Australian Magpie

Australian Magpie
Backyard Creatures, Native Animals

The Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) makes a flute-like carolling call and feeds on insects and grubs that are often garden pests. They will also eat frogs, small lizards, meat scraps and grain. Magpies are territorial birds and live in groups of up to 10. A magpie's territory usually consists of tall trees for sheltering and nesting and reliable feeding and watering areas.

Magpies have a white rump, wide white collar, separated black head and a white bar on black wings. The male’s back is white while the female’s collar and lower back are light grey. The juvenile bird is duller with a grey-brown back and underparts.

Nesting Season

For most of the year magpies are not aggressive, but for four to six weeks during the nesting season - any time between August and October - adult birds will often defend their territory by swooping what they perceive to be an intruder. This is how adult birds protect their young. They also drop the babies from the nest for about a two week period as its how they learn to fly.
If you are swooped by a magpie, walk away quickly and avoid the area until nesting is over. Other measures you can take to avoid being swooped include:
  • Stay calm - serious accidents can occur when people, particularly children, panic
  • Do not deliberately provoke or harass the birds as they can become more aggressive
  • Protect your head with a large, wide brim hat, bike helmet or carry an open umbrella
  • Wear glasses to protect your eyes
  • Watch the magpie while walking from the area as they are less likely to swoop
  • Dismount from your bike if cycling and walk through the birds territory.

The experience of a magpie attack can be very unsettling, but it is usually only a warning – magpies very rarely strike.

Protected Species

Magpies are native animals and are protected throughout NSW. It is against the law to harm magpies or collect their eggs. Both parents feed the young, so removing or harming either adult bird could result in the death of the chicks.