Do Blackbirds Swoop? How to Deal with Aggressive Bird Behaviour

Do Blackbirds Swoop?
This intriguing question was posted by Jill on one my earlier articles. I assured her in my reply that I have never heard of this species swooping humans.

You have nothing to fear where Common Blackbirds are concerned. I have never experienced swooping with this species. In fact, they are usually rather timid and will readily fly away from humans. I have checked on the internet and found no recorded instances of Common Blackbirds swooping humans.

I also read through the article on Common Blackbirds in HANZAB (Handbook of Australian New Zealand and Antarctic Birds Vol.7) and there is no mention of this behaviour. HANZAB is THE authority on Australian birds and is a compilation of all research done on birds in this region, including a comprehensive overview of all the relevant published literature on birds.

UPDATE: Since writing this article I have had many comments about Blackbirds swooping. Many have claimed that they do swoop. These comments have always come from American readers. I was writing about the Common Blackbird, an introduced species in Australia. They come from Europe and are not related to several species found in America which do swoop. The Red-winged Blackbird of north and central America is very aggressive I believe. Some readers may also have been confused by my comments, thinking  I was talking about the Grackle.

Magpies and Lapwings
Most Australians know about the problem with Australian Magpies and swooping. They need to be given a wide berth when nesting. What many people do not know is that Masked Lapwings (also called Spur Winged Plovers) can inflict a nasty wound. Keep away from their nests or young is the message they are giving. On most occasions their attack is 95% bluff and injuries are rare. Last spring there was a very unusual news report on television showing footage of Magpie Larks attacking humans near the Festival Centre in the CBD of Adelaide. This is the only occasion I have known of this species swooping like their bigger cousins.

Australian Magpie

Australian Magpie

Kookaburras and Butcherbirds
Other species that may occasionally swoop include Kookaburras (one individual once took a sausage from a barbecue I was cooking). I once had an opportunistic Grey Butcherbird snatch a sandwich from my hand while on a picnic. In both these cases they were swooping for food – not attacking me. Gave me a fright though.

Laughing Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra

Geese, Ducks and Swans
In parks and gardens as well as zoos and wildlife parks, any of the species of geese can get a little aggressive. This is often as a result of too many people feeding them. Many species of ducks can also get this way. I’ve even known Black Swans to act aggressively. In most cases they are after food; they are not intending to harm people.


I have heard of an instance of an Australian Pelican eating a small dog on the riverfront at Renmark in South Australia. I’m not sure if this is a true story or an urban myth, but pelicans would be quite capable of this. What I have witnessed was rather scary. We had visited the bakery at Mannum and were sitting on a seat near the riverfront eating our lunch. A pelican came up to us and almost snatched a sausage roll from the hand of my daughter-in-law. Having a pelican a metre away staring you directly in the eye is very unnerving.

Australian Pelican

Australian Pelican

Emus and Cassowaries

Many years ago while visiting a zoo in the SW of Western Australia I had another unnerving encounter, this time with an Emu. I was in a walk through enclosure containing ducks, geese, emus and kangaroos. One Emu took a liking to my camera lens and my glasses. Being followed by an Emu – no – harassed is a better word – was distressing, especially as the said Emu constantly tried to peck either my glasses or the camera lens. I was so constantly under attack that I had to quickly leave the enclosure, much to the amusement of my family!

The Southern Cassowary of northern Queensland has a reputation for being aggressive towards humans. I don’t have personal experience of this species, but I know that when I do visit that region, I’m going to be wary of the cassowary!

Ibises and Gulls

Gulls and picnics seem to go together. Especially when you produce some fish and chips. It is as if you’ve put up a huge neon sign saying “Come to the feast.” Again, this is as a result of feeding by humans and not a direct attack to harm. Having said that, it is intimidating and annoying to have a Silver Gull standing on your picnic table 30cm away from your lovely chips. In some parts of Australia, Ibises are a major problem too, snatching food from children in particular. Our larger Ibis species are almost as large as a toddler learning to walk. Scary stuff for a youngster.

Willie Wagtail

Willie Wagtail

Willie Wagtail

Willie Wagtails are generally loved by all Australians and is one of our most recognisable birds. What most people do not realise is that these endearing little creatures can be very bold and aggressive when there are babies in a nest nearby. Our resident Willie Wagtails have given us a little tweak on the head if we venture too close to the nest. And they are not too slow to attack birds much bigger than themselves; even our largest eagle, the Wedge Tail, is not immune from harassment.


