Australian Magpie¦Biology and Behaviour of an Unusual Songbird¦BOOK REVIEW


Paperback | May 2019 | $ 45.00
ISBN: 9781486307241 | 280 pages | 245 x 170 mm
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Colour plates, Illustrations, Photographs

ePDF | May 2019
ISBN: 9781486307258
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Available from eRetailers

The first edition of Kaplan’s book, published in 2004, was based on ten years of her research on Australia’s iconic magpie. The intervening years have included much ongoing research by others including Kaplan’s over twenty five years of study specifically on this species.

Much has been learnt about the magpie’s behaviour, in particular their ability to learn vocalisations and willingness to raise offspring in pairs and families. These qualities have contributed to humankind’s understanding of the evolution of language and cognition.

Chapters cover aspects of magpie behaviour such as the way they manage their territories, bonding and breeding, caring for their young, social rules, daily life and communication.

Each topic is dealt with using examples from the author’s patient observation skills and supported by delightful and often comical photographs. Other chapters include anatomy (the “song system” is fascination in itself!), brain and senses, diet and cognition in foraging, song production and vocal development. The final chapter deals with magpies and human interactions and looks at road accidents, injuries and disease, preparation for breeding and the common complaint by humans – swooping!

I found this book a joy and delight to read, with the colour illustrations to exemplify the points particularly entertaining. The author’s intention was to make the book “accessible to everyone”.

As Kaplan says [for those interested and involved in the science and study of the magpie, references include]“most of the studies ever published about magpies.” Indeed the book has thirty one pages of references and also includes copious endnotes to each chapter and a comprehensive index.

Wendy Morris – Honorary Librarian