Birds

Mudlark or Magpie Lark

I’ve grown up calling these birds Mudlarks, and have always had them around my home.  When I was a child, we rescued an almost fledged chick, which managed to tumble from a nest at the top of an electricity pole. There was no hope of getting it back up there, so we kept in inside overnight, and put it back out under the pole in the daytime.  The parent birds fed it during the day, and we took it back in to protect it overnight.  While we initially were swooped, the parents came to understand we were protecting their baby.  They would sit on the fence and wait for us to deliver or collect the young chick each day.  This arrangement lasted for about a week, until the chick could fly. The family continued to visit our yard and we were happy to see the bird we had named ‘Spot’ grow into an adult.   This was my first experience of  working with nature to keep a young bird alive, and allow it to remain wild, so this species is special for me.

Some eighteen months ago, when we first moved in, we saw a Mudlark here, but I didn’t photograph it as they were so common in the city.  I expected them to be common here too, however, it has taken a very long time to see a second sighting of this species.  So while I have the chance, I will add it to the bird species list

Adult Male Mudlark

The black mark over the eye, with pale eye and a white bill identify this bird as an adult male. The female has a solid black stripe from the head down to the neck, which passes over the eye. Immature birds are similar to the male with dark bill and a dark eye.

Mudlark and Plover

If I blow this photograph up to the point where it is pixellated I can make out that the bird on the beach is a female. Compared with the Plover, the comparative size of the birds can be seen. My field guide tells me that a mudlark can  grow to somewhere between 26 and 30 cm.

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Out here, they seem very shy, and keep their distance from the house and from humans.  Being a relatively small bird, the photographs I managed to take are not spectacular, but sufficient to identify the key markings.

4 replies »

  1. There were magpies where I grew up too! I fantasized about catching a small one because I was told they can be taught to talk. I met a lady recently who raised one and it did indeed talk:)

    • Ah! Magpies would be quite a different experience, I imagine. I suspect the parent birds would not be so forgiving as the Mudlark parents! My mother used to feed adult magpies and if she was late they would all line up outside her window and carol to her until she did feed them. I love it when wild birds allow you to make contact in these subtle ways, but always knowing they are wild and can come and go as they please. Nice to hear from you! Lisa

      • Yes, I agree. Birds are so full of personality. This is never more evident than in their pursuit for food. It is funny to watch the varying behaviours as they stake out claims and jostle for position (both within the same species and the various inter-species. Thanks for commenting! Lisa

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