As we continue in lock-down now into Spring, the birds continue to do what they do at this time of year, and that is nest and protect their nests. One notorious bird that inflicts injury and sometimes death to passers bye, while protecting it’s nest, is the Australian Magpie.

While the bird attacks humans and even animals that pass within the exclusion zone around its nest, it can and does inflict injury causing bleeding to parts of the face and ears, often catching the unsuspecting target by surprise, as it flies at great spread and uses its extremely hard pointed beak as a weapon, to deter those passing within its 100 meter exclusion zone around the nest. It has been responsible for the deaths of several people both this year and last including a man colliding with a pole on his bicycle and a mother dropping her child resulting in a fatal head injury. Local councils put up warning signs in areas where particularly brutal attacks occur, and will sometimes come in and destroy the bird if it causes undue stress and harm to several complaining residents. Click on images to enlarge them.

Magpies are one of the world’s most intelligent birds next to Ravens. They have an amazing social structure, very similar to us humans, and incredible facial recognition of humans. If you are deemed a friend you may be spared being attacked, as research has shown. My local Magpie clan who frequent my birdbaths and allow me to watch them bathe at close vicinity, have never been a threat to me. In fact they help, along with the Miners, to protect our area from unwanted ferule birds.

Those new to my blog may be left asking: “What then is the 1st most dangerous Aussie bird ?” The Southern Cassowary is also the world’s most deadly bird to humans, and found up in the rainforests of northern Queensland. I showcased this bird several weeks ago, to find out more click here.

This video clip was taken when I was studying their attack behaviour this time 2 years ago. Here is slowed down version of a magpie flying at great speed across a sports ground to attack me, which it did relentlessly. Were it not for my akubra hat and fast response, I would have been bitten as it relentlessly attacked me, from all angles, until I finally left the area, while madly waving my hat at it. The two main passers bye that are attacked by most Magpies are people running or riding bicycles, where the movement is fast, though in the case below, where we have a very vicious bird it attacks all walkers and those standing in the exclusion zone regardless, except for one lady, which it deemed non threatening.

A genuine Magpie attack. The bird flew all the way from the trees.

Magpie attacking me

Our local councils have information on their websites indicating where Magpie attacks have been reported, and warn those in the area to be cautious and avoid walking or riding past. There is a website called MagpieAlert which is specifically for this purpose. Note on the map that sites marked in red were where injury was incurred:

Click on image to view site

The Magpie song is one of the most unique in that the bird has a dual syrinx which allows it to make two separate notes harmoniously at the one time. This gives the unique sound which is called caroling, which the clan or male and female pair will do when announcing their territory to intruding Magpies or when communicating with nearby clans. This basically says to suspected intruders: ‘This is our turf, leave or otherwise there will be trouble.’ Sensible Magpies leave, otherwise they will move to the next stage which is a show of strength and a possible fight to take the territory, which is always a fear for a breeding pair out on their own.

Australia has two main subspecies of Magpie from which nine geographically specific subspecies derive. These are the Northern ‘black-backed’ Magpie (found throughout mainland WA, NT, NSW and Que) and the Southern ‘white-backed’ Magpie (which are found in SW WA, Vic, SA and Tas). In some places both subspecies may be present. Use the slider below to view both major subspecies, of firstly the north eastern black-backed (race tibicen) found here around Sydney, NSW and then the southern white-backed (race leuconota) found in Melbourne, Victoria.

The mature male ‘black-backed’ Magpie has a pure white neck and the female a white neck but with a dirty darkish bottom to it. See below:

Black-Backed Magpie pair

If you would like to learn more about this amazing bird, you can purchase the current most comprehensive book Australian Magpie, now in its 2nd Edition and is the world’s most thorough research on it, written by Australia’s Magpie expert, Gisela Kaplan. It is available in many Australian bookstores including online from Booktopia.

 

A friend sent me a link a few days ago on a relationship between a dog and a Magpie, which shows how intelligent these birds are, and how like us they love company, to play and affection just as we do. Click here to see it.

My above friend, who has friendly Maggies who visit his place and sing to him each day, has sent me this link today of a Magpie who is friends with a dog, and it actually makes a barking sound. As many Australian birds can mimic other sounds, the Magpie is no exception. Listen to this bird imitate the dog here.

On the same page as the above report click on another news report called: ‘Magpie Attacks Prompts Small Scale Cull in Sydney’ also from a couple of days ago which highlights the current seriousness of this bird’s antics. But note when the expert speaks how the masks during Covid have made it difficult for the birds to use their remarkable facial recognition skills to work out who is friend or foe, which s causing particular birds to savagely attack everyone who passes.

Magpie aggression is not limited to humans, they also fight between themselves over breeding rights, territories and discipline issues. They also chase other birds of prey away from their nests, and get chased and mobbed by other smaller birds which are nesting, such as the Willie Wagtail.


Have a wonderful week and stay safensane as the lock-downs continue for many of us here. Keep a lookout for Maggies as you pass under eucalypt trees as you never know when you will be the next swooped upon.

One mean faced Magpie on high alert

Bullying is a major concern at the moment among school aged children, being attributed to increased suicide due primarily to cyber bullying on social media. Even adults suffer are not exempt, where employees and employers take advantage of quiet, unassuming, humble souls. Women particularly have suffered for years from aggressive often demeaning behaviour from chauvinistic men. Though the Magpie is not technically a bully when aggressively protecting its nest, the alpha males do display dominant selfish behaviour to their females and young at times, as well as others in the clan. However, in a similar way to humans, Magpie behaviour varies according to the character of the individual Magpie, meaning that most Magpies are sensibly selective as to what they deem a threat, and are less likely to cause injury, seeking only to remove the intruder away from the nest area. Others are down right aggressive and dangerous, and almost delight in inflicting pain and suffering with an over zealous testosterone mediated severity and brutality on everyone who passes.

