"Piping Shrike"

To: Dr Richard Nowotny <>
Subject: "Piping Shrike"
From: Ian May <>
Date: Sun, 01 Oct 2006 15:19:00 +1100
g'Day Doc

Piping Shrike was the early common name used for White-backed Magpie. I think this term was used in Campbells Nest and Eggs of Australian birds or perhaps "Norths" Nest and Eggs published in the 1890's but I dont have access to these books at present and am relying on unreliable memory here. The SA emblem is a stylised image of the magpie.

See for the following info.

The Piping Shrike has been the official badge of the South Australian Government since 1901. The state emblem generates pride and affection. Governor Tennyson in his dispatch to the Secretary of State for the Colonies said 'I herewith forward a flag with the new device upon it - the South Australian Shrike in the rising sun of the Commonwealth and hope that as it is a fine design and one which has been favourably received here ....'. (PC008, June 2003)

Dusky Hopping mouse

The piping shrike is also known as the white-backed magpie. Magpies can roughly be divided into white-backed and black-backed. The white-backed magpie is largely confined to western and southern Australia. (Kaplan, 2004).

There are at least four different subspecies of Australian magpie:

   * The Black-backed Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen tibicen) found in
     Queensland and New South Wales, right across the Top End and most
     of arid Western Australia. In the future the black-backed race may
     be further split into four separate races, as there are regional
     differences between them.
   * The White-backed Magpie (G. tibicen leuconata) found in Victoria,
     South Australia, and outback NSW.
   * The Tasmanian Magpie (G. tibicen hypoleuca).
   * The Western Magpie (G. tibicen dorsalis) in the fertile south-west
     corner of Western Australia.

At least two of the races were originally classified as separate species, but they are cross-fertile and hybridise readily. Where their territories cross, hybrid grey or striped-backed magpies are quite common.

Magpies mate across the year, but generally in winter. Nesting takes place in winter and spring is the season when the babies are looked after. By late summer the babies either make their own clan or separate from their parents whilst staying in the same clan.

The magpie is a commonly-used emblem of sporting teams in Australia, most notably the Port Adelaide Magpies Football Club and the Collingwood Football Club


Ian May

St Helens Tasmania

Dr Richard Nowotny wrote:

While in Adelaide last weekend (for the AFL preliminary final) I became
aware for the first time of the "Piping Shrike", South Australia's official
government logo bird (or whatever its actual status is - it's on official
government stationery, etc). I realized that I had seen the stylized bird
with outstretched, curved wings many times previously without really taking
much notice of it, but I had never before heard or read the term Piping

So what is a Piping Shrike and what are the origins of this, presumably
local, name? I started by asking some locals - only to discover that there
is a fairly high degree of uncertainty in the minds of the lay populace.
They all knew of the Piping Shrike and its place in the state's heraldry,
but in response to my questions the following comments were typical:
"Probably a magpie." No, it's not a magpie - maybe a 'Murray Magpie'." "I'm
not sure." "I don't know where the name comes from."

[I note that one of the "Other Names" for Australian Magpie in the Reader's
Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds is Piping Crow-shrike (and that a
Murray Magpie is a Magpie-lark).]

So, here's the opportunity for local birding/official logo experts to
educate me, and any other ill-informed Birding-Aussers, about the name, its
origins and which bird it refers to.


Port Melbourne, Victoria


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