Magpie breeding season swoops into region

The magpie breeding season is in full swing across Armidale with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) reminding the public to take care as magpies start to protect their young.

Australian magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen)

NPWS Area Manager Roger Mills said magpies generally only swoop for a few weeks each year when people enter the territory where they are nesting.

"They swoop because they are fiercely protective of their nest and young - any perceived threat causes some male magpies to become aggressive," said Mr Mills.

"While it can be very frightening, these magpies are usually just giving us a warning and generally only defend within 100 metres of their nest site.

"If possible the best thing to do for these few weeks a year is to simply avoid areas where magpies are known to be nesting.

"For the rest of the year, outside of the breeding season, magpies are friendly and welcome neighbours. They help control pests' in our gardens and their familiar, iconic call is part of the Australian bush.

"An important thing to remember is that magpies are a protected species and it is an offence to harm them," Mr Mills said.

There are a few simple steps people should take to avoid swooping magpies:

  • 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. 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. Educating kids 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.

For more information visit: Australian magpie