Passeriforme Order – Grallinidae Family
L: 26-30 cm
Poids: 80-115 gr
Magpie-lark is a black and white bird without any link with magpies or larks. Smaller than Australian Magpie, both species are sometimes confused.
Adult male has black and white body. It has black wings, tail, mantel, throat, face, crown and nape.
White parts include rump, vent, belly, breast, eye brow, ear area and neck sides. It has white wing patch.
Underwings are white with black flight feathers, and undertail is black.
Thin, pointed bill is pale yellow to whitish. Eyes are pale grey, with narrow white crescent below the eye. Legs and feet are blackish.
Female has similar body plumage, but on the head, she has white face, chin and throat, and white patch behind the eyes, extending to neck sides and joining the white breast.
Juvenile has black forehead, and white eye brow and throat. Eyes are dark brown, and bill is darker than in adults.
Magpie-lark is also named “Peewee”, coming from its call. This bird may sing in duet with its partner, each mate uttering interspersed notes, producing as only one single song. Calls are “pee-o-wit” or “pee-wee” given in duets, while birds raise its wing in turn. Pair sings together in defence of territory, and in response to other birds, mainly against strangers, different from usual neighbours.
Magpie-lark frequents several kinds of habitats, except rainforests and dry deserts. It is found in urban areas, grasslands and open lands. This species can live in both rural and urban areas.
Magpie-lark lives in Australia, throughout the continent. It may be rare vagrant to Tasmania, and may be found in New Guinea and Timor.
Magpie-lark feeds mainly on the ground, searching quietly for insects and larvae, and other invertebrates. They often forage in pairs.
Magpie-lark is aggressive during breeding season, defending territories by singing strongly in duets against intruders and rivals, and attacking them. Territory may size about 10 ha.
This species usually pairs for life, and birds sing together for maintaining the pair-bonds.
Song is also used by male to attract a female. She joins it by singing, in order to let her rivals know that this male is chosen.
Parents are monogamous and breed each season as a pair. Female may abandon the nest if male leaves her after mating.
Magpie-lark performs seasonal migrations, moving north in autumn and winter, and southwards the rest of the year. Young and non-breeding birds form nomadic flocks, up to several hundreds.
Magpie-lark flies relatively slowly and low from the ground. If disturbed, it takes off and flies short distance, for landing again very quickly further.
Breeding season occurs from August to February in southern parts of the range, and at any time after rains in drier areas.
Another name of Magpie-lark is “Mud lark” coming from its nest. Adults need an access to water and mud. During breeding season, both sexes gather wet mud, used for building a cup-shaped nest on tree branch or similar support. Nest may be situated at about 20 metres high. Mud is often mixed with grass and other plant materials plastered together. Interior is generously lined with fine grasses, feathers and fur. During nest building, male and female often sit close to each other, in order to perform their duets while they raise and low their wings.
Female lays 3 to 5 white or pink eggs, with brown markings. Incubation lasts about 17 to 19 days, shared by both parents. Young fledge about three weeks after hatching. Then, they travel in large flocks for seasonal movements.
In good conditions, this species can produce several broods per season.
Magpie-lark feeds mainly on insects and their larvae, earthworms and also freshwater snails.
PROTECTION / THREATS / STATUS:
Magpie-lark is common and widespread in its range. Populations are not threatened. Their presence is encouraged, because these birds feed on freshwater snails, which carry pests to sheep and cattle.
Fr: Gralline pie
All : Drosselstelze
Esp : Alondra Urraca
Ital : Allodola-gazza australiana
Nd : Australische Slijkekster
Russe : Австралийский сорочий жаворонок
Photograph by Patrick Ingremeau
His website: TAMANDUA
Text by Nicole Bouglouan