Family Woodswallows and Butcherbirds (Artamidae)

Least Concern

Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen)


French: Cassican flûteur German: Flötenkrähenstar Spanish: Verdugo flautista

C[oracias]. tibicen


, 1801,

New South Wales, Australia


Races fall into four groups, the “black-backed tibicen group” (NW, N & E Australia), “white-backed hypoleuca group” (SE Australia and Tasmania), single-taxon “western or varied dorsalis group” (SW Australia), and single-taxon “papuana group” (New Guinea); groups formerly treated as representing three distinct species, but little congruence found between morphological and genetic variation. Races intergrade extensively: eylandtensis with terraereginae in C & S Northern Territory and NW Queensland, and latter race with all others (nominate, tyrannica, telonocua) where ranges meet; in SC Australia confusing intergradation involving telonocua, terraereginae, tyrannica and eylandtensis; and dorsalis intergrades with longirostris over broad region of S Western Australia from Shark Bay E to SW edge of Great Victoria Desert. Proposed race finki (Horseshoe Bend, on Finke R, in Northern Territory) refers to an intergrading population between eylandtensis and presumably terraereginae, and terraereginae itself sometimes synonymized with nominate#R; leuconota (South Australia) likewise relates to an intergrade. With so much complex intergradation and often races differing only in size, recognition of so many races may be inappropriate; further study required. Nine subspecies provisionally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • G. t. papuana Bangs & J. L. Peters, 1926 – Papuan Magpie – S New Guinea (S Trans-Fly region from Princess Marianne Strait E to Oriomo R).
  • G. t. eylandtensis H. L. White, 1922 – N Western Australia (Kimberley region) E through Northern Territory (including Groote Eylandt) to NW Queensland.
  • G. t. longirostris Milligan, 1903 – Western Australia from Dampier Land S at least to Pilbara region (inland extent uncertain).
  • G. t. terraereginae (Mathews, 1912) – most of Queensland (except Gulf region and extreme SE) and New South Wales W of Great Dividing Range (including most of Murray–Darling Basin) S to E South Australia (S, E of L Eyre, to Murray R) and N Victoria.
  • G. t. tibicen (Latham, 1801) – Black-backed Magpie – coastal SE Australia.
  • G. t. dorsalis A. J. Campbell, 1895 – Western Magpie – SW Western Australia (E almost to Eucla, S of Great Victoria Desert).
  • G. t. telonocua Schodde & Mason, 1999 – S Northern Territory and South Australia.
  • G. t. tyrannica Schodde & Mason, 1999 – N & E Victoria (mostly E of Great Dividing Range).
  • G. t. hypoleuca (Gould, 1837) – White-backed Magpie – N & E Tasmania; islands in Bass Strait.
  • Introduced to New Zealand and Fiji.

    Descriptive notes

    37–43 cm; c. 210–360 g (races combined), 212–325 g (terraereginae), 265–360 g (dorsalis), c. 300 g (nominate). Large black-and-white... read more


    Said to vary with locality and race. One of finest, best-known songbirds in Australia, with varied... read more


    Open habitats with low ground cover such as grasses. Originally inhabited open eucalypt (... read more

    Food and feeding

    Invertebrates, especially terrestrial insects; also small vertebrates, including frogs, lizards, small birds and small mammals. Will eat... read more


    Eggs recorded Jun–Mar (most laid Aug–Dec) in Australia, timing can vary with location and season, especially in N and inland... read more


    Primarily sedentary. Non-breeding flocks formed by some races are more mobile within local areas,... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally common and widespread. Locally abundant in E Australia; less numerous in N & C parts. Fairly common in New Guinea. Has benefited from... read more

    Recommended citation

    Russell, E., Rowley, I. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 27 February 2020).