Spring swooping season

With magpie breeding season underway across NSW, people are reminded to take care as magpies start swooping to protect their young.

Australian magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) juvenile and parent

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 – with any perceived threat causing some male magpies to become aggressive.

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.

The best thing to do during this time of 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 generally 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.

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. Make a sign to warn other people about the swooping magpie.
  • 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. 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 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 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.