he Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) is a black and white passerine bird native to Australia and southern New Guinea. Although once considered to be three separate species, it is now considered to be one, with nine recognised subspecies. A member of the Artamidae, the Australian magpie is placed in its own genus Gymnorhina and is most closely related to the black butcherbird (Melloria quoyi). It is not closely related to the European magpie, which is a corvid.
The adult Australian magpie is a fairly robust bird ranging from 37 to 43 cm (14.5 to 17 in) in length, with black and white plumage, gold brown eyes and a solid wedge-shaped bluish-white and black bill. The male and female are similar in appearance, but can be distinguished by differences in back markings. The male has pure white feathers on the back of the head and the female has white blending to grey feathers on the back of the head. With its long legs, the Australian magpie walks rather than waddles or hops and spends much time on the ground.
Described as one of Australia's most accomplished songbirds, the Australian magpie has an array of complex vocalisations. It is omnivorous, with the bulk of its varied diet made up of invertebrates. It is generally sedentary and territorial throughout its range. Common and widespread, it has adapted well to human habitation and is a familiar bird of parks, gardens and farmland in Australia and New Guinea. This species is commonly fed by households around the country, but in spring (and occasionally in autumn) a small minority of breeding magpies (almost always males) become aggressive, swooping and attacking those who approach their nests. Research has shown that magpies can recognise at least 100 different people, and may be less likely to swoop individuals they have befriended.
Over 1000 Australian magpies were introduced into New Zealand from 1864 to 1874, but have subsequently been accused of displacing native birds and are now treated as a pest species. Introductions also occurred in the Solomon Islands and Fiji, where the birds are not considered an invasive species. The Australian magpie is the mascot of several Australian and New Zealand sporting teams, including the Collingwood Magpies, the Western Suburbs Magpies, Port Adelaide Magpies and, in New Zealand, the Hawke's Bay Magpies.