Juvenile Australian Magpies playing wrestling

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A group of Australian Magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) was observed gathered in the shade of a large tree at King’s Domain, Melbourne. Wong Kais observed them from a distance and decided to train his camera on them. They were rolling on the grass, leaping at each other, chasing, kicking, pecking and wrestling.  There was an absence of sound and fury and Kais concluded that it was not a bird battle. By the time Kais was ready to roll his camera, there were 2 birds left continuing with the friskiness.

When viewed on the computer back home, the 2 birds could be seen to have grey scalloped patches on the white back, indicating juveniles or females. There were moments when one bird rolls onto its back and sticks its legs up straight into the air.

“A magpie, particularly a juvenile, may also fall, roll over on its back and expose its underparts.[77] Birds may fluff up their flank feathers as an aggressive display or preceding an attack.[78] Young birds display various forms of play behaviour, either by themselves or in groups, with older birds often initiating the proceedings with juveniles. These may involve picking up, manipulating or tugging at various objects such as sticks, rocks or bits of wire, and handing them to other birds. A bird may pick up a feather or leaf and flying off with it, with other birds pursuing and attempting to bring down the leader by latching onto its tail feathers. Birds may jump on each other and even engage in mock fighting. Play may even take place with other species such as blue-faced honeyeaters and Australasian pipits.”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_magpie

Kais concluded that he had witnessed a family group enjoying a bit of family time in the cool shade.

View the video below to see what Kais observed.

Image and video © Wong Kais.

15 November 2022.

Texts by Teo Lee Wei.


  1. Birds of Australia A Photographic Guide by Iain Campbell, Sam Woods, Nick Leseberg © 2015
  2. Cronin’s Key Guide Australian Wildlife by Leonard Cronin © 2007
  3. Fleurieu Birds by Peter Gower © 2012


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