Family: Artamidae (Woodswallows, Butcherbirds, Currawongs, 15 species in Australia)
Size: 36-44 cm
Distribution: All of Australia except parts of western inland Australia and northern Australia
Status: Locally Abundant to Common
Habitat: Open forest, farms, urban land.
References: Simpson and Day, Reader's Digest, Wikipedia
The Australian Magpie is one of the most famous Australian birds. It is commonly seen in grassy open areas such as parks and sporting fields. It has a red eye. It is a distinctive looking bird and easy to identify, though occasionally currawongs are mistaken for magpies.
Around the breeding season (late August to early October) some magpies will attack humans that pass close to the nest, swooping down low and sometimes pecking the back of the head of the person. The attacker is almost always (99% of the time) the male bird. Holding a stick above your head is a good deterrent.Unlike the spurwing plover though, a magpie will usually attack from behind, and only an unusually agressive magpie will attack when you are looking right at it. There have been reports of magpies landing in front of someone and lurching up to land on their chest while pecking at their face and eyes, but I have never seen this happen.
Photo: Watsons Bay NSW. Higher Resolution (1221 x 915).
Photo: Watsons Bay NSW. Higher Resolution (1158 x 1047).
Artwork: John Gould, 'The Birds of Australia', 1848. Original Scanned Image.
Some Birdwatching Resources
Nikon COOLPIX P1000 Super Zoom Camera
The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 is Nikon's longest zoom range camera, and probably still the longest zoom range of any camera in the world. For bird photography (and other wildlife photography) having a long zoom range is a massive help, since you don't have to be within a few metres of the birds/animals to get a good photo.
I'll write more about these super-zoom cameras soon as I have a loan of a Nikon COOLPIX P900, a slightly older model which also has a massive (though not as massive) zoom range as the P1000. The P900 can take photos of the rings of Saturn. It's basically a portable telescope with a camera built into it.
Most of the reviews from professional photography websites of the super zoom cameras complain far too much that their picture quality isn't up to that of a DSLR or other expensive modern camera. The problem here is that it's basically impossible to have a zoom anywhere near as long as the P900, P950, or P1000 on a typical DSLR with the "full-size sensor" that would keep the magazine reviewers 5-star-happy. To get things into perspective, with a full size (a.k.a. full frame) sensor of 35mm, the lens would need to have a physical focal length of 3000 mm (yes that is 3 metres). Even if made as a "mirror lens" where the light path can bounce back and forth once or twice, so that the lens can be physically shorter than 3 metres in length, it's still going to be something like almost metre long. And to have an aperture ratio of f/8 at the long end of the zoom range means the diameter of the aperture has to be 3000 divided by 8. Which equals 375 mm across. In other words, the diameter of the lens itself would have to be about 40 centimetres across (like a decent-sized telescope, which it literally would be). To carry your high optical quality 3000mm full frame lens, with a 40 centimetre wide end, made of heavy optical-quality glass, is probably going to require a vehicle of some sort. So that's what I mean by "basically" impossible to have a lens that zooms this close in a full size sensor type of camera. Incidentally, Nikon does make an actual 2000mm lens. It costs about $25-30,000 USD and weighs 18 kilograms. It's about 25 centimetres diameter across the front of the lens, and it's only f/11, which is smaller and dimmer (i.e. worse) than the f/8 of the Nikon P1000. But it would give you "full-frame sized sensor picture quality" (apart from the limitation of the aperture only going as big as f/11).
If you want to take photos of something small (e.g. a bird) from far away, these cameras are a truly new type of technological innovation — something which really did not exist before a few years ago. When, a few years ago, my mother saw one on a TV infomercial ad, and told me the P900 camera had an "83 times optical zoom", I honestly just assumed she had misheard and meant an 8.3 times optical zoom. The P100 has a 125x optical zoom, and can zoom in even further than the P900.
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