Australian Magpie advice

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Swilde's picture
Australian Magpie advice

I am new on here and my comments are just my observations as I am no expert.

We bought a house a year ago on the edge of a big park which has a bad rep for swooping magpies. We made an effort for our kids to be friendly and unthreatening to the resident magpies. They also fed them the odd meal worm.

We had no problems when swooping season arrived. My kids would sit happily near the nest watching the parents feed the new chicks....and swoop passing cyclists.

Unfortunately the Dad Magpie was hit by a car and died. Unfortunately as a result of a well meaning lady in far side of park via a busier rode feeding them in garden. They swoop down low to land and get hit by cars. The following day the 3 chicks were encouraged out of the nest by Mum. 2 were big enough to walk and follow her. The other one was much smaller, weak and could not lift its own body weight. It was cold and raining and went dark and no sign of improvement or Mum. I took her in for the night and put her back in morning and onserved from distance. Mum ignored her shouts for food and was busy with the bigger too. It appeared to me she could only cope with the bigger 2.

We took care of the runt (Zoe) and she survived, growing into a healthy fledgling. We tried numerous times to reunite with family and Mum tolerated her, even visiting her in our garden, introduced her to her new man who was helping raise other 2 chicks. She never fed her tho.

Zoe gradually spent more and more time in the park. Survivng the attacks of the crows whose territory is our side of Park, by mimicking their calls.

We were hopefully she may join her family eventually as never any aggression. Another of chicks was killed by a car sadly. All of a sudden they disappeared. The following day Zoe had been badly attacked by something and couldn't fly or jump at all. She was also very scared. She recovered over 10 days and started to grow in confidence again. No sign of family tho. We then noticed a new Magpie group attacking her in garden. Consisting of a dominant male and at least 5 year or young magpies. She was terrified of them and would not leave us or garage.

We think they may have forced other family out and trying to do same with her. They are very determined to get her! My young kids want to chase them away to defend her. My thoughts are will they continue to try to displace her or if they dont see us or her as a threat accept her? 

Which is a nice thought but natural selection tells me they want her gone as they like the idea of taking over the park and our garden!

Thoughts appreciated! Sorry for long post.

Woko's picture

Very interesting observations, Swilde. Could I recommend you get hold of Australian Magpie by Gisela Kaplan & published by CSIRO Publishing. That book explains a lot of things about Australian Magpies & about their territorial behaviours in particular.

The fact that your kids are able to be within the breeding territory of the Magpies without danger of being attacked is consistent with what Kaplan found: Magpies won't attack familiar things which they know are non-threatening. I've observed this myself. Ms Woko & I have lived where we live for 31 years & not once have we been attacked by Magpies in or out of breeding season. I can walk within 9 or 10 metres of where Magpies are feeding on the ground & they will saunter away, unstartled or feeling they need to aggressively defend their territory. I can also potter away beneath their nesting places without fear. We are familiar & non-threatening to them.

An observation I'd make is that non-intervention is the most helpful thing we can do to ensure Australian Magpies survive as a species. Attracting Magpies by artificial feeding can not only put them at risk from injury or death in circumstances such as you've witnessed but can also put them at risk of damage from inappropriate diet. As well, it may make them dependent on artificial feeding rather than seeking their natural food. Further, taking them away from natural food sources potentially causes disruption to the local ecology by, for example, increasing the population of certain organisms in the soil on which the Magpies might otherwise feed.

Human intervention also risks the Magpies' social structures. So rescuing the weakling among the original brood may help the survival of that bird but it probably does nothing for the long term survival of the Magpie population in your area. Mind you, Kaplan's research suggests that Magpies have ways of sorting out that sort of intervention.

So often many humans satisfy their need to feel useful by playing rescuer in the natural environment. While it's great to feel sympathy for our native birds that sympathy, in my opinion, would be far better expressed by protecting & restoring their habitats.

Swilde's picture

Thank you I will have a look at that book, it sounds interesting.

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