Honeyeaters are not known for their aggression towards humans. If you get too close to their nest they will let you know, scalding you incessantly from a nearby branch. However, they can be very bold. Many years ago a friend in Port Augusta related to me an occasion when a honeyeater landed on his shoulder and tried to pluck a hair from his rather ample beard. While this incident is not a display of aggression, it does show how courageous they can be.


There have been a few recorded instances of people being attacked by eagles, hawks and other raptors. Only last year I was aggressively swooped by what I think was a Brown Falcon. I can’t be sure because I didn’t hang around too long. I was invading his territory so I beat a hasty retreat. He didn’t contact any part of me but it was a little unnerving.

How to Deal With Aggressive Bird Behaviour

  1. Give the birds space – keep away from their nest or their young. Think about how you would react if a large monster invaded your home. They are protecting their offspring so respect their space. If there is a magpie nesting on your usual walking route, try to take an alternative route until the nesting has finished.
  2. Wear protective clothing – this is particularly so with swooping magpies. Wear a hat or helmet to avoid injury. Some people say that painting large eyes on the back of a helmet, hat or cap helps to deter magpies from swooping.
  3. Don’t feed native birds – if everyone followed this rule there wouldn’t be a problem but it is probably too late for that. If you are having a picnic, don’t be tempted to throw food scraps to the gulls of ducks or whatever is nearby. Just one chip or bread crumb thrown at one bird will often result in dozens of birds flocking to your picnic ready for a handout. In the case of Gulls, it could result in hundreds surrounding your picnic spot.
  4. Carry a stick – I’ve proved this to be effective with magpies swooping. Carry a stick above one’s head as you walk through a magpie nesting zone. This deters them from attacking your head. Decorating the stick with ribbons can add to the distraction level.
  5. Carry a flag – this one is mainly for cyclists. Mount a pole on your bike with a flag at the top. It will help motorists see you too!

Readers’ Contributions:

I invite readers to leave their comments about their experiences with aggressive birds.

  1. Which birds have swooped you?
  2. How have you been harmed by birds?
  3. What about birds in other countries? Do they swoop or attack?
  4. What solutions to aggressive bird behaviour can you share with readers of this blog?


  1. Readers on this blog have contributed many interesting comments – click on the comments section below this post.
  2. I have written a followup article called A Bit on the Nose. This post quotes in full an amusing email sent to the the Birding-Aus forum today. Special thanks to Bill for permission to quote the email in full.

Related articles and links:


126 Responses to “Do Blackbirds Swoop? How to Deal with Aggressive Bird Behaviour”

  1. […] Do Blackbirds Swoop? How to Deal with Aggressive Bird Behavior by Trevor […]

  2. […] Do Blackbirds Swoop? How to deal with aggressive bird behaviour – my contribution to the writing project. […]

  3. MamaDuck says:

    LOL brings back memories of those nasty Canadian geese attacking my backpack while I was rollerblading across campus up north….. Our list is up as well if you’d like to check it out!!

  4. Jersey Girl says:

    First, love the bird second from left on your header; beautiful colors! Second, I hope the pelican eating the small dog is just an urban myth!

  5. Steve says:

    Here in Southern California one of the most aggressive of birds is the smallest, i.e. The Hummingbird. It is quite often that these little guys will buzz you in the garden purely for just being close, very territorial.

    Very enjoyable post.

  6. Trevor says:

    Hi there MamaDuck. Welcome to my birding blog. I have yet to enjoy birding in your part of the world but I will look out for those geese when I do. I do know about the Canada Goose from videos and films (eg “Fly Away Home”)

  7. Trevor says:

    Hi there Jersey Girl, welcome to my blog. The bird you refer to in the header is an Australian Ringneck Parrot. We have them visit our garden amost daily and they bring a wonderful splash of colour. I have several more photos in my photo gallery and several other articles about them filed under PArrots and Lorikeets.

  8. Trevor says:

    Hi there Steve. I didn’t know that about Hummingbirds. I guess that they would be like having very BIG mosquitoes in the garden! Without the sting! I have yet to experience the joy of seeing hummingbirds – someday I hope to go birding in your part of the world.

  9. Trevor says:

    The following comments were sent to me by email on the Birding-Aus Forum:

    Anthea wrote:

    I find Red Wattlebirds and Magpies very aggressive towards humans at the right time of teh year, but I have never been swooped at by a Blackbird with aggressive intent – and I have lived with them all my life around Melbourne. Males do make aggressive swoops and dashes at rival Blackbirds, with absolutely no regard for humans, cars or anything else in the way. This leads to increase in spring Blackbird roadkills. In these moments, I have had one go past my face in quite an alarming manner, but he was aiming for another Blackbird.

