What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #30 Magpie-lark

This series looks at the variety of fauna that may be found in the suburban backyard or local reserve and the diversity may be surprising to some people. The obvious fauna are the vast array of birds that are readily seen by day and some by night, but there are numerous species that are nocturnal. Some of these nocturnal species people are familiar with as they tramp across the roof at night with what sounds like hobnail boots on, or they hear fighting in the backyard over food and territory. Others are cryptic and may only be seen infrequently when they enter the house for warmth and shelter. Each week I will highlight a different species that may be found in and around Melbourne’s backyards, parks and reserves, some may be familiar others less so.

#30 Magpie-lark
(Grallina cyanoleuca)

Although the Magpie-lark is similarly coloured to the Australian Magpie it is in fact neither a magpie nor a lark and is considerably smaller than the Australian Magpie. Both species are black and white but that is where the similarities end. The Magpie-lark is often referred to as a Mudlark due to its nesting habits or Pee Wee, due to its distinctive call.

The Magpie-lark is a thin whitish bird with black features. The male of the species has a white eyebrow and black face whilst the female lacks the white eyebrow and has a white face.

The Magpie-lark is a familiar bird of urban areas and can be found throughout Australia in a wide range of habitats with the exception of drier regions and rainforest. Magpie-larks can often be found in and around suburban parks seeking out their favorite foods stuffs. Being mostly a ground dwelling bird they be found searching for their food which consists mainly of insects and their larvae as well as earthworms and other freshwater invertebrates. Magpie-larks may also be found in large flocks particularly in agricultural areas were food is abundant.

The nest of the Magpie-lark consists of mud, which both the male and the female build. This bowl-shaped nest is usually placed in a horizontal branch some distance above the ground. Once the mud nest is completed it is lined with feathers and grass. They both incubate and care for the young and like the Australian Magpie will defend their territory and nesting sites. Seasonal conditions may lead to them raising more than one brood in a year. 

© Habitat Ecology 2013


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