wee magpie, peewee, peewit, mudlark, Murray magpie

Grallina cyanoleuca
Population size
Life Span
10 years
g oz 
cm inch 

The magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca) is a passerine bird native to Australia, Timor and southern New Guinea. It was first described by the English ornithologist John Latham in 1801. The magpie-lark has alternate names including the mudlark (more common in southeastern Australia) or pugwall (pug "clay"), from its nest, and peewee (more common in northeastern Australia), peewit, from its call. In South Australia, the magpie-lark is also known as Murray magpie.


The male and female of this species are similar from a distance but easy to tell apart: the female has a white throat, the male a black throat and a white "eyebrow". Juveniles and immatures of either sex have the white throat of the female and the black eyestripe of the male, and a white belly.



Magpie-larks are found in Australia, Indonesia, Timor, and southern New Guinea. They are non-migratory birds; however, some populations may be partly migratory in some areas. Magpie-larks can adapt to an enormous range of different habitats, requiring only some soft, bare ground for foraging, a supply of mud for making a nest, and a tree to make it in. Magpie-larks can be found in dry forests, savannahs, and grassland, especially near water. These birds are also common and very widespread both in urban and rural areas.

Magpie-lark habitat map

Climate zones

Magpie-lark habitat map
Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

Habits and Lifestyle

Magpie-larks are diurnal birds that are usually seen either singly or in pairs. They may also gather in loose "flocks" comprising dozens of individuals being observed perched on vantage points. Such behavior is common, particularly in productive agricultural areas. Magpie-larks are aggressively territorial, and will fearlessly defend their territory against larger species such as magpies, ravens, kookaburras, and even the Wedge-tailed eagle. They are also known to attack people to defend their nesting area. Although attacks on people are not as aggressive, they can still result in surprise or minor injury to the recipient. Magpie-larks are one of the 200-odd species of birds around the world that are known to sing in duet; each partner producing about one note a second, but a half-second apart, so that humans find it difficult to tell that there are actually two birds singing, not one. Their duet singing is cooperative: pairs sing together to defend their territory. Magpie-larks sing more vigorously in response to duet calls from other birds, and more vigorously still if the callers are strangers rather than established and familiar birds from a neighboring territory. A pair of neighbors calling from the 'wrong' place, however, bring forth a powerful reaction: clearly, they know exactly who their neighbors are.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Magpie-larks are carnivorous birds and eat a wide range of small creatures such as insects, spiders, worms, crustaceans, reptiles, frogs, and occasionally seeds.

Mating Habits

varies with location
18 days
8 weeks
3-5 eggs

Magpie-larks are monogamous; they usually pair for life and defend a territory together. These birds build round nests, about 150 mm (5.9 in) in diameter with vertical sides and usually place them on a flat branch somewhere near water or on a horizontal beam of a telephone pole. The nest is made of grass and plant material thickly plastered together with mud and generously lined with grass, feathers, and fur. Breeding usually occurs from August to February in the fertile south, anytime after rain in drier areas, and multiple broods are common when conditions allow. Both parents incubate a clutch of between 3 and 5 eggs. The incubation of eggs takes up to 18 days, and the chicks fledge about 3 weeks after hatching. Often only some of the chicks survive because sometimes the nest is not big enough for all of the chicks, therefore one chick will sometimes push another out of the nest and it is most likely that it will not survive the fall. The young become independent around 5 weeks after fledging and reach reproductive maturity at 2 years of age.


Population threats

There are no major threats facing the Magpie-lark at present.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Magpie-lark total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The name of the Magpie-lark comes from the Ancient Greek words cyanos "dark blue" and leukos "white" despite the black and white plumage. However, there can be a bluish sheen to the black back of a bird.
  • Unlike many species in southwestern Australia, the Magpie-lark was given names by the local indigenous people that were onomatopoeic (sounding like the calls they make). Some of such names include byoolkolyedi (Perth and lowlands), dilabot (mountains and interior), and koolyibarak. Indigenous people in the Sydney region called this bird birrarik or birrerik.
  • When foraging on very wet mud, Magpie-larks may sometimes use a ‘foot-trembling’ technique, which helps to bring prey items to the surface.
  • Magpie-larks often attack mirrors, windows, and other reflective surfaces in which they mistake their reflection for an intruder into their territory.


1. Magpie-lark on Wikipedia -
2. Magpie-lark on The IUCN Red List site -
3. Xeno-canto bird call -

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