  10. Trevor says:

    Thanks for the comments Anthea. I am always amazed at the aggression shown by Red Wattlebirds towards all other species, especially the poor little Spotted and Striated Pardalotes – harassment is not the correct word – open abuse and brutality sounds better!

    I’ve not experienced or seen Red Wattlebirds attacking humans so that is a new insight for me.

  11. Trevor says:

    I received the following comment from Russell via email on the Birding-Aus Forum.

    Russell wrote:

    Hi Trevor

    I like the way you’ve set up your page on bird attacks – you present the info very clearly and it is very informative, particularly for the non-birder.
    Have you read “Magpie Attack” by Darryl Jones? It was publish 3 or 4 years ago. A great read – and the most comprehensive treatment of the topic to be published.
    The bit I was shocked by is the way some rogues magpies will attack from the ground and aim for the eyes of the victim – debunking the old myth that magpies won’t swoop if you are watching them!

  12. Trevor says:

    Thanks for the kind words Russell.

    I haven’t read the book you mention. I must check it out.

    I am so pleased that “our” resident magpies are very docile and never swoop us. Mind you – they give most other species what for – tomorrow I’ll be posting an article about the constant “war” between them and the local WW Choughs.

  13. Peter Scott says:

    Just 10 days ago on an early morning bush walk in the Sydney suburb of Cheltenham, my presence caused a lot of fuss in a group of about 8 rainbow lorikeets that were gathered around a hole quite high up a gum tree. One of the birds dive-bombed me, passing very close to my nose at high speed. The noise of its wings at such close quarters was quite startling.

    Last spring red wattlebirds nesting near our house also dive-bombed people regularly and with a lot of noise, but with no great menace.

  14. Trevor says:

    Welcome to my birding blog Pater. I hadn’t really considered any of the parrots and lorikeets when writing this post because I’ve not experienced any aggression from them. Mind you – I would be very wary if I ever needed to handle a wild parrot of any size. Their beaks seem to me to be very effective needle sharp weapons.

    Thankyou for your observation and contribution to the discussion. I try to post every day so I invite you to return often and please feel free to comment.

  15. […] My post of yesterday about dealing with aggression in birds, especially towards humans, has caused quite a flurry of comments, both on this blog and on the Birding-Aus forum. […]

  16. […] Do Blackbirds Swoop? How to Deal with Aggressive Bird Behavior by Trevor […]

  17. […] Do Blackbirds Swoop? How to Deal with Aggressive Bird Behavior by Trevor […]

  18. […] Do Blackbirds Swoop? How to Deal with Aggressive Bird Behavior by Trevor […]

  19. […] Do Blackbirds Swoop? How to Deal with Aggressive Bird Behavior by Trevor […]

  20. […] Do Blackbirds Swoop? How to Deal with Aggressive Bird Behavior by Trevor […]

  21. Karen says:

    In California, USA, Mockingbirds are famous for swooping people who get too close to a nest. They harrass cats even more, I’m not sure if they are biting or clawing the cats, but the cats will run for cover. You know when it’s happening because the mockingbirds shriek at the cats nonstop til the cat goes away.

  22. Trevor says:

    Hi there Karen. Welcome to my blog. I have not yet had the pleasure of birding in California. when I do I must watch out for the Mockingbirds! Now perhaps we could encourage some of our birds to harrass the cats of the neighbourhood.

  23. Trevor says:

    Penny sent me an email with the following comment:

    I’ve had a lot of experience with blackbirds, mainly when living in Surrey, Hampshire and London, UK. I’ve never been swooped. When disturbing near nests, they usually fly off making their loud danger calls.

    Thanks for that Penny.

  24. Mark says:

    Hi Trevor,

    Very nice pictures of birds you have here.

    I’ll be back for more

  25. Trevor says:

    Terry sent me this email comment:

    With many Blackbirds in my area I have seen them swoop cats getting to close but never humans.

    Thanks Terry.

  26. Trevor says:

    Wim from Norway sent me this comment by email:

    I have never yet been swooped by nesting Blackbirds as yet (but then we have very few of them in N.Norway, where I have lived the last 30 years). But the closely related Fieldfare Turdus pilaris, well known for its aggressivity around the nest, does also swoop at people now and then, peppering them with faeces just like a gull.

