White-backed magpies in Canberra?

To: 'Philip Veerman' <>, "" <>
Subject: White-backed magpies in Canberra?
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2023 02:55:29 +0000

Sorry I meant northern edge. As in, most of the change occurs south of Canberra.


From: Canberrabirds [ On Behalf Of Philip Veerman
Sent: Wednesday, 28 June, 2023 12:51 PM
Cc: 'CanberraBirds email list'
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] White-backed magpies in Canberra?




There is a wide range of variation in the back pattern in Canberra. Canberra is at about the southern edge of the range of change. So your bird is among the less common but hardly unexpected.


The behaviour you describe can occur if they detect a raptor (though they aren’t usually frightened as they may go and harass it). Otherwise they might just see something else they want to attack (like choughs for example that are harmless to them but the like to bully. Or it can be due to incursions by another nearby family of magpies that they wish to chase off their patch. They are coordinated by their calling to each other to do a group defence.




From: Canberrabirds [ On Behalf Of
Sent: Wednesday, 28 June, 2023 12:15 PM
To: Canberra Birds
Subject: [Canberrabirds] White-backed magpies in Canberra?


We have recently noticed at least one pair of what look to us to be white-backed magpies in Belconnen (Emu Ridge).


The photo appears to show a female (somewhat speckled white back) and a white-backed male – as well as some without white backs.  (Overall, we seem to have become a haven for very large numbers of magpies in recent years, roosting/nesting in a nearby large eucalypt and foraging energetically in adjacent gardens.  They ‘all’ seem to ‘know’ us and happily forage within less than a metre of us – and surround us in large numbers whenever we dig in the garden, in the expectation of finding worms or other suitable food in the disturbed soil.  Sometimes, the ‘whole flock’ (certainly all we are aware of at that time) suddenly takes off, apparently in a panic, as if (say) a raptor has been spotted by them, though we’ve not seen the raptor or whatever has frightened them.  Could there be another reason for their sudden, seemingly coordinated flight?)


Are we right about the white backs?  Our past experience, mainly from trips south along the Princes Hwy into Victoria, is that one doesn’t see any white-backs until somewhere about the far south coast (Eden) area.


Kevin Bray



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