Australian Magpie Nadiah Roslan

Australian Magpie

Did You Know?

  • About 9-12 per cent of magpies will swoop aggressively and are nearly all males.
  • There are usually more females than males in each group.
  • The Australian Magpie has one of the world’s most complex bird songs.
  • Magpies live in groups of up to 24 birds that are extremely territorial, particularly during the breeding season when they protect their food resources and nesting sites.
  • Before they are two years old, young magpies are forced out of the territory by their parents. They join a group of other young magpies and less successful adults, and move from place to place in search of food and water. They're only able to breed if they can replace another bird in a breeding group.
FactBox Image

Black and white, with the pattern varying across its range. The back of its neck, upper tail and shoulders (on its wings) are white in males and grey in females, and (across most of Australia) the rest of its body is black. In south-eastern, central and south-western Australia, including Tasmania, its back and rump are entirely white. Its eye is red-brown. Young birds are usually grey rather than black and have dark eyes.

Distinctive feature

One toe faces backwards and three face forwards. It has a square-tipped tail.


36 – 44 cm long (from head to tail), with an average wing span of 76 cm.



A carolling, flute-like song, often calling together.


Small insects and animals that live on, or just under, the surface of the ground, including grasshoppers, scarab beetles, insect larvae, frogs and small lizards. During the day it walks along jabbing its beak into the ground, searching for food.


Swift, strong and direct, sometimes in flocks of several hundred birds.


It is extremely territorial during the four to six weeks of the breeding season. The female usually selects a nest site, which is either high up a tree, on a power pole or on the roof of a building. The nest is a rough basket of sticks, twigs, plant stems and occasionally wire, lined with softer materials such as wool, hair, grass, feathers and shredded bark. The female lays between one and six eggs, which are either blue or green with brown blotching, and she sits on them for 20 days. She then feeds her young until they are about four weeks old, when they are ready to fly and leave the nest.

Field Guide

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Species: WhatToObserve Image

What to Observe

  • Courting/Mating

  • Swooping

  • Calling

  • Feeding

  • Bird on chicks

  • Bird on eggs

  • Bird on nest

  • Bird feeding young

Species: WhenAndWhere Image

When and Where

When To Look

  • From June to December
  • Breeding time depends on the region: from June to September in northern Australia, from August to October in southern states, and even later in cooler regions
  • Eggs hatch three weeks after being laid
  • Young birds leave the nest when they are four weeks old

Where To Look

  • Throughout Australia, wherever there are trees next to open areas, including natural habitat, farming areas, country towns, suburbs, cities, parks, gardens, bushland areas, sporting ovals and golf courses
  • Not in very dense forests and arid deserts
  • The nests are found in the outer branches of trees and sometimes on power poles and the roofs of buildings, generally next to open space
Species: WhatElse Image

What Else?

Similar Species

Pied Butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis) has a completely black head and bib that is separated from its black back by a completely white collar. Its underparts are white.

Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca) is smaller with a smaller beak.

Pied Currawong (Strepera graculina) doesn’t have large areas of white on its body, especially on the back of the neck. Also won’t have the red iris.