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A photo of a Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen)
Australian Magpie

Australian Magpie

Gymnorhina tibicen

The Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) is a medium-sized passerine bird native to Australia and southern New Guinea, with a presence in New Zealand due to introduction. It is a member of the Artamidae family and is placed in its own genus, Gymnorhina. The species is not closely related to the European magpie, which is a corvid. Adult Australian magpies are robust birds, measuring 37 to 43 cm in length, with distinctive black and white plumage, gold brown eyes, and a solid bluish-white and black bill. The male and female are similar but can be differentiated by the markings on their backs.

Identification Tips

The Australian magpie can be identified by its black and white plumage, with males having pure white feathers on the back of the head and females having white blending to grey. They have long legs and walk rather than waddle or hop, spending much time on the ground.

Habitat

Australian magpies are common in parks, gardens, and farmland, adapting well to human habitation. They prefer open areas with scattered trees or forests nearby.

Distribution

This species is widespread across Australia and New Guinea, and has been introduced to New Zealand. It is also present in the Solomon Islands and Fiji.

Behaviour

Australian magpies are generally sedentary and territorial. They are known for their complex social structures and can recognize individual humans. A small minority may become aggressive during breeding season, swooping and attacking those who approach their nests.

Song & Calls

Described as accomplished songbirds, Australian magpies have a wide array of complex vocalizations, including the ability to mimic over 35 species of birds and even human speech.

Breeding

Magpies breed between June and September in northern Australia and from August to January in cooler regions. They build bowl-shaped nests high in tree forks, with the female constructing the nest and laying two to five light blue or greenish eggs.

Similar Species

The Australian magpie is distinct and unlikely to be confused with other species. The pied butcherbird, magpie-lark, and currawongs have different plumage and behaviors.

Diet and Feeding

They are omnivorous, with a diet consisting mainly of invertebrates, but also including small animals and various plant materials. They forage on the ground, using their bills to probe the soil.

Conservation status

The Australian magpie is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, with a stable and possibly increasing population due to land-clearing.

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