What do magpie calls mean?
August 21, 2023 1:09 AM   Subscribe

What do magpie calls mean? Australian Magpies [Gymnorhina tibicen, from the family Artamidae; they are not closely related to the European magpie Pica pica, from the family Corvidae] are incredibly musically versatile, with 900-ish known syllables and a four-octave register — a wider range of notes than Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen.

"Magpies have probably the most variety of different calls," says Professor Kaplan, an animal behaviour scientist at the University of New England.

"They are used for so many situations, for emotional expressions, such as distress, fear, anger, for contacting, and then also for informing."
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries (11 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
It was a tough choice between the magpie and the kookaburra in the ABC's recent poll but I did opt for the magpie in the end. Peter Carey describes them in one of his books as sounding like an angel gargling in a crystal vase, a phrase which has stuck with me longer than anything else in the book. I also remember watching some thriller spy show (?) which had someone brought outside in a featureless wasteland that was meant to be somewhere completely different, but you could hear a magpie in the background and I thought ha! She's in Australia! And sure enough, the plot wound up hinging on her having heard it too and realised where she really was.

I absolutely adore kookaburras too, though.
posted by Athanassiel at 2:09 AM on August 21, 2023 [5 favorites]

"They're sometimes called the 'police of the bush,'" Professor Kaplan says.
This absolutely tracks. ACAB includes magpies 100%
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:43 AM on August 21, 2023 [4 favorites]

wardle ooodle ardle woodle
posted by Thella at 3:11 AM on August 21, 2023 [7 favorites]

Freddie Mercury couldn't fly, either.
posted by SoberHighland at 4:20 AM on August 21, 2023 [6 favorites]

Which magpie call means “here we are, born to be kings, we’re the princes of the universe”?
posted by mhoye at 5:16 AM on August 21, 2023 [2 favorites]

Get back to me when your magpies cover "Bohemian Rhapsody."
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:29 AM on August 21, 2023

To be fair though, Freddy Mercury also never tried to whack me in the head while I'm riding my bicycle either.
posted by nickzoic at 5:53 AM on August 21, 2023 [11 favorites]

He would never do that, he loved to ride his bicycle.
posted by mhoye at 6:10 AM on August 21, 2023 [18 favorites]

*slow clap*
perfectly played, mhoye.
posted by martin q blank at 6:57 AM on August 21, 2023

magpie calls and those of its close relation the butcher bird are some of my favourite bird songs. we used to have a magpie family in the park across from our house and the kids and parents kept up what seemed like an almost constant chatter with each other. hearing them first thing in the morning always makes me feel like I'm in the bush.
posted by mosessis at 8:23 AM on August 22, 2023

magpie calls and those of its close relation the butcher bird are some of my favourite bird songs
Growing up I was exceptionally fortunate to have multiple families of maggies and butcher birds (pied & grey) resident around our house.

Every morning I'd awaken to the sound of various songs as they courted food* from my mother. The greys, in particular, would land at her window and sing sweetly directly to her.

Such wonderful sounds

*Yes I know they shouldn't be fed
posted by coriolisdave at 3:58 PM on August 22, 2023 [1 favorite]

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