Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How to tell the difference between a male and female juvenile Australian Magpie.

A juvenile Australian Magpie - gender unknown.
This must be one of the hardest things to do. To look at the juvenile Australian Magpies at first glance they all pretty much look the same. Each juvenile, like it's parents, have their own unique feather patterns and colouring, giving them sort of fingerprint like markings on how to identify them apart from each other visually. However, going on my own study of the local juvenile Magpies when they are out and about, it is much easier to tell them apart when they are one year old or very close to that age - in Spring of each year.

Firstly, with juveniles under the age of 12 months, I have noticed that the adult male Magpie tends to mostly feed the juvenile male, whereas the adult female tends to mostly feed the juvenile female - if any, that are born. That feeding pattern can vary quickly so it is not actually reliable for identifying their genders. The young juvenile male Australian Magpie tends to act more dominant than the juvenile female, and is more demanding on it's parents for food. It seems to be louder when it squarks for food and tends to push the female or other male out of the way just so it can get all the food. Often fights break out as to who gets the food when only 2 juvenile males are born.

However, when the juveniles are one year old you can easily identify their gender by their behaviour and attitude. At the age of one year old, when the adult Australian Magpies are nesting again and the adult male becomes aggressive toward it's previous offspring, juvenile males begin to become aggressive toward other bird species (specifically Magpie Larks) and any other juvenile males within the same family unit. Juvenile males begin to mimic exactly what adult males do but due to their inexperience tend to go overboard with their fighting and chasing of Magpie Larks. Juvenile females, however, are not as aggressive and are usually reluctant to get into a fight or chase any other bird.  They are curious about why their brother/s are fighting or chasing other birds but often turn to the adult female for guidance on what to do next and how to deal with the situation. Juvenile females will mimic the behaviour of their mother.

Juvenile male Australian Magpies are generally destructive around human habitats, often destroying potted plants, ripping apart polystyrene foam containers, standing on and often crushing potted plants, and generally getting into all kinds of mischief. These juvenile males appear to be very curious about their surroundings, and have often been seen playing with various objects, natural and manmade, like how human children play with toys. This behaviour only last for one Spring but it occurs every Spring with each passing generation and I believe is a precursor to it's adult mating and nesting behaviour.

It is roughly about this age (12 months) when juvenile females begin their mimicry singing, and is how I identify, mostly, the juvenile girls from the boys. Male Australian Magpies do not mimic other sounds they hear. By this time the 2 year old offsprings begin moving out of the family unit's territory and find mates of their own. They will not leave the territory until they have definitely found a mate to mate with and have established a territory of their own in which to raise a family within.

1 comment :

  1. Very odd. The only magpie amongst our resident group on our property that mimics anything is a male magpie, the dominant of the group. He is, I suspect, a rescue bird, as he has only one eye and mimics humans and human objects as well as every bird it seems to ever have heard in its experience. At one time it even mimicked the distinctive meow of our old tom cat, though it only did this briefly. The old cat would yell at the magpie when it came to steal his food. None of the females in the group have mimicked anything, to my knowledge, other than the calls of other magpies.


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