Magpie breeding season swoops into Queanbeyan

The magpie breeding season is in full swing across the local area. The season, which generally runs from the end of August to November can be a stressful time, as some outdoor areas become no-go zones as dive bombing maggies stake out their territory.

Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen)

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Alpine-Queanbeyan Area Manager Anthony Evans said there are a number of simple steps people should take to avoid swooping magpies.

“For most of the year magpies are welcome neighbours helping control garden pests and filling our ears with their beautiful song,” Mr Evans said.

“However for around six weeks of the year some male magpies become aggressive and swoop anyone who enters the territory where they are nesting.

“This can be alarming for people but being tolerant and avoiding areas where magpies are known to swoop is the best way to evade conflict between you and these native birds.

“Remember that magpies are a protected species and it is an offence to harm them.”

Some simple and effective steps to avoid being swooped include:

  • Try to avoid the area. Do not go back after being swooped. Australian magpies are very intelligent and have a great memory. They will target the same people if you persist on entering their nesting area. 
  • Be aware of where the bird is. Most will usually swoop from behind. They are much less likely to target you if they think they are being watched. Try drawing eyes on the back of a helmet or hat. You can also hold a long stick in the air to deter swooping.
  • Keep calm and do not panic. Walk away quickly but do not run. Running seems to make birds swoop more. Be careful to keep a look out for swooping birds and if you are really concerned, place your folded arms above your head to protect your head and eyes.
  • If you are on your bicycle or horse, dismount. Bicycles can irritate the birds and the major cause of accidents following an encounter with a swooping bird, is falling from a bicycle. Calmly walk your bike/horse out of the nesting territory. 
  • Never harass or provoke nesting birds. A harassed bird will distrust you and as they have a great memory this will ultimately 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. It is important that children understand and respect native birds. Educating them about the birds and what they can do to avoid being swooped will help them keep calm if they are targeted. Its important children learn to protect their face.

“The most important thing to remember is that magpies are protected native birds and by harassing them they only become more distrustful of humans.

“They are only being responsible parents protecting their young from perceived threats.

“Usually, they are just giving us a warning and generally only defend within 100 metres of their nest site,” Mr Evans added.

For more information on magpies visit the Australian magpie profile page

Contact: Leah Slattery