Magpie juvenile – Like father like son.

Respect for others, in particular women, is modeled and taught by the parents in the way they respect and love each other, more than by what they say. Example is always the best teacher. If we want our children to love and respect us, we need to to do this ourselves with them and others and they will catch it. Much of Magpie behaviour is taught, as a Magpie takes around 3 years to mature, over which time it will copy much of the behaviour from its father and uncles, who will be teaching it. Fathers in particular need to step up to the plate to spend time instructing and being respectful examples to their children. The qualities, values and respect in a family is always mirrored in the behaviour of the child. Many teachers and educationists today are experiencing stress and even fear because of disintegrating moral values turning up in classrooms. I have had friends who have had to leave teaching as their occupation because of this.

Father instructing juvenile Magpie on food finding

My second book “Flight of a Fledgling” has some very helpful information for parents and grandparents on the different forms of parenting and how these directly effect the child’s development. This is presented from the aspect of our birds and has beautiful photos and interesting facts about our Aussie birds as well. Click on the image below to take advantage of the last week of my Lock-Down sale.

A page sample from Flight of a Fledgling

Discipline and respect are keys to effective learning. Sadly, as our secular humanistic society moves away from the solid family values found in the instruction manual of our Creator, everyone suffers the consequences. Prevention is always better than legislation after the fact or after injury has been sustained. Brains hard wired from their formative years which have learnt and been permitted to be disrespectful abusive bullies, are not easily changed, and as the wisest of men King Solomon says: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” – Proverbs 22:6“Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.” – Proverbs 29:17 and “The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them.” – Proverbs 20:7


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‘To introduce people to our unique Australian birds,

To learn from them how to live a healthy and happy life.’

NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed  by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021.

17 Comments »

  1. Great write up on the magpie Ashley. They really are a remarkable bird. I remember the magpie family that lived on my property back in Queensland, they were never a threat to me and I was able to watch them raise their young for many years. But it was another story when visitors came. Sometimes I see the white backed magpies flying around or in the local parks on my walks here in Tassie, but usually I hear them only when they alert me to the arrival of a raptor flying overhead. Hang in there Ashley, there has to be an end to the lockdown soon for you. It must be so frustrating when so many people are doing the wrong thing and causing the lockdown to keep being extended, they are not helping themselves by not following the rules. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sue, yes it has been a long journey with Ground Hog days, my friend says he only has 2 days in his week, Saturday and Sunday because he is not doing anything much different. It is lovely watching birds nesting. The photo in my book of the father feeding the chicks in the nest was taken of a tree in the yard where I was living and the Maggies were so friendly with me, and would walk right up to me to see what I was doing, but when a friend visited all hell broke loose and s relentless attack ensued. Yes you would see the white-backs down there, I always saw streets filled with them when I visit Melbourne suburbs, they are quite vocal. Enjoy the Spring weather my friend 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing and very informative info. on these birds! Pretty scary to say the least! I pray you and your family are well, though I know the lockdowns are very hard mentally, so good to see you are continuing to enjoy the birds and report on them. Loved the analgy of the magpie and parenting. So true. Sadly, I also know of teachers who quit for the same reason you listed. God bless and take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jen, yes the Maggies are particularly savage this year. Experts think it is the wearing of masks which is contributing to their inability to do facial recognition, so everyone becomes a threat, as thee intelligent birds relate to humans and would find mask wearing very strange and possibly threatening. Yes sadly many of the well behaved and well parented children suffer, as do teachers from those who are the product of dysfunctional homes. It has been difficult for many here, as the lock-downs drag on, with empty promises from the Gov, who are having to deal with growing angry and restless residents. Richest Blessings to you and family also Jen, it is always a delight to hear from you my friend:-).

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    • Ha Ha yes you may need a bike helmet in some areas. I saw that some are leaving brollies near the warning signs for passes by. The Maggies are having trouble identifying faces, the masks are putting the birds off making it difficult for them to identify faces, as it may be frustrating them, as it is a new phenomenon for them.

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  3. Hi Ashley
    Great info. They are a remarkable bird. Both trusting and friendly and absolutely vicious in the defence of the territory.

    I was attacked by one in a park when I was aroun four years old, as I recall I had no idea what was happening to me and I don’t think we ever went to that park again.
    On the other hand I know that the recognition works as I’ve had a number of encounters with very amicable birds. My local street Maggie will call when I pass her nest site in the morning. Part of both our morning ritual.
    I watched one bird patrol a bike track, and would show complete indifference to some cyclists while others were pursed with avengence.
    It really is a Yin Yang bird
    Thanks for the excellent insights

    Remain Safe
    Qi ya!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks David, yes those childhood memories of attacks and bleeding heads always stick with us. I was about 5 or 6 on the way to school, one swooped from the back, I turned and another swooped from behind, I ran home crying, and had to put my school bag on my head and run each day past their tree, till the season ended. They are very clever as you shared with recognition. I have stood next to person who is literally fighting off a magpie near their nesting tree, and they do not touch me at all. She put on a hat and struck at them with broom, but they continued to attack till she went inside. They know who they call friend, even if we don’t always. Here’s hoping the curve is on the turn, everyone is getting restless down here and the Gov is in the hot seat with the way they are locking-down. We are yet to see the outcome of the packed beach last weekend. Stay safe and sane my friend.

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