruits, berries, and grains. Expect the diet to be expensive compared to feeding a seed-eating songbird like a canary. The Toronto Zoo has published an Australian Magpie diet that includes pinkie mice, their own carnivore's meat diet, mealworms, crickets, and hard-boiled eggs, in addition to rather exotic vegetarian fare like figs and pesto.
Written by Elaine Radford
Max the Magpie
Here's a review of an unusual pet. Most people would not keep a Magpie as a pet because they are wild birds. It might not even be legal to keep one as a pet in Australia today - I don't know. It's a native bird, black and white in color and they are found in abundance all over Australia.
Max landed at my neighbors home one day and it seemed he didn't want to leave. So my neighbor began feeding him with eggs and commercial dog food. Not knowing what to do with this bird we somehow ended up taking it in. I was only a young child at the time.
It was quite a funny sight. We had a dog, a cat and a magpie and they would all sit with us on the front porch in the late afternoons. Imagine, a bird and a cat calmly sitting next to each other.
Max seemed to enjoy our company. He would do a few tricks like rolling golf balls and picking up small twigs and dropping them on us.
Every evening just before dusk Max would fly in from far away. He would spend the evening with us in the garden and sometimes fly to the local park when we took the dog for a walk. When the dog and cat had their dinner, Max would also have some meat and he loved a boiled egg. At night he would sleep in a small basket that we placed on top of the washing machine. He was quite content in the laundry which seems very odd for a native bird.
Each morning Max would wake up and we let him outside. He would occasionally come back inside and sit around the table on the top of a chair and watch us eat breakfast. Max would also have some breakfast and then he would hang around with us for a while. Sometimes he would walk around in the garden and pick up worms or bugs? Other times he would sit up in the trees and occasionally come and swoop down at us. This was his game and he did it to us all, even the dog and cat. He never hurt us though, he was just playing.
Eventually, after his little morning ritual and game, Max would circle over us a little while and then fly out of sight. We never really knew if we would see him again, but each evening he would come back. Well, for about two years he kept coming back and then one night he never returned. We waited and waited but there was no Max. We kept waiting for days and weeks, but Max just didn't return.
We don't know what happened to our friend Max. Did he have a mishap, did he find a special lady magpie or did he just die? We missed him terribly and not knowing what happened or why he didn't come back anymore is the most difficult. That was almost 40 years ago and I still haven't stopped thinking about Max or wondering what happened.
Magpies are sometimes thought of as pests in Australia because there are so many of them. They can cause a lot of destruction to crops and they are also very noisy birds. During the spring months while it's their breeding season they can also be very fierce and they have often attacked small animals and children if they come too close to their nesting areas. The magpies will swoop and they attack people's eyes and many children have been blinded from magpie attacks.
I think it was just very strange that we happened to have a magpie for a pet. I don't think I would recommend a magpie for a pet but we had fun with Max while he was with us. Max just wasn't your normal magpie.
A couple of years ago I saw something very strange that I had never seen before. At first it appeared that two magpies were fighting over territory. Then all of a sudden one just dropped down to the ground and lay completely still on its back. It looked as if it was dead, but it wasn't. The other bird came and stood next to it. The bird on the ground continued to lay still like that for several minutes.
I have a photo but it might not be too good. Also, got one of a magpie so you can all see what they look like..
From Misteri Oct 5 2013 3:36PM
Maggie the Magpie
About 18 months ago, while taking our daughter to the park to ride her bike we found a baby magpie that appeared to either have fallen or been kicked out of it's nest. It was mostly bald and looked to be in a pretty bad way. My daughter insisted that we bring it home so we did and we have been looking after it ever since. Of course she decided that it would be named Maggie.
I believe that it is illegal to keep magpies as pets here in Australia so it is our intention to try to release Maggie when she is healthy and fit enough.
We've been feeding Maggie bread soaked in milk with a little bit of mince from the pet store. Apparently they need quite a lot of calcium or their legs wont grow strong enough. We got some calcium powder and sprinkle a bit on her food.
At first we kept her in a cage, more for her own protection than anything but she improved steadily, getting stronger week by week. We now let her out of the cage, inside the house to exercise and she seems quite intelligent and inquisitive. I've read that magpies are quite good mimics although Maggie isn't talking just yet.
We've taken her to the vet and he assures us that she has no broken bones and is relatively healthy so we have recently started keeping her cage outside. Eventually our plan is to just leave the cage door open and let her decide if she's ready to leave. I've read about people taking this approach with great success and some even having the magpie return to visit..
From lewiansto Feb 22 2014 1:28AM