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Common Name: Magpie-lark
Scientific Name: Geopelia cuneata

Size: 10½ - 11¾ inches (26-30 cm)

Habitat: Australia; common and very widespread bird both in urban and rural areas, occupying all parts of the continent except for Tasmania and some of the inland desert in the far north-west of Western Australia, and appears to have adapted well to the presence of humans. The Magpie-lark can adapt to an enormous range of different habitats, requiring only some soft, bare ground for foraging, a supply of mud for making a nest, and a tree to make it in. They have benefited greatly from agriculture: both the clearing of dense forest in fertile zones and the provision of artesian water in arid areas—although a disaster for other species—have been a boon for bare-ground and short-grass feeders like magpies and magpie-larks.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: unknown.

Diet: Primarily carnivorous, it eats all sorts of small creatures

Nesting: The sexes are similar from a distance but easy to tell apart: the female has a white throat, the male a black throat and a black eyestripe. Juveniles and immatures of either sex have the white throat of the female and the black eyestripe of the male.

Magpie-larks are one of the 200-odd species of bird around the world that are known to sing in duet; each partner producing about one note a second, but a half-second apart, so that humans find it difficult to tell that there are actually two birds singing, not one.

Birds generally pair for life (though divorce is not unknown) and defend a territory together. The nest is round, about 150 mm in diameter, usually placed on a flat branch somewhere near water, made of grass and plant material thickly plastered together with mud, and generously lined with grass, feathers and fur. Breeding is opportunistic, usually from August to February in the fertile south, anytime after rain in drier areas, and multiple broods are common when conditions allow. Both parents incubate a clutch of between three and five eggs.

Cool Facts: Also known as the Mudlark in Victoria and Western Australia, the Murray Magpie in South Australia, and as the Peewee in New South Wales and Queensland.

The Magpie-lark is aggressively territorial, and will fearlessly defend its territory against larger species such as magpies, ravens, kookaburras, and even the Wedge-tailed Eagle. They are also known to attack people to defend their territory, such attacks occur usually within 60m of the nesting site.

The Magpie-lark's mud nest seems to link it closely with the mud-nest builders of the Family Corcoracidae, the White-winged Chough, and the Apostlebird. But it actually belongs in the Family Dicruridae (Monarchs, Fantails, and Drongos).

Found in Songbird ReMix Australia Volume II

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