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21

Magpie-lark

(Grallina cyanoleuca)
Alternative names: "Peewee", "Mudlark", "Murray Magpie", "Little Magpie", "Peewit", "Pugwall"
Aboriginal names: "beelarl", "iyebana", "koolootaroo", "barriindjiin" [gamilaraay, yuwaalaraay], "marronoo"

Size: 26-30 cm
Weight: 90 g (average)
SUBSECTIONS:     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Taxonomy, classification

See Magpie-lark at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

(for details refer to a field guide)

Click here to display information on habitat, range and finding this species

Sightings

Magpie-larks (more commonly known as "Peewees") can be seen almost everywhere in Australia, including the area of Narrabri, NSW. In inland NSW race "cyanoleuca" is found.

Click here to display more sighting information

Photos

Race "cyanoleuca"

Frontal view of a male Magpie-lark (photo courtesy of R. Druce)

Near-lateral view of a male Magpie-lark going for a drink in hot weather
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

Lateral view of a male Magpie-lark
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2013]

Male Magpie-lark trying to impress the thought on a Channel-billed Cuckoo near its nest that it would be advantageous for it to move on
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2008]

While calling, this male Magpie-lark is showing its underwing pattern
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, January 2006]

Female Magpie-lark on our lawn
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

Dorsal view of a female Magpie-lark
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2006]

Lateral view of an immature Magpie-lark
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2010]

Frontal view of a fledgling Magpie-lark
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2007]

Near-lateral view of a fledgling Magpie-lark (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Dorsal view of a fledgling Magpie-lark
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2007]

This young Magpie-lark was on its first day out of the nest, squawking together with its siblings to be fed...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2010]

... and here is dad Magpie-lark with food
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2010]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Jul - Jan Eggs: 3 - 5 Incubation period: 18 days Fledging age: 21 days

 

Given the right conditions, Magpie-larks can breed any time of the year.

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = Nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Bowl Material: Mud Height above ground: 2 - 10 m

 

Close-up view of a Magpie-lark's nest
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2010]

This Magpie-lark nest is still under construction
[Near Narrabri, NSW, November 2007]

THe same Magpie-lark nest seen from the other side, now complete
[Near Narrabri, NSW, November 2007]

Here a female Magpie-lark sitting on its nest
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2008]

View from above into a Magpie-lark nest, showing its lining
[Moree, NSW, November 2011]

Magpie-lark on its nest, with two chicks begging for food (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, December 2013]

Magpie-lark nestling down to warm the two chicks (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, December 2013]

The two Magpie-lark chicks had just fledged when this visitor, an Eastern Water Dragon, came along to have a close look (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, December 2013]

This Magpie-lark is sitting on its nest, built in March (after a big rainfall event), in late April, with winter approaching; this is the Magpie-lark whose calls were recorded on 23 April 2014
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2014]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 29 x 20 mm Colour: Pinkish-whiteish, with dark red-brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

 

View from above into a Magpie-lark nest with 4 eggs in it

View from above into a Magpie-lark nest with 3 eggs in it (photo courtesy of C. Hayne)

Fragments of a Magpie-lark egg that fell to the ground with the nest it was in during a violent storm

Fragment of a Magpie-lark egg shell that had been disposed of by the birds
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2012]

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Sedentary/dispersive Elementary unit: Pair

 

At our former place 20 km south of Narrabri Magpie-larks were winter guests. During the summer of 2005 they preferred to stay in the adjacent bush. In 2006 they occasionally came for a bath and a drink on very hot days. 20 km east of Narrabri they nest in the trees near the house.

Seen by us to defend their territory vigorously against the intrusion of Channel-billed Cuckoos, who will host on them if given a chance.

Food, Diet

Magpie-larks are insect hunters. Contrary to the technique of many other birds (e.g., flycatchers), they catch their prey by snapping at insects they disturb when strutting around on the ground.

Call/s

For this species we have recorded the following call/s. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

peewee_art_20131117.mp3 Contact call A. Ross-Taylor
peewee_20140107.mp3 Contact call M. Dahlem
peewee_20140423.mp3 Calling partner (sitting on nest) M. Dahlem
peewee_20140423_2.mp3 Pair Q&A (partner flying past nest) M. Dahlem
peewee_20140220.mp3 Pair Q&A M. Dahlem
peewee_20140303.mp3 Pair Q&A M. Dahlem
peewee_20140404_3.mp3 Pair Q&A (in-flight) M. Dahlem
peewee_art_20131203.mp3 Pair Q&A A. Ross-Taylor
peewee_20140224.mp3 Warning call M. Dahlem
peewee_20140330.mp3 Warning (Australian Raven) M. Dahlem
peewee_art_20131123.mp3 Alarm call A. Ross-Taylor
peewee_20140108_2.mp3 ? M. Dahlem
peewee_20140225.mp3 ? M. Dahlem
peewee_20140411.mp3 ? M. Dahlem

We have noticed that Magpie-larks often having singing competitions with Australian Magpies.

peewee_20140404.mp3 Magpie-lark first M. Dahlem
peewee_20140404_2.mp3 Australian Magpie first M. Dahlem

We have also recorded Magpie-larks' wing beats.

peewee_20140404_4.mp3 Pair Q&A (in-flight) M. Dahlem

These pages are largely based on our own observations. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.