Katandra Bushland Sanctuary

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Magpie or Currawong?

Two types of birds commonly found on the east coast of Australia that are sometimes mistaken for each other are the magpies and currawongs. Both birds are predominantly black in colour with white markings.


The Australian magpie (Cracticus tibicen) is a medium-sized bird native to Australia and southern New Guinea. It belongs to the Artamidae family of birds and is classified in the butcherbird genus Cracticus. It is not closely related to the European magpie which belongs to the Corvidae or crow family.

 Magpies have several white patches on them and have white beaks. They are well known for their beautiful chortling songs, one of the classic sounds of the Australian bush. The eye colour of the Magpie is red to brown. It is found almost wherever there are trees and open areas. With its long legs, the Australian magpie walks rather than waddles or hops and spends much time on the ground.

Magpies feed on worms, small reptiles, insects and their larvae, fruits and seeds. Common and widespread, it has adapted well to human habitation and is a familiar bird of parks, gardens and farmland. In spring a small minority of breeding magpies (almost always males) become aggressive and swoop and attack those who approach their nests. This aggressive behaviour has led the Australian magpie to be used as the mascot of several Australian sporting teams.

Source - Katandra Bushland News (Spring 2015 edition)


There are three species of currawong native to Australia. The Pied Currawong (Strepera graculina) , the species commonly found in Sydney, is a little larger than the Australian magpie. They are easily distinguished by their yellow eyes, in contrast to the red eyes of a magpie and white eyes of Australian crows and ravens. They have only a little white visible when they are not in flight, under their tails and in their wings. Their beaks are long, pointed, robust and black with hooked tips. They are not as terrestrial as the magpie and have shorter legs resulting in them often hopping around when on the ground.

Despite their resemblance to crows and ravens, they are only distantly related to the  Corvidae family, instead belonging Artamidae family along with the Australian magpie.

Pied Currawongs feed on small lizards, insects, berries, and small and young birds. Large prey items are stored in what’s called a “larder” (a tree fork or crevice) so prey can be eaten over a period of time. They also have very peasant songs with short word-like calls. While currawongs are territorial, especially during mating, they don’t attack or dive-bomb people.