Back­yard vis­i­tors

The Aus­tralian mag­pie and na­tive earth­worms

Gardening Australia - - CONTENTS -

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

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