Magpie-lark

The peewee or magpie lark (Grallina cyanoleuca), is one of the Northern Territory's native and protected species. It is widespread across Australia. It is small bird, 26-30cm, with a mellow, liquid, yet clear voice. 

The male is identified by a white tail with a wide black band and a horizontal black line through the eye. 

The female has a white brow and throat and a black band vertical through eye.

Peewee 

Conservation Status

  • Australia secure
  • NT least concern

Distribution

Peewees are common throughout Australia, except Tasmania, and are often found in urban areas. The Peewee's habitat is diverse, ranging from coastal to semi-desert. They prefer anywhere with trees and water, but also open areas of bare soft ground for foraging. 

Diet

Peewees are mostly ground dwelling and forage for a variety of insects and freshwater invertebrates.

Reproduction

Both parents share the incubation duties and care for three to five young. In good years, Peewees may rear more than one brood. The breeding season is August to January, but may happen at other times of the year.

Male and female birds gather wet mud to construct a bowl shaped nest on a horizontal branch sometimes 20 metres off the ground which they line with feathers and grasses.

The male and female birds often sit side by side whilst on the nest and call alternately, each raising and lowering their wings as they do so, forming a duet.

Living with Peewees

Many Peewees in urban areas are used to human beings and therefore the presence of Peewees in an area does not necessarily mean they will be a nuisance.

Peewees may sometimes attack reflections in windows believing it is another bird threatening their territory. This happens mainly during the breeding season and can be managed by:

  • hanging netting, baskets or plants over windows
  • installing anti-glare screens on windows
  • using some sort of window covering to block reflection

Peewees are a protected species in the Northern Territory and cannot be interfered with without a permit from Parks and Wildlife NT.

Swooping

Peewees swoop to protect their nests and young or if they feel threatened. Most swooping happens during the nesting period of August to January. 

However if they do swoop it can be an unpleasant and even dangerous situation, so if you cant avoid the area altogether, here are some easy steps to reduce the risk from Peewee swooping:

  • wear sunglasses, a hat or carry an umbrella for protection in the areas that are known for swooping
  • if cycling, consider mounting a flexible pole with a flag to your bike
  • walk with others as Peewees tend to mainly swoop individuals
  • Peewees are unlikely to swoop if they feel as if they are being watched - it is possible to buy hats or umbrellas with pictures of eyes on them that will deter the birds
  • do not give the Peewees any reason to feel threatened such as moving quickly or aggressively
  • remain calm - if you panic, this may only make the situation worse
  • if cycling through a swooping area, it is advisable to walk your bike or consider mounting a flexible pole with a flag to it which will deter swooping.

Peewees may defend an area of up to 100 metres from their nest. Swooping will generally stop once chicks have left the nest.

The Peewee nesting period is between August – January, however they have been known to nest outside of this time frame.

Find out more about Peewee behaviour (945.6 kb).

Last updated: 27 June 2017