Tuesday, 1 October 2013

What (magpie) larks, Pip!

Even magpie-larks (Grallina cyanoleuca) are visiting the bird baths.


Despite their common name*, they are neither magpies (although they are pied) nor larks (although they do sing). They are, in fact, outsized monarch flycatchers (Monarchidae), which just goes to show that you can never tell by appearances.

Also known as pee-wees (from their contact calls), these birds can be peevish in the breeding season. For the moment, they tolerate my presence. Someone has to fill up the water bowls and they haven't mastered the tap yet. Once they do that, they'll not only be able to fill up the bowls, but they'll also be able to make mud for their nests. Magpie-lark nests are constructed from grass and twigs cemented together with loadsa mud and lined with something soft, often feathers, but occasionally velveteen (or moleskin for rural birds)

These avian studies in black and white are sexually dimorphic. The male has a black throat and a black band through his eye.


 The female has a white throat.



 



Juveniles (not pictured) have a combination of male and female patterns: black eye band + white throat.

I call this image below the 'passport photo'. It is the main reason why magpie-larks do not migrate.



Magpie-larks occur all over Australia and are also found in southern New Guinea, the eastern Moluccas and Timor. A second species in the genus, the torrent-lark (Grallina bruijni), is restricted to the uplands of New Guinea.

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* Don't get me started**
** No, really. 

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