The Australian magpie (Cracticus tibicen) is a native Australian bird and is protected under the State Wildlife Legislation (Nature Conservation Act 1992). It is a serious offence to harm magpies and penalties apply for attempting to harm them.
The Australian magpie plays an important role in natural pest management, as it preys on small insects such as mosquitoes and midges. Magpies can be beneficial to agriculture and gardens because they feed on pest insects.
Long-term conservation of this species is necessary for maintaining biodiversity, which is the variety of all plants and animals that inhabit our world.
Magpies are a medium-sized black and white bird, with the following characteristics:
- they are approximately 40 centimetres long
- adult males have a white nape and rump, while females are grey in these areas and are smaller in size
- their bill is grey-white and shorter in female birds
- juvenile magpies have flecked greyish dark markings and dark bills
- their lifespan is unknown, but some have lived up to 30 years.
Magpies adapt well to open and cleared environments and thrive in large areas of lawn that provide foraging sites, where there are scattered trees available for nesting, and water. They are very territorial birds, but outside the breeding season groups of up to 20 magpies may still congregate in rural areas.
Magpie nests are a bowl shape made from dry sticks with a lining of grass and bark or any other non-plant materials that the birds can find. The clutch size is usually around three to four eggs, though this varies according to season, weather, predators and the general health of the parents. Both parents will raise their young.
Problems caused by magpies
Magpies are well-known for swooping humans and pets during their breeding season between July and December, with the peak swooping month in September. This has resulted in the magpie becoming a nuisance to some people.
Most magpies will accept the presence of people within their territories, however when attacks do occur, they usually take place within a one hundred metre radius around the tree containing the nest.
While most magpie attacks are mild, they could cause serious injury to the eyes and head. Find tips to protect yourself against swooping birds.
What Council is doing
Brisbane City Council has adopted working towards a natural balance as the guiding management principle in the management of nuisance wildlife species including magpies. Council:
- provides information about wildlife and pest animals through brochures and community events to increase understanding and awareness
- has installed covered bins throughout the city to reduce access to food sources
- adopted a coordinated approach to the management of wildlife with neighbouring councils.
What you can do
There are several things you can do to try and discourage magpies from nesting in your yard. Ensure you:
- do not feed magpies, ensure no scraps of food or rubbish are left lying around
- remove unnecessary sources of water from the backyard (if magpies are causing a nuisance)
- do not remove nests or eggs and never touch a young bird. If you are concerned for the safety of the young, phone Council's Nativa Animal Ambulance on 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625)
- do not disturb the birds when there are fledglings in the nest
- do not throw objects at the bird or destroy the nest as this will increase their defence efforts
- expect an elevated level of swooping activity during the breeding season between June and December.
To find out more information about magpies, phone Council on 07 3403 8888.