Animals

Magpie Lark

by Marcia Malory

The magpie lark (Grallina cyanoleuca) is a passerine that lives in Australia, New Guinea and Timor.

It is also sometimes called the mudlark, the Murray magpie, the piping shrike or the peewee.

Magpie larks build unusual bowl-shaped mud nests that are very sturdy.

A magpie lark is usually between about 10 and about 12 inches long.

Magpie lark

It has black and white feathers and a white bill. Its black and white coloring causes it to resemble a magpie superficially.

The male magpie lark's face is black, with a white stripe over the eye, while the female's face is completely white.

Magpie lark's are at home in almost all habitats, except for rainforests and extremely dry deserts.

They can be found in urban areas.

Magpie larks are carnivorous. They spend most of their time on the ground, where they hunt for invertebrates, including insects and worms.

They also eat freshwater snails, which carry a parasitic liver fluke that infects sheep and cattle. Because of this, farmers hold the magpie lark in high regard.

Magpie larks that live in forests prefer to live in areas where there is open space in which they can forage.

In the winter, large flocks of magpie larks congregate together.

During the spring, pairs stake out nesting territories.

Magpie larks will defend their territories aggressively. A pair will defend their territory together. They will attack birds much larger than themselves.

Mud Nests

Both the male and female magpie lark build the nest, which is a deep open bowl of mud that is strengthened with hair, feathers and grease. It is placed high on a horizontal branch.

Magpie larks prefer to build their nests near water, where they can find mud.

The magpie lark's nest is one of the most solidly constructed of all bird nests. Only torrential rains can wash it away.

A clutch contains 3 to 5 eggs.

Both parents incubate the eggs.

The pair will often sit next to each other on the nest and sing a duet together.

One member of the pair will sing a note, and then the other will respond about half a second later. Each bird produces about one note per second, so the two voices overlap. This singing is used to keep other nesting pairs away.