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Species Guide
A photo of a Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca), male
Magpie-lark, Male


Grallina cyanoleuca

The magpie-lark, known colloquially as the wee magpie, peewee, peewit, mudlark, or Murray magpie, is a passerine bird adorned in a striking black and white plumage. This species, described by John Latham in 1801, is a small to medium-sized bird, comparable in size to the European common blackbird. Males and females are similarly pied but can be distinguished by their throat color and the presence or absence of a white "eyebrow."

Identification Tips

Upon closer inspection, the magpie-lark reveals sexual dimorphism in its plumage. The male boasts a black throat and a distinctive white eyebrow, while the female's throat is white. Juveniles and immature birds share the female's white throat and the male's black eyestripe, with a white belly completing their youthful attire.


The magpie-lark thrives in a variety of environments, from urban to rural landscapes. It is a familiar sight, often seen perched on telephone wires or patrolling open ground, such as foreshores or swamps.


This species is widespread across Australia, with the exception of Tasmania and some desert regions. It also resides in southern New Guinea and Timor and has been introduced to Lord Howe Island.


Magpie-larks are carnivorous, feeding on a range of small creatures. They are known for their territorial nature, often seen in pairs marking their domain with high-pitched calls. These birds can be aggressive defenders of their territory, even against larger species and occasionally humans.

Song & Calls

The magpie-lark engages in a fascinating behavior known as duet singing, where pairs produce notes in such coordination that it can be difficult to discern that two birds are singing instead of one.


Pairs of magpie-larks typically mate for life and share the responsibility of constructing their mud nests, often near water. They breed opportunistically, with the timing influenced by regional conditions. Both parents incubate the eggs, and while multiple broods are common, not all chicks may survive due to space constraints in the nest.

Similar Species

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Diet and Feeding

The magpie-lark's diet consists of various small creatures, and it has adapted well to different habitats, benefiting from human-altered landscapes such as agricultural areas.

Conservation status

The magpie-lark is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating a stable population without significant threats at present.

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