What we wish everyone understood about magpies

Facts about magpies

Australian magpies have to be one of our country’s most misunderstood birds. As majestic as they are musical as they are feared, the native black and white bird has drummed up a reputation over the years for being aggressive and vengeful.

We simply think this is untrue! Magpies are wonderful and unique birds who, in regards to their tendency to swoop, are just looking out for their families. (But more on that later.)

Here are some important magpie facts we wish everyone would remember.

Magpies have one of the world’s most complex songs

The unique warble, orble, chirpy, oodle of the magpie is one of the most lovely sounds to start your day to.

Did you know that tibicen, from the scientific name for an Australian magpie cracticus tibicen, literally means ‘flautist’ in Latin?

Some scientists have even said that their call is one of the most complex in the world! They’re master communicators, our intelligent maggies.

They mate for life

Facts about magpies

These extremely loyal birds are with their partners until death do they part. On the off chance the male magpie passes away before the female, the female will take on another male partner who will help her raise and protect her young. Isn’t that sweet?

They recognise faces

Researchers have done experiments, figuring out that magpies not only recognise other individual magpies but even other people’s faces!

This story, about a magpie named Penguin, shows that these birds not only recognise faces but they have the ability to form strong bonds with humans too.  

Safe to say it’s best to make a good impression!

Not all magpies swoop

Facts about magpies

At the beginning of spring, usually between September and October, you’ll notice magpies are starting to swoop. However, not all magpies do this. Only males do and even then, that number is limited to about 10 per cent of all magpies.  

And why do they do it?

Because passersby are considered threats to the magpies’ newborns and they swoop to protect their nest. Outside of mating season, magpies are still territorial but generally keep to themselves.

In fact, their instinct to be territorial is what makes them so special! They’ll stay in the same area, in the same suburb – even on the same street! – for their entire lives.

If you’ve ever had the sneaking suspicion you’re seeing the same magpie over and over, odds are that’s correct. They’ve probably been a neighbour of yours for years!

You can avoid getting swooped

If you’re worried about getting swooped on your daily walk, there are ways to protect yourself. Here’s a quick list including some of the ways to avoid a potentially dangerous encounter:

  • Avoid the areas and take a different route, wherever possible
  • If you’re riding a bike, dismount and walk it through the area
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes

No matter what, remember you’re sharing a space with these native birds. Like all animals, you should never treat magpies with aggression or cruelty. As a native species, magpies are protected by law in addition to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 and it is an offence to harm them.

For more information on how to help Aussie wildlife, head here.