    Thanks for that Wim.

  27. Trevor says:

    Thanks for the comments Mark. I try to post every day so I invite you to return often.

  28. […] Do Blackbirds Swoop? How to Deal with Aggressive Bird Behavior by Trevor […]

  29. […] Do Blackbirds Swoop? How to Deal with Aggressive Bird Behavior by Trevor […]

  30. […] Do Blackbirds Swoop? How to Deal with Aggressive Bird Behavior by Trevor […]

  31. […] I haven’t any really good photos of either species yet which is a little surprising as they are very approachable and can be quite tame. In fact in some of the eastern states of Australia they are a pest species in parks and gardens. They will aggressively approach picnickers and steal food, a somewhat frightening experience for small children. (Some of our bird species can develop aggressive tendencies. For more comments click here.) […]

  32. […] bird behaviour with many interesting comments and observations from readers of this blog. < 20 Comments >   […]

  33. Trevor says:

    Anthea sent me this email in response to this question:

    My earliest Swan memory is of having my banana pinched by one at the Botanic Gardens. I must have been about six then. Ibises are real menaces to small children too.
    No-one should ever offer any cheek to a Cassowary. More hearsay – neighbour’s boy, aged about 10, saw a Cassowary in a Nth Queensland caravan park, while parents were setting up their caravan. Unaware of their reputation, he wandered down to look at it. He reappeared rather tearful and shocked 10 minutes later to report: “It knocked me down and stood on my chest!” He got off lightly.

    I was once bothered by an Emu at Yookamurra – he kept gazing in my eyes and trying to induce me to come under a bush with him! The poor chap was a victim of imprinting- having been brought up in a shearer’s family, he thought he was human. Funny and sad, but he was a real nuisance. But Emus are pests at picnic areas – talk about demanding with menaces!

  34. Kitty says:

    My Grandson rescued a baby Black Bird from his dog in the back yard and called me. He had tried to put it where the parents could take care of it, but it has a broken left wing and left leg. When I went to retrieve the baby, I was swooped upon by about 8 or 9 Black Birds (obviously family). One actually hit me in the head and came back for more! They didn’t hurt me and I wasn’t scared of them, but they DO swoop.

  35. Trevor says:

    Thanks for this Kitty. You have made a very interesting observation. I have received much correspondence from all over the world on this subject and you are the first one to have actually witnessed and been on the receiving end of swooping by blackbirds.

    It is also interesting to note that there was a small flock of them. Here is Australia the introduced Common Blackbird (also called a European Blackbird) is usually only ever seen as an individual bird and sometimes in pairs. From your IP address I assume you live in the United States – could you have seen a different species?

  36. Trevor says:

    Kitty sent these comments by email:

    Hi Trevor,
    I live in Ukiah, California, about 120 miles north of San Francisco. Blackbirds are very common here and look very much like yours. The males are black and females are a very dark brown. According to my daughter, this covey of blackbirds squawked for a couple of days after I took the little one, fluttering around where the little one had been. (we call it Birt) Sad to say, another baby fell out of the nest but the dogs got to it before they did. But interesting that these are the only ones you have heard of swooping! California is an aggressive State! My interest is peaked. I am going to check around here to see if this has happened to anyone else. I will keep you informed and will return to your site. It’s a fun site to visit.

    By the way, have you ever taken care of a baby blackbird? This one seems to be gaining weight but am feeding it mash and egg. I know they are carnivores. Maybe should be feeding worms or something?

    Thank you,

  37. Trevor says:

    Hints on looking after baby blackbirds and feeding them can be found here:

  38. Murray says:

    Yesterday (July 14 2007) We picnicked at Mt Archer, Rockhampton and experienced a dozen or more Kookaburra both swooping and coming very close. I am sure they have been feed many times in the past. One large fellow perched on my seat very close and only flew away when accidentally touched. Other kookaburras were under our table.

    They over flew us at a few inches, One bird after another when flying from one picnic spot to another.

    As we had not seen more than 2 kookaburras together before this was a delightful experience.

    There were lots of birds in the area including the giant black Parrots (yellow tail).

