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Australian Magpie

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3.5/5

(3 Reviews)


John O'Neill

Is the Australian Magpie right for you?

Species group:

Other common names:

Scientific name: Cracticus tibicen

The basics:
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.

Appearance:
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.

Weight:
227 - 340 grams (8 - 12 oz.)

Average Size:
38 - 43 centimeters (15 - 17 in.)

Lifespan:
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.

Housing:
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.

Diet:
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

Helpful Australian Magpie Review

Australian Magpie

From Oct 5 2013 3:36PM

4/5

Australian Magpie Health Tip

Australian Magpie

From Feb 22 2014 1:28AM

3.8/5

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