Nikon D700 & Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G lens + Nikon 1.4X Teleconverter
Manfrotto 681B monopod
The Australian Magpie is a medium-sized black and white passerine bird native to Australia and southern New Guinea. A member of the Cracticidae, it is closely related to the Butcherbirds. At one stage, the Australian Magpie was considered to be three separate species, although zones of hybridisation between forms reinforced the idea of a single species with several subspecies, nine of which are now recognised. The adult Australian Magpie is a fairly robust bird ranging from 37 to 43 cm (14.5–17 in) in length, with distinctive 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, and can be distinguished by differences in back markings. With its long legs, the Australian Magpie walks rather than waddles or hops and spends much time on the ground. This adaptation has led to many authorities maintaining it in its own genus Gymnorhina. Described as one of Australia’s most accomplished songbirds, the Australian Magpie has an array of complex vocalisations.
The Australian Magpie 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. Magpies were introduced into New Zealand in the 1860s and are proving to be a pest by displacing native birds. Introductions also occurred in the Solomon Islands and Fiji, where the birds are not considered an invasive species.
Spring in Australia is magpie season, when a small minority of breeding magpies (almost always males) around the country become aggressive and swoop and attack those who approach their nests, especially bike riders.
This species is commonly fed by households around the country and is the mascot of several Australian sporting teams.
The Australian Magpie prefers open areas such as grassland, fields and residential areas such as parks, gardens, golf courses, and streets, with scattered trees or forest nearby. Birds nest and shelter in trees but forage mainly on the ground in these open areas. It has also been recorded in mature pine plantations; birds only occupy rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest in the vicinity of cleared areas. In general, evidence suggests the range and population of the Australian Magpie has increased with land-clearing, although local declines in Queensland due to a 1902 drought, and in Tasmania in the 1930s have been noted; the cause for the latter is unclear but rabbit baiting, pine tree removal, and spread of the Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) have been implicated.
The Australian Magpie is almost exclusively diurnal, although it may call into the night, like some other members of the Artamidae. Natural predators of magpies include various species of monitor lizard and the Barking Owl. Birds are often killed on roads or electrocuted by powerlines, or poisoned after killing and eating House Sparrows or mice, rats or rabbits targeted with baiting. The Australian Raven may take nestlings left unattended.