Of all the noises you expect to hear while riffling through the clothing racks at the shops, the warble of a magpie is a fair way down the list.
But shoppers at South.Point Tuggeranong have come to expect there’ll be not just one, but two, in the women’s clothing section at Kmart.
“Somehow this lovely magpie made his way into Kmart Tuggeranong and was warbling away at lunchtime today,” Kim Mottley posted to the Canberra Notice Board Group on Facebook.
“I saw one in Target a few weeks ago, wonder if he’s living in the centre,” one replied.
“Actually there are at least two of them – they were around/above the Coffee Club on Sunday,” another commented.
Others replied with “he’s been in there for a while now” and “he lives over by EB Games”.
Kmart staff have confirmed two magpies were squatting in the southside shopping centre for at least a month, before escaping through the loading doors earlier this week.
Dessa Anderson, who works during the day near the fitting rooms, said the magpies first appeared as a pair in early April.
“When they first came in, people were like, ‘By the way, you have a bird in here’, but it started settling down, with kids saying ‘Look, there’s a bird’,” she says.
The magpie couple would roost on light fittings, with a seeming special affinity to one section of the store in particular.
“The birds would just be standing on this bar, mainly where our women’s jeans were, which is a bit creepy.”
Staff did contact the Australian wildlife rescue organisation WIRES but were told the roof was too high for a safe operation. Dessa says the magpies were supplied with two bowls of water and small handfuls of rolled oats and cheese until they chose to exit in their own time.
“It was at night, and I think they got a bit of help to come out,” Dessa says.
Kmart Tuggeranong has been visited by winged wildlife before, but not ones quite as determined to stay as these.
“They stayed in a pair, so one would get out and then intentionally come back in. I think they were a breeding pair,” she says.
South.Point management confirmed birds commonly get stuck in shopping centres, thanks to wide, open doors and high roofs. Magpies, however, are among the more rare species to stay.
Concierge Phillip Cristallo, who used to work at the Canberra Centre, says pigeons outstay their welcome much faster because magpies are a “little bit smarter and can actually find the exits”.
“It’s a common thing, where they’ll come through the loading dock or the front doors, and it’s a bit hard trying to get them back out when you’ve got so many customers coming in and out,” he says.
“Occasionally, we get the odd shopper cranky about the pigeon and the odd shopper worried about the magpie. People don’t tend to like the pigeons. But they like the magpies and want them to get out.”
Phillip says they often contact ACT Wildlife in these situations, but it can be a struggle to get the strays out.
“They kept trying to exit and as soon as the doors opened, someone walked right through and scared them back up. It’s just one of those things when you have really high roofs and a flying animal.”