Can anybody explain this magpie behaviour please?

To: 'Charmian Lawson' <>, "" <>
Subject: Can anybody explain this magpie behaviour please?
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Thu, 26 Dec 2019 23:04:55 +0000

Hello Charmain,


Thanks for that clarification. Your original message mentioned that the cockatoo: “was in dire straits …. & … was very ill”. I was first to come up with a suggestion, actually just a guess, which really was just a question to you, about if it had beak and feather disease. I also first thought it may be a young bird that maybe had lost its parents and that is why it was behaving so badly and being so noisy. Other messages have been restricted to that particular idea of beak and feather disease, which may be – or not - applicable to your bird. If it has a slight curl to its lower beak, that suggests possible early symptoms of that disease. But of so little severity that it would seem to me a really weird reason for magpies to target it. It also could be terminally old or particularly heat affected as you suggest, or any of many possible things.


There is another thing. You wrote both times about the cockatoo suffering badly from the heat, but again, recovered after a thorough misting. I suggest to you that this is a normal thing. I think we all have seen how much, in particular most species of cockatoos love a rain shower after hot weather. They will hang upside down in the rain, make a lot of noise and fly around crashing into wet branches and go through exaggerated grooming. So the spray from a hose is something it probably liked and having been so sprayed it felt like being normal again…….





From: Charmian Lawson [ Sent: Friday, 27 December, 2019 8:28 AM  To: ; Mark Clayton
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Can anybody explain this magpie behaviour please?


Thank you very much for the replies. I appreciated your taking the time to answer my query.


The cockatoo had a slight curl to its lower beak which may have been the beginnings I suppose of beak and feather though he was in much better shape visually than some of the others I have seen here over the years. The poor thing was back yesterday, suffering badly from the heat, but again, recovered after a thorough misting and rest in the shade (I was able to pick him up off the ground in a towel and move him out of the sun) he flew away. However, I do not think it will survive the next several days.


On a brighter note, we had a pair of GangGangs visit for a short time this morning – haven’t seen any for months.


From: Philip Veerman [ Sent: Monday, 23 December, 2019 3:25 PM           To: 'Charmian Lawson'; 'COG'
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Can anybody explain this magpie behaviour please?


It is always hard to explain something like this. Sure we can suggest stuff but really hard to know if it is right. Sometimes magpies are just very aggressive. Last night I was at the old cemetery site in Evatt, a plot of lots of dry, presumably seeding grasses, where there was close to 200 Galahs including many begging young making their usual racket. About 5 Magpies in the block would fly around past the galahs and at almost every flying pass they would “charge” the galahs as part of the process of landing on the ground. It looked like they were targeting the noisy young ones but I don’t know. I did not count.  Your distressed cockatoo maybe was just a young bird making begging sounds or maybe a bird with beak and feather disease. I don’t know but I make those suggestions. The last line in your message is quite common behaviour of adult magpies evicting a grown chick from their territory.




Magpies attack all sorts of birds. Mostly other magpies. They frequently swoop at groups of W-w Choughs, these skirmishes rarely achieve anything, upsetting the choughs briefly, and then they both go on as if nothing happened. They regularly attack large raptors, I described them attacking groups of Galahs, maybe drawn to them by the raucous calls of the DY. Just as some Magpies specialise in attacking particular types of people, there may be differences in the birds they bother. Part of what might be the driving “motivation” could be isolation (from others) or difference (from others). That isolation (from other cockatoos that infected cockatoos tend to show) could be the trigger. It is possible but I would be surprised if there really is a consistent ability or trend for them to recognise cockatoos as having beak and feather disease and harass them for that reason. That is a big conclusion to make…….




From: Mark Clayton Sent: Thursday, December 26, 2019 9:23 PM           To:

Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Can anybody explain this magpie behaviour please?


Like most of the replies, any Sulphur-crested Cockatoo that arrives in my yard with parrot beak and feather disease gets mercilessly harassed by the local magpies. The maggies obviously and instinctively seem to know that the cocky has some sort of problem.


On 26/12/2019 9:16 pm, Alison wrote:

I too have had cockatoos with beak and feather disease, but they weren’t bothered by any of my local magpies.




From: John Bundock [ Sent: Thursday, 26 December 2019 7:33 PM    To: Michael Lenz; Charmian Lawson
           Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Can anybody explain this magpie behaviour please?


We also had a sulphur-crested cocky with beak and feather disease in our garden. It was harassed by magpies, magpie larks, currawongs and noisy miners.


John Bundock


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