  39. Duane says:

    To answer your question Trevor, Blackbirds do swoop and are generally rather aggressive little devils. I’m writing from the Tropics (Trinidad in the West Indies to be specific) and I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of having a family of them take up residence in a mango tree at the front of my home. I’ve been not merely divebombed but pecked a grand total of 4 times since I first recognized they were in my yard and am generally tracked by a small group of adults (6-8 at the worst) whenever i walk out my front door. Of the 5 recommendations you give for combating aggressive bird behaviour, I can only say that 2 are applicable to me (namely wearing clothing that covers the body well and carrying a stick) giving the little pests they’re space is not even a practical consideration because the mango tree in question is situated directly next to the gate I need to exit the premises (either on foot or by car).
    So, while I may not be that much of a bird lover, I personally can’t wait for them to move out & on and allow me to walk about & around my home without them following me, even when I pose not immediate threat to them (for instance at the back of my house).

  40. Trevor says:

    Hi there Duane.

    Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. We are actually talking about two different species. My article was about the Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) native to Europe and which has been introduced to many parts of the world, including here in Australia. Common Blackbirds DO NOT swoop and they are rarely seen in flocks, usually being seen as single birds or a pair at most.

    Common Blackbirds are not found in Trinidad.

    The species you have so much trouble with is probably the Red Winged Blackbird, native to the Americas, including Trinidad. This is an aggressive species which does form flocks of up to a dozen or more.

    I hope your pesky birds soon learn that you are no threat to them and that they leave you alone.

  41. Darshak says:

    Any suggestions on deterring Kookaburras from knocking at our windows for hours every day?

    Sick & tired of them – not just distracting but also fear that they might just crack a large window glass!

    Thanks for your help!



  42. Trevor says:

    Hi there Darshak,

    Sorry about the delay in replying to your question.

    This is a common problem with windows and birds. The bird sees its reflection and thinks it is an enemy or a rival so it tries to fend it off.

    I’m sorry but there are no easy or proven solutions. A friend never cleans his windows so there is no reflection. Others hang cut out hawks in front of the window to deter the birds attacking. Others have used shade cloth or a screen over the glass but this hinders the view – that’s often why we have windows.

    If this habit has just started it could be breeding season in your area and this is then a territorial activity. Kookaburras breed September to January. Once the young are out of the nest this activity should stop. So there is hope.

  43. Janet Couchman says:

    My 4 children (5, 7, 9 and 11) were attacked this morning by a group of plovers (a few pairs)they all have young at the moment. They were on their way to the bus stop and the plovers separated the children and were swooping and dive bombing them. They arrived back home shreiking and crying they were so unsettled by the experience. Having come on the internet to see what to do, I have read that they usually do not attack groups… 2 of my children layed on the ground to show they were not hostile. We do not have an alternate route to take … any ideas on what we can do?

  44. Trevor says:

    Thanks for visiting my site Janet and for asking this important and perplexing problem.

    The experience must have been truly terrifying to your children. I have recently been bombed by a plover while walking near my home. This pair didn’t have young nearby but may have had a nest somewhere. It certainly unnerved me – and they only came to within about 3 metres.

    Swooping plovers (more correctly called Masked Lapwings) are a common problem throughout Australia. Rarely do they cause harm by actual contact but this has been known to happen. The spur on the wing has been known to inflict scratches. As your children discovered the unsettling nature of such an attack is just as traumatic as actual contact causing harm.

    They have been known to attack in small groups but more commonly just the one pair attacks. The behaviour should stop after the breeding season is over.

    I do not know of any fool proof system of solving your dilemma. Perhaps the children could wear cycling helmets to minimise any potential damage if struck. (This is an expensive solution if they do not have helmets.)

    A cheaper alternative might be for the children to each carry a 50cm stick with a flag tied to the top – say a piece of cloth. Hold the stick above the head as the attack occurs. (This method works with magpies – I haven’t tested it with plovers).

    Either solution does not take away the problem of the frightening noise made by the birds during an attack. The children may still be very unnerved even with some form of protection.

    I am sorry that I do not know a better solution.

  45. […] Do blackbirds swoop – dealing with aggressive bird behaviour […]

  46. R Gibson says:

    I have been swooped about ten times within two weeks. Twice I had head my head injured by pecking. The birds involved were magpies. The areas of the attacks were separated by kilometres. It would be impossible to avoid magpie territories randomly scattered over the whole district, so the advice to avoid their territories is nonsense: you’d have to stay in your house. I read on another website that magpies have killed five people, which makes them five times more homicidal than cassowaries, who have only one recorded dead to their credit (and that idiot tried to kill the bird). The second attack of a magpie on me caused a fair amount of blood loss which ruined my shirt. I understand that the people who were killed by magpies were struck on the temple. Could feeding magpies be responsible for their lack of fear of humans? The advice on cassowaries should be followed vis-a-vis magpies – perhaps? These are wild animals, not pets who bond with us because we have raised them from infancy. NOTE: I have lived in the Redcliffe area (postcode: 4020) for six years. This is the first time I have been consistently attacked and injured, but I certainly did not enjoy this nor consider it funny. Maybe another solution would be to increase the cat population to reduce the numbers of these birds in the area. My theory is that they have undergone a population explosion and this has increased their aggression and irritability, defending less and less territory occupied by more and more birds, (not to mention the population explosion of humans in Redcliffe, also quite surplus to necessity).

