Thursday, November 1, 2012

UPDATE: Australian Magpies and their female chick

It's feathers are a lot darker than previous chicks that
have been born in the past. It's colouring is that of a 12
month old juvenile actually. ADD ONE HOUR TO THE
TIME ON THIS IMAGE - my camera's time setting is
behind by one hour.
Today I finally saw the Australian Magpie chick for the very first time. At first I was confused about the chick being a chick as it's feather colouring was too dark to be straight out of the nest. It also seems to be a little too big to be a chick just out of the nest. It is the same size as a one year old juvenile Australian Magpie. It wasn't until I took this photo (see left image) that I realised it was their new chick. The chick has been out of the nest for about a week, I'm guessing, two weeks at the most but today was my very first sighting of her.

All the Magpies' past offspring have fully grown tail feathers, whereas this chick has short tail feathers, like that of a Satin Bowerbird. When this chick grows and matures, it is going to be huge. It will easily be bigger than it's parents, in size. Whether it will grow a longer tail or not only time will answer that question. I'm not sure if this is normal or not for a Magpie chick to have short tail feathers at this stage of it's development but it seems to be able to fly okay not that I have seen her fly yet.

I was a little bit concerned when I saw this young bird, as the parents were not exactly feeding it like they have done with their previous offspring. I also believe it is a girl as the adult male was not aggressive toward the chick, even though the chick itself acted in a somewhat submissive manner (she didn't like what was happening to her older brother) on a few ocassions when it was on my front lawn when it's dad was very close by. The dad was being aggressive toward his 12 month old son that was eating food nearby.

Another indication that tells me this is a female is when the chick got frightened it ran straight toward it's mum rather than it's dad. Going on my past experiences in identifying the genders of juvenile Australian Magpies, this chick fascinates me. Not only does it act like a female but also maybe is already self-sufficient when it comes to finding food. It is very quick at adapting to my presence - on the second sighting of me it almost came straight up to me.

I now understand why I have not seen the male Magpie taking interest in feeding the chick. Male Magpies feed male chicks, and female Magpies feed female chicks - only if one chick survives and fledges. But both parents will feed the chick at some point, especially if it is a male and is quite demanding on the parents for food. This chick barely squarked at all for food when it was on my front lawn and it spent all of it's time feeding itself. That doesn't usually happen for months afterward, as it takes about 6 months before the chicks are independant enough to constantly feed themselves. If it is true that this chick is less than 2 months old, then it is very well developed for it's age. I would even say it is maturing at an advanced rate for it's age.

I've noticed, over the years that Magpie chicks, when by themselves, run to Pied Currawong females/males for comfort and protection when spooked and when on the ground. This only happens during the first year of an Australian Magpie's life. Australian Magpies and Pied Currawongs get on really well together here in Tenterfield. The only time a Magpie will attack a Currawong is when a male is experiencing increased hormone levels due to breeding and defending it's male chicks. This can occur for more than 12 months. Pied Currawongs never attack Australian Magpies.

One thing caught my attention with this female Australian Magpie chick.. she attacked a full grown Torresian Crow at one point, and the crow did not bother her or try to take her food after that. Normally the crows will attack the Magpie adults, juveniles and chicks and win but this female Magpie chick isn't putting up with the crows' behaviour at all. I have witnessed my very first aggressive female Magpie, and this girl will not only survive but become a top predator when she grows up. I will only have 2 years to study her before she begins to find a mate of her own and leaves home, assuming her sexual maturity will be the same as all other Australian Magpies ever born in Tenterfield and elsewhere in Australia. She will be one very interesting bird to study, just to see how she grows and what sort of things she does, if different to other Magpie chicks that are her same age.

UPDATE ON THIS POST (6 November 2012) - Turns out that this bird is the one year old female. She was obviously attacked by another bird and as a result had her tail feathers pulled out. At a guess, going on her reaction to a Torresian Crow that she attacked, I'd say her attacker was a Torresian Crow. Female Magpies don't attack other birds, especially crows. But crows attack Magpies.

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