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Tips for magpie swooping season

Spring is on our doorstep and the region’s magpies are preparing to protect their own backyards.

With the warmer weather comes the start of magpie breeding season throughout Australia and people are reminded to take care as magpies start swooping to protect their young.

Council’s Coordinator Public & Town Spaces, Richard Morsley, said magpies generally only swoop for a few weeks each year while they are nesting.

“The best method to protect yourself is to simply avoid areas where magpies are known to be nesting,” he said.

There are several simple steps people can take to protect themselves against being swooped:
Try to avoid the territory of a swooping magpie. If you have been swooped, avoid returning to that location. Australian magpies are intelligent and have a great memory. They will target the people who repeatedly enter their nesting area.
Be aware of where the bird is. Most magpies usually swoop from behind and are much less likely to swoop if they think they are being watched. Try drawing eyes on the back of a helmet or hat, or hold a long stick in the air to deter swooping. 
Keep calm and do not panic. Walk away quickly but do not run. If you are really concerned, place your folded arms above your head to protect your head and eyes. 
If you are on a bicycle or horse, dismount. The noise and motion of a bicycle’s wheel can irritate the birds. Calmly walk your bike or horse out of the nesting territory. Your bicycle helmet will protect your head, and you can attach pipe cleaners or straws or cable ties to your helmet or a tall red safety flag to your bicycle as a deterrent. 
Never harass or provoke nesting birds. A harassed bird will distrust you. They have a great memory and harassing a magpie could make you a bigger target in future. Do not throw anything at a bird or nest, and never climb a tree and try to remove eggs or chicks. 
Teach children what to do. Educating kids about the birds and what they can do to avoid being swooped will help them keep calm if they are targeted. It’s important children learn to protect their face.

Magpies are a protected species and it is an offence to harm them.

Their swooping is usually just to warn people who have entered their territory and they will typically defend within 100 metres of their nest site. For the rest of the year, outside the breeding season, magpies are friendly and help control pests in gardens.

Information sourced from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment website.


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