  47. Trevor says:

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving these comments. Your claims cannot go unchallenged though I do understand the pain and discomfort you have endured.

    The claim that five people have died as a result of magpie attacks is in my opinion incorrect. A long search of the internet turned up only one, an elderly gentleman whose eye was badly damaged and he subsequently died. I cannot find any more information but I suspect that the death was not as a direct attack from the magpie, but rather secondary infection. Pure speculation on my part, please note.

    In another case a cyclist was attacked and fell which caused serious injury. Although in a critical state for some days the man survived. I can find no other serious cases, and certainly no deaths.

    As for the cassowary, it is widely regarded as the most dangerous bird in the world and they will attack if provoked. There has only been one well documented death, a teenager in 1926 who, with others, had been harassing the bird which then chased them. The lad concerned fell and the bird’s sharp claw ruptured a major artery in his leg. More recently residents around Innisfail have been harassed by hungry cassowaries after the damage of cyclone Larry last year.

    And as for increasing the number of cats – you have got to be joking! Cats alone have been responsible for far more extinctions of species in Australia than any other animal (with the possible exception of human interference of the environment).

    Research indicates that there has only been an increase in magpie numbers in rural Australia, due mainly to land clearing for farming. Any increase in numbers in your area is purely anecdotal and not based on evidence.

  48. JC says:


    I was attacked by Magpie today — 5 times in 2 separate instances, both in the same area. I have just moved to Queensland from the USA and am completely unfamiliar with attacking, unprovoked birds. I was riding my bike to store as I have before, just following along the bike path. I felt something hit the side of my head, felt like hit a branch but I knew there was not branch there. I looked behind me and saw the Magpie following me. I sped up as fast as I could, thought I had gotten away when SMACK it hit me on the left side of the head again. This happened a third time before I got off my bike (it was disarming, I did not want to fall off) and the bird flew into a tree – I yelled at it and then got on my bike — it followed me and swooped (but didn’t hit me), but I sprinted as fast as I could and it eventually gave up. Then over an hour later on the way home, the same thing happened — this time it hit me twice and drew blood, hitting me between my ear and my eye. By the time I got home, blood had poured down my face onto my shirt.

    I was born with vision only in my right eye, the left is completely blind. The attack has me worried about going out for another bike ride, or even a walk with the risk of a magpie injuring my only good eye. Usually, i’d consider myself a conservationist but I did nothing to provoke this animal, just riding along peacefully on my bike — even after it attacked me, i was obviously trying to escape (peddaling as fast as I could) and the evil thing kept chasing me.

    These birds are a real danger and people have died as a result of the attacks. Indirecly related deaths, for example crashing a bicycle or falling down when being attacked, are still death and BUT FOR the magie attack these deaths would not have occured. You should not downplay this.

    I think attacking birds should be moved or shot. If the attacking ones are rare, and these birds are as smart as everyone says – they will learn not to attack or getting rid of the violent ones will have little effect on the bird population as a whole.

  49. Trevor says:

    Thanks for your comments JC.

    Magpie attacks are certainly disarming at best and downright frightening at worst, especially for little children. I am sorry if I gave you the impression I was downplaying the seriousness of these attacks. The pain inflicted on many people is certainly quite serious.

    I acknowledge that you have a particular concern regarding your eyesight. Is is possible to wear some extra eye protection during the breeding season? I know hardware stores sell eye protective goggles for activities like chain sawing, mowing etc.

  50. Amy says:

    Upon reading that 95% of Masked Lapwings attacks do not involve direct contact I did not no whether to be relieved, because I will most likely never come across an equally aggrissive one, or disturbed because the one I deal with aims for my face everytime.

    After a number of magpie incidents this nesting season, as I foreigner I have quickly learned to be aware of attacks from above. In this particular instance I had walked down the street numerous times and had no reason to suspect danger. However, I was unaware of the increased aggression caused by two wheels. I crested a small hill on my bike and just as I started to pick up speed BAM. With absolutely no warning I was struck in the face by a plover. I can only guesse that the bird miscalculated because rather than a glancing blow with its horned wing it literally flew straight into my face and nearly fell to the groud before it could recover. The force of the impact caused a nasty bruise along with a scrap,e not to mention a poor start to the day on my morning commute.

