Spring is here which it means it’s official Magpie Swooping Season.
Magpie mating season is usually between August and October or even November depending on state, but territorial behaviour can happen outside these times. Male magpies are more likely to display aggressive behaviour and are very protective, especially until their young leave the nest.
Magpie attacks are usually designed to deter and scare off predators so are often just swooping behaviour. However, they can be scary and sometimes result in injury. Out of 3124 attacks reported to website Magpie Alert so far this year, 497 have resulted in injuries. In September, a particularly aggressive bird attacked two small boys in a Perth park causing nasty injuries to their eyes.
Reports indicate that dog walkers and cyclists are the most frequent targets of territorial magpies but they will swoop anyone that come within 50 to 100m of their nests. This means kids walking or riding to school are a very likely target!
Unsurprisingly, posties are also frequent targets as they travel a regular route past suburban trees. This Canberra postie swears by feeding his feisty friends all year round as a preventive measure during swooping season.
Users of the website Magpie Alert have also reported success with this technique and it may be a good tactic if you have nesting magpies in or close to your yard.
Magpies are very intelligent birds with good memories, so keeping safe requires some smarts!
Here are some other tips for protecting yourself and your family from swooping attacks:
- When walking or cycling, keep alert and pay attention for any magpie nesting sites. Their distinct call will often give them away.
- For cyclists, cable ties on helmets can be a deterrent or a flag on a pole on your bike.
- Travel in groups where possible as the birds often target individuals.
- Wear sunglasses and with a hat to protect your head and eyes. A wide brimmed or legionnaires hat is best. Or carry an umbrella.
- Try to stay calm and avoid panicking or flapping your hands as this may appear as aggressive behaviour and provoke further attack.
- Face the magpie as they tend to attack from behind.
Remember that magpies are a protected species in Australia so it is illegal to hurt or kill them.
If you are attacked, report it to your local council. You can also log attacks with the Magpie Alert website who has attack maps for each state.