Tag Archives: magpie

Every West Aussie is familiar with the melodious chortling of the magpies’ “dawn chorus”, but few know that in Aboriginal stories these birds are credited with creating the very first sunrise.

According the Noongar Dreaming, the sky was once so close to the ground that trees could not grow, people had to crawl and all the birds were forced to walk everywhere.

Working together they managed to prop up the sky with sticks, but it threatened to break the sticks and collapse to earth again – with potentially disastrous consequences. The clever magpies, however, took a long stick in their beaks and pushed it up and up until the sky sprang into its proper place, revealing the sun and, with it, the first dawn.

The magpies’ boastful singing each morning is to remind everybody of their important role in creation.

Its unique song is reflected in its Noongar name: “Coolbardie”. The mining town of Coolgardie means “magpie” in the Goldfields Aboriginal dialect.

There are two subspecies of Australian magpie in WA – each identifiable by its markings.

The gender and age of the South-West subspecies (dorsalis) can be distinguished by their different black and white liveries. The adult dorsalis female has a glossy black head and her feathers are edged in greyish white. Her underside is mainly black with a grey rump and her bill is blueish white tipped with black.

Young adult males look similar to the female but lack the grey-white feather edges. As the males grow the distinctive white patch on their shoulders expands down their back until, by five years of age, their entire back from neck to tail is pure white.

The tibicen subspecies, which dominates the remainder of WA, differs from dorsalis in that the adults have more black on their backs.

The Australian magpie abounds in lightly wooded country in all but the driest and wettest parts of Australia.

It is partial to farmlands and suburban lawns, where it is commonly seen in family groups hunting insects and other small creatures.

The birds’ beautiful “carol” is a communal song which reaches its peak in June and July, at the start of the mating season.

In Perth magpies breed from July to early November, the females building a large, bowl-shaped nest of sticks and twigs high in the fork of a tree and lining it with grass, bark, wool and leaves.

Unfortunately for pedestrians and cyclists, spring also hails the start of the magpies’ “swooping season”, when male magpies become aggressively territorial in trying to drive away what they see as threats to their nests and chicks.

But, despite this unsociable streak, when most people think of magpies they think of the glorious melodic chorus that is as intrinsic to the sounds of Australia as the kookaburra’s laugh.

Peter Hancock

Sydney Morning Herald

March 8 2013

“Swoop” – Wins his second international Award.

He has been awarded Hon. Mention in the Traditional category of USA based Fusion Art – 4th Into the Wild Art Exhibition. This is a jury judged competition and the second international award this painting has received. “Swoop” has previously been jury judged “Best Painting in Show” by US based Camelback Galleries.

“Swoop” has also featured on the front page of a European art magazine.

Thank you “Swoop” and Muneer Al Shanti for allowing use of his image used as inspiration for this oil painting.


“Swoop” my bird painting of an Australian Magpie takes pride of honor  – Jury selected “Best in Show” by the USA based Camelback Gallery “Animal” one line painting competition.


“Swoop”  was lovingly painted in memory of my father who lost his battle with Parkinson’s disease. When asked what bird would he like me to paint – my father announced “A Magpie”. In his final weeks we would walk and sit together watching the magpies play antics in the local park. My last memories of spending quality time with my father.


Australian Magpie
Swoop – Australian Magpie

Thank you to Muneer Al Shanti for graciously providing the reference photo for this painting.