    Since the initial attack I have tried many defences, but if the bike is present, even if I’m walking and doing everything I can to keep my eye on the bird, I’m in danger. After another scratch from the horned wing scarily close to my eye I have given up biking altogether. This is the second time I’ve come across a bird that is aggressive towards bikers but harmless to walkers. Is that common? Do you know why that is?

  51. Trevor says:

    Thanks for the comments Amy.

    Your experiences with this aggressive Lapwing have been quite disturbing, not to mention painful. I can’t imagine what you have been through.

    Many people have commented here and on other forums about the aggression various birds display towards cyclists. There must be something about the sound of the bike or the speed of movement that disturbs them so much. I’ve read various theories but there have been no conclusive findings (to my knowledge).

  52. ronnie says:

    why do certain birds congregate in large numbers during dawn and dusk at intersections in the city; hundreds upon hundreds of grackles etc. sitting on the electric wires as if having some big meeting or something.????

  53. Trevor says:

    Hi there Ronnie,

    It certainly sounds an interesting observation you have made. I am sorry that I do not know the answer to your question as I live in Australia and I have never seen a grackle. A little research on the internet revealed that this species does gather in large numbers in fall and winter, but the article did not explain why.

    I am only guessing at this – the birds would disperse in pairs to breed in spring and summer. When breeding is over they might gather in flocks ready to migrate to warmer areas, or they might just be gathering together for mutual protection – the chances of surviving an eagle or hawk attack are greater in a large flock.

  54. Ruth says:

    Hi Trevor and all bird lovers,
    I have been reading the previous comments with interest. For about 4 years various birds have nested in our back garden (we have several trees and bushes). The blackbirds over the past three years or so seem to have preferred my jasmine so that they can nest safely and securely within it. Over the past couple of weeks baby blackbirds who were being reared in the jasmine have either flown or fallen from the nest. Once I actually saw two birds from an earlier generation flying from it. This time I was not about. In the last few days, one of the young birds has been hiding under a bush, and does not seem very able to do more than hop about, but not very far. The obvious concern of neighbouring cats on the wander, has me trying to keep watch as best as possible. But as it is not wise to feed them – I am at a loss to know what is best. I have not handled the bird at all, but as it seems unable to fosage for food easily, have thrown a few little pieces of grapes to help out. Should we let nature take its course? We love to watch our resident birds, many of the old nests still remain in trees about, and we particularly love the beautiful song of the blackbirds too. Thanks, Ruth

  55. Trevor says:

    While it is tempting to give nature a helping hand it is probably best the let nature take its course.

    The Blackbird is an introduced species and regarded as something of a pest in many places. While it has a beautiful song – which I love hearing – there is a bigger picture to consider. The welfare of our native species is under threat by all of the introduced species.

  56. Cathy Gilmore says:

    In my experience with wildlife it is because humans create the reason for the bird to swoop or attack in the first place.

    If people stopped feeding wildlife then the likes of pelicans wouldnt approach people eating their food. In Nth QLD you know a pelican wont come to you even with the offer of a fish – because the fisherman there dont feed the birds because it just might encourage crocodiles…..So you certainly dont get pelicans coming to take food of people enjoying a nice lunch because they dont understand that you are offering food. Thats just for starters…

    Magpies, plovers etc are just being good parents and lots of the time are reacting to young kids who throw rocks etc and most of them are riding on their bikes. So these birds associate threats to their family by people that ride bikes or maybe have the same hair colour etc. I have witnessed magpies ignore adults and some kids, but then someone with certain coloured hair will pass and the birds will swoop – makes me wonder whether they have had a bad experience with someone with that coloured hair.

    The thing with wildlife is they dont do it because its fun, they do it for survival and something has made them feel threatened that they have to protect their family….just like we would!!!!!!

    and JC from America – if you relocate the rogue Magpie another one enters the territory straight away and I’m not sure if you can just kill indiscriminately in Americal BUT you are not allowed to shoot/kill a protect species in Australia…..

    and R Gibson from Australia – shame on you for thinking the answered would be to have more feral cats killing the wildlife in your area – you do know the cats would not just kill magpies…hmfff – and you have hit the nail on the head – too many houses for humans and not enough houses for wildlife….

    and to all the people complaining – these animals were probably living in your area long before you came and tore down their houses and they are only protecting their young and you only have to live with their protective behaviour for one month maybe two. Lots of you seem to know that it is going to happen so wear the icecream containers on your head or paint eyes on the back of your head or dont go up that street and get on with it!

    Food for thought – by the way our galahs do the same as the grackle………

  57. Trevor says:

    You make some very good points Cathy. Thanks for contributing to the discussion. (Sorry it has taken so long to reply – I’ve been busy with my studies)

  58. Birdster says:

    I just now contacted a local Audubon Society for help identifying a bird in my yard which is swooping mainly at our cat, but a bit less assertively toward us too.
    Thanks for the hat (and eyes-on-hat advice). I’ll let you know how that works.
    I may have some kind of small magpie species. I have photos. It’s pale grey, except for when it flies, displaying black and white latitudinal stripes.

  59. Birdster says:

    PS: I’m writing from Northern California (inland Bay Area).

  60. Birdster says:

    One more follow-up question/comment:

    Does anyone know how long this aggressive behavior will go on? Some earlier chicks learned to fly weeks ago (and it seemed the aggressive activity calmed down). Then we noticed evidence that a new batch of chicks is not yet flying (one fell out of the nest recently and had only its wings to aid it (the tail feathers were too stubby).

    It has been a couple months of this (at varying degrees) and is particularly bad now.

  61. Birdster says:

    For your smiles (regarding my “bird-watching cat”):

    By the way, my cat is an “indoor-cat”, who only likes bird WATCHING (like us).

    When she goes outside she will watch for hours and never try stalking or leaping toward one.

    Poor cat, a bit too intimidated these days to enjoy her hobby!!

  62. Birdster says:

    ID update:
    I think the birds may be a species of mockingbird.
    I’ll let you know if I get a positive ID.

  63. Birdster says:

    Thanks again for this webpage and to all who wrote. It made me realize that birds’ aggressive gestures may not be idle threats and that I should take precautions.

    BTW (for your interest) you might Google -bird attacks Houston- to read about urban incidents–including one where authorities even chose to close down an entire downtown Houston (Texas) street.

  64. Trevor says:

    Thanks for all your comments Birdster – and welcome to my birding blog. Sorry about the delay in replying – I’ve been very busy.

  65. Anita says:

    We have a pair of blackbirds resident in our garden that behave so aggressively that it’s nigh on impossible to use it. There’s a permanent alarm call (NOT ordinary birdsong – I usually like blackbird song, but this is definitely an alarm call and is quite distinct) from dawn to dusk and any time that anyone ventures out there they find themselves divebombed and basically hounded until they get fed up and run away. Sometimes the birds chase them right into the house. I’ve tried e mailing the RSPB to ask for a solution, but have had no response. Perhaps they don’t take me seriously. I love birdsong and birds, but I just can’t stand this anymore. I’d rather not shoot them, but am running out of ideas – does anyone else have any?

  66. […] Do Blackbirds swoop? Dealing with aggressive birds Wednesday July 23rd, 2008 | Categories: General » Leave a comment   […]

  67. Ray says:

    I have just been swooped by a magpie this morning. It tried to peck my eyes out. Lucky for me i closed it at the right moment or i would have lost an eye. I did not provoke it in any way and i was nowhere near possible nesting sites. It was in the middle of the city in fact. I do not understand this erratic behaviour. But think about the damage it could do on toddlers and small children!

  68. Trevor says:

    Hi there Ray.

    Being swooped by a magpie is a very unsettling experience and I sympathize with your feelings.

    It is probably little consolation to you that there are very few actual records of magpies damaging an eye. The few incidents (less than a half dozen Australia wide) were probably accidental contact with the human eye – not as a deliberate targeting by the bird.

    Pecks and broken skin resulting in bleeding are relatively common and can be both painful and terrifying – usually because the scalp is attacked and that is one part of the body which will bleed profusely.

  69. Wayne says:

    Try living in Trinidad & Tobago in the Caribbean if those blackbirds (ours called ‘Carib Grackle ‘Blackbird”)decide your damaged you are. The only option at times (nesting season)is to wear gogles,head gear,gloves long sleeve top or jumper and repeatedly move the nest up to three times before they acknowledge your not meat your the boss, and leave.i assure you there are people who just cannot step out the door to there back yards or gardens for weeks.

  70. Trevor says:

    Hi there Wayne – welcome to my blog about Australian birds. I am so pleased that the Blackbