The Australian magpie and native earthworms
Atiding of magpies congregates in a stand of nearby eucalypts. Remarkably intelligent and gregariously noisy, magpies have a reputation for their curiosity, sweet melodic song and alarming aerial assaults.
The breeding season runs from July to December, and for 6–8 weeks magpies will swoop on intruders coming within some 120m of their nest, but only if they regard them as a threat to their chicks. Less than 10 per cent of magpies actually swoop on people, and they are more likely to attack cyclists and strangers. The best tactic is to keep eye contact with a swooping bird. Don’t wave sticks or threaten them, and if you are riding, dismount and walk.
Our local magpies probably know everyone in our neighbourhood. They live in the same territory for life, and can recognise and distinguish individual faces, so it pays to be on good terms with your neighbouring magpies; and that’s not difficult to do. Magpies are curious and friendly, and if a magpie considers you to be agreeable and non-threatening you will have a friend for life. They will let you approach during the breeding season, and even bring their young ones around to get to know you. We often find a couple of juveniles perched on our verandah rail, looking curiously into our house while their parents forage around our garden.
Backyards provide lots of food for magpies, who have taken well to living in urban areas. They love to eat worms and grubs, and you may have noticed a magpie turning its head to one side while walking across your lawn: it’s listening for the sound of lunch moving around just beneath the surface. As such, they are one of the best backyard lawn grub eradicators.
Len gardens in the Northern Rivers, NSW