Australian Magpie

Cracticus tibicen

Australian Magpies belong to the Corvidae family which also include Butcherbirds and Currawongs. They are widely considered to be intelligent creatures.  They are found wherever there is a combination of trees and adjacent open areas, including parks and playing fields. They are absent only from the densest forests and arid deserts


   Breeding takes place from June till December. The nests are constructed in the outer branches of a tree, up to 15 m above the ground and made of sticks and stems, and sadly in suburbia often with bits of plastic, string or wire, lined with grass and hair.

The eggs take about 20 days to hatch, and the young will spend approximately 4 weeks in the nest before they leave. The nest is the most dangerous place for a juvenile bird, as predators can easily find them, so the parent birds will encourage the young to leave as soon as possible. They will leave the nest before being able to fly; they will flutter from bush to bush being fed by the parents. You will usually hear them being very noisy at this particular time of the year, as they beg for food from exhausted parents. They will reuse the nest year after year doing repair work every new season.

Magpies are great visitors to your garden; they forage on the ground, turning over loose material, as they search for a range of insects, worms, spiders, lizards, mice and seeds. A favourite food is the scarab beetle which does so much damage to lawns, so please consider if you spray for insects, you may inadvertently poison your natural pest control being birds like Magpies.

Swooping Magpies

For a few weeks each year during breeding season, nesting Magpies defend their territory to protect their young.

They beat their wings, clack their beaks, swoop upon perceived intruders.  This aggressive defence of territory only lasts for the time when eggs and young are in the nest. For this reason swooping birds should never be removed from the area as; eggs will fail to hatch or the young will die of starvation and exposure without their parents, if the territory is vacated other magpies from less suitable areas will claim it and build a new nest of their own and if only the nest is removed, the birds will build another one in the same area. To protect people for the short breeding season please;

Try to avoid the area where the magpies are swooping and make a temporary sign to inform other people.

Wear a hat while in the area or carry an open umbrella, which is the best protection.

Do not stop if you are swooped upon. You are still in the magpie’s territory so they will keep swooping.

Where possible travel in a group as most birds only swoop individuals.

Cyclists should dismount and walk through the area.

Walk quickly until you are out of the area and remember their behaviour will stop as soon as their chicks are safely out of the nest.

Do not be tempted to feed wild birds, the natural balance is easily upset, instead place a bird bath in your garden, and remember to change the water regularly to minimise the chance if decease.