It’s Spring – magpie swooping season again! It might be difficult when you’re actually under attack, but we are being urged to be tolerant and, more importantly, try to avoid known nesting sites for the next few weeks.
Being swooped by a magpie can be alarming, but it is mostly bluff, with the birds acting on a natural instinct to protect their young.
Magpie breeding season generally lasts from the end of August to November, during which time a small number of magpies become aggressive and swoop on passers-by. In fact, a Brisbane study* has shown that only nine per cent of magpies are aggressive towards people.
For at least 45 weeks of the year magpies are docile, friendly creatures and many people enjoy their insect-eating expertise and beautiful song. However for those remaining seven to eight weeks during breeding season, it’s another story.
Grey Butcher and Wattle Birds are also known to swoop when they feel threatened, but as with magpies, it is rare that they actually come into contact with their ‘targets’.
There are a few simple and effective steps you can take to protect yourself from swooping birds:
– Avoid known nesting sites if possible or give them a wide berth;
– Wear a helmet or a firm, broad-brimmed hat to protect your head;
– Hold an open umbrella over your head to deter swooping birds;
– If on a bike, dismount and walk away quickly;
– Use signs to warn others of the location of nests and ‘defense’ zones, particularly in areas used by children and the elderly;
– Do not provoke the birds; the more people annoy them the worse they become, making things that much worse for the next person who comes along.
Magpies are a protected species and it is illegal to harm them. In extreme circumstances where they are a serious problem, you can report them to the police or the National Parks and Wildlife Service who have procedures in place to help ensure the community is protected.
*According to the Queensland Department of Environment and Science