A little about the Backyard Australian Magpie that we have discovered over the years of having them visit us.
The Australian Magpies are a mid-sized black and white bird (30cm to 40cm) and are native to Australia. They closely resemble the European and Korean magpies with their black and white coloured feathers. The Australian magpie has a white beak with a black point, they have dark brown eyes but are mostly known for their black and white coloured feathers . The male magpie’s colours are more predominate. The white on its back is clear and sharp compared to the female. Female have slight specs of grey on here white feathers.
Magpies are territorial birds, they can be seen in pairs or in groups of up to 20 magpies. They will all defend their territory from other threatening birds or other magpies from other groups. They have a social network. Within the group there will be a dominant male. In time the male will pare up with a female and leave the group to mate.
Spring in Australia (September, October, and November) is magpie swooping season. Breeding magpies around the country become protective of their nest and can be very aggressive, swooping and attacking anyone who gets too close to their nests. Local councils will broadcast on radio or television warnings of troubled areas usually of parks where magpies have been ‘to aggressive’. Councillors pressured by mums and dads who have the best interest for their kids (arguably so), will capture and remove the swooping magpie. The unfortunate issues of removing the swooping magpie leave the nest with no male magpie to defend it from other threatening birds. It isn’t long before the nest becomes overridden. The eggs or young baby magpies are destroyed by other birds such as Crows. This practice from council is one I’m very much against! Yet, I do understand we have to protect our kids just as the magpies protect theirs. There is a solution!
We have been feeding our neighbourly magpies for many years. We have never been swooped by them, in fact the park behind our home is where the magpies nest every year and we have not seen the magpies swoop anyone. School children use the part as a short cut to get to school and back during the swooping season without any issues of swooping magpies.
Nesting takes place early spring. The female will find a location for the nest and will also build it. The male will defend this territory vigorously from other threatening birds and people. It’s the male magpie that does most of the swooping during this time. A good idea is to not get close to their nest during the swooping season. Especially if you have no idea of what to do when encountering such an aggressive bird. Every year there is news of people that have been seriously injured from swooping magpies. If only these people had some common sense and left the magpies alone or had taken some precaution, they could have saved themselves physical injuries and the mental trauma.
If these people occasionally fed the magpies as they walked by them in previous months leading to swooping season, they just may have prevented the magpies seeing people as a threat to them.
About 2 eggs will be laid. They will be incubated for around three to four weeks by both the male and female magpies. Once hatched, the baby magpies are fed in the nest for about four weeks. The parents will regurgitate the food for the first two weeks before they begin to feed the chicks whole grubs and small insects.
At about 6 to 8 weeks the chicks are ready to attempt flying. This is so hilarious it’s one of our best past times of the year watching the chicks. The parents will call to the chick and at times persuade them by giving a peck. The chick will start by hopping from one tree limb to another before it eventually flies from tree to tree, crashing into smaller branches that somehow soften the blow as the chick lands on the bigger tree branch it intended or not intended to land on.
Magpies feed on small insects and animals. They are able to catch mice, frogs and lizards and will eat seeds, grain, and rice including rice crackers. Magpies will also peck for worms and other grubs under laying bark and in tall grass. Chasing crickets seems to be a good sport for them.
We feed the magpie’s moist puppy food. It is rich in proteins and vitamins.
Magpies can be tamed to eat out of a person’s hand with a lot of patience and slow movements. We have tamed a couple of magpies in such they hop onto our knees and pick the food from our hands.
Within two years, the young magpies are forced by their parents to leave the territory. The parents will peck at the young and soon they will leave their parents to join a group of which will accept them or they may go solo for a while. They may find a mate and pare up to take over a territory as an adult breeding bird. We don’t know much what happens after they leave the territory because we are not able to follow or track them. However, many young birds die in the first months of life due domestic cats, poor weather conditions, lack of food, road traffic hazards and natural predators (including people that just want these birds killed). We have seen only 2 baby magpies survive to adulthood in the last 4 years!
We have also seen their parents been forced away by a pair of magpies that were faster and stronger in taking over the territory. So it took another 3 months to tame the new magpies. What we found strange was one of the new magpies was extremely tame and we believe it was either the 1st chick we seen mature and forced away or it’s from another territory where some nice folks are also feeding their local magpies.
Magpies are protected throughout Australia, and it is against the law to kill or harm the birds, or collect their eggs.
If you have serious issues with Magpies in your area, seek help from your local council… But please avoid the council capturing and relocating these wonderful birds. You could try to feed them and eventually tame them enough to eat out of your hand. This process will take a considerable amount of time (months and months) and a lot of patience…
Knowing your patience and persistence has gained the trust of a Wild Bird is rewarding. The best results from taming the Magpies are they won’t swoop you the next time you walk past their nest. You will gain their trust and they will gain yours. If only they could communicate this to all other Magpies.