The animal on the cover of Understanding and Using C Pointers is the piping crow-shrike, or Australian magpie (Cracticus tibicen). Not to be confused with the piping crow found in Indonesia, the Australian magpie is not a crow at all; it is related to butcherbirds and is native to Australia and southern New Guinea. There were once three separate species of Australian magpie, but interbreeding has resulted in the coalescence of their three species into one.
Australian magpies have black heads and bodies with varied black and white plumage on their backs, wings, and tails. The Australian magpie is also called the piping crow-shrike due to its multi-tonal, complex vocalizations. Like true crows, the Australian magpie is omnivorous, though it prefers to eat insect larvae and other invertebrates. It lives in groups of up to two dozen, and all members generally defend the group territory. During springtime, however, some breeding males will become defensive of their nests and will engage in swooping attacks on passersby, including human and their pets.
This magpie is a non-migratory bird and has adapted to human environments, as well as to a mix of forested and open areas. For that reason, it is not endangered, and although it is considered a pest species in neighboring New Zealand, the magpie may be very useful in Australia for keeping the invasive cane toad in check. When introduced to Australia, the cane toad had no natural predators, and its toxic secretions ensured the multiplication ...