Magpie Nutrition

Subject: Magpie Nutrition
From: (Shane Raidal)
Date: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 16:45:00 +0800
Dear Fiona,

>My partner and I are very fond of the magpie families that live
>nearby, and we enjoy feeding them. We've heard that cheese is
>ok for them in small quantities - fatty, but at least it contains
>some calcium. We've also read that soaked dog kibble is ok.

Calcium and Vitamin B deficiencies are the most common problems in 
hand-raised magpies (fed minced-meat).  However, malnutrition is unlikely to 
occur in free-flying birds since they will obtain other sources of vitamins 
and minerals from natural sources.  Cat food or dog kibble is probably the 
most nutritious readily accessible food but many contain potentially harmful 
bacteria such as E. coli.  Canned food is better. Cheese is OK.  Don't 
overfeed them and try mixtures of different fresh food types (sultanas, 
chopped bananas etc.)

>We're concerned about the young magpies' diets though. A couple of
>them have painful, nubbly growths on their feet and legs. Can
>anyone tell us what this might be, and whether it could be caused
>by dietary deficiencies? The young maggies are only a few months

The growths are probably the result of poxvirus infection.  Magpie pox is 
common across Australia.  The disease is characterised by lumps covered by 
scabs which occur on the feet and face.  They can be very severe and can 
interfer with vision, feeding etc.  The virus is spread by mosquitoes.  It 
is not a risk for humans. 

>I doubt we are the only people feeding these magpies, so I don't
>know what their diets are really like. If junk food is harming
>their health, we'll have to start discouraging them, much as this
>will spoil our fun.

It's your decision whether you feed wild birds or not.  The government might 
even assist you to make a buck out of it by developing your backyard into a 
tourist resort..... Magpie Mia has a certain ring to it.


Dr Shane Raidal BVSc PhD MACVSc (Avian Health)
Lecturer in Veterinary Pathology
School of Veterinary Studies                
Murdoch University                 phone:  +61 9 360 2418
Perth,WA, 6150                            fax:  +61 9 310 4144  

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