A great egret looks for breakfast at Calamvale Creek


Scientific stuff

— also called
pee-wee, pee-wit, mud-lark, mud-nester, pugwall, Murray magpie

Grallina cyanoleuca
26-30 centimetres (11-12 inches)

Small black and white bird with black crown, breast and back, white beak and white belly.
Male has white eyebrow and black throat.
Female has white face and throat, but no distinct eyebrow.
Juvenile has white throat, white eyebrow, grey beak, dark eye.

Usually seen in groups or pairs. Builds mud nest with slightly rounded vertical sides on horizontal tree branch near water.

Loyal, faithful to mate. Likes to go foraging with other magpie-larks.

Using our photos

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Peewee's photos

A large number of magpie-larks forage in the park surrounding Calamvale Creek.

They don't like you getting too close, although they will let you take photos of them while they pretend not to see you provided you keep your distance.

The photographer said:
“The magpie-larks around the creek generally don't provide great photo opportunities unless you have a good telephoto lens.

“They are usually on the move as they forage in the grass, they turn their back on you a lot, and they fly away quickly when they sense you are about to get closer than their comfort zone.

“Peewee allowed me to get closest to him, but the photos on this page show several other magpie-larks as well.

“It's much easier to distinguish male magpie-larks from females than it is with most other birds.

“That's because of the colours around their face, breast, and eyebrows. (See identification features in the scientific stuff on this page.)”

Critters of Calamvale Creek

Peewee the magpie-lark

Also known as:
pee-wee, pee-wit, peewit, Murray magpie, mud-lark, mudlark, pugwall, mud-nester

Grallina cyanoleuca

magpie_lark_1 (26K)Pee-wit. Pee-wit.

If you want to be a magpie-lark you have to learn to sing pee-wit correctly. I'm Peewee the magpie-lark from Calamvale Creek in Brisbane, Australia. Welcome to the world of pee-wees.

The name “magpie-lark” is actually wrong, because we are not related to either magpies or to larks. We may be black and white like magpies, but they are much bigger. It's like comparing jockeys with basketballers.

Where do I live?

magpie_lark_2 (40K)

You are more likely to see me on the ground than in the trees. And I prefer to be close to water. You can see me in the photo above on a rock beside the Golden Pond wetland. That is one of my rest areas.

Magpie-larks are found only in Australasia. You won't find many of us in rainforests or dry parts of Australia, but we will go almost everywhere else, including your yard and along roadsides — dodging traffic to find food.

What do I eat?

magpie_lark_3 (12K)I find most of my food as I walk through short grass or patches of bare, soft ground. I love fat juicy worms, insects, caterpillars, and other soft critters.

I scrounge around for small, tasty invertebrates, and will also eat spiders, small lizards, moths, and some freshwater invertebrates.

I like to patrol the shores of creeks, swamps, and soft ground.

Magpie-lark marriages and babies

When magpie-larks find a mate, we usually pair for life. We defend our territory together, and if food is plentiful we stay in the same area throughout the year.

Our nest is a little unusual. We make a roundish nest, about 18-20 centimetres (7-8 inches) in diameter, out of mud mixed with grass and other plant material (see photo below). We have to be near water, otherwise we won't be able to build our mud nest.

magpie_lark_nest (54K)

magpie_lark_4 (26K)We line the nest with feathers to provide a soft bed for the 3-5 eggs Mrs Magpie-lark lays. We build it on a firm horizontal branch near water. The one above is almost 4 metres above water level.

When the mud dries, it is as hard as concrete.

You may not realize when you hear us sing that we are singing in duet. Mrs Magpie-lark and I take turns singing a note about a half-second apart. Humans think this is one bird calling, but it is a duet we sing together to announce that we live in this territory.

— Peewee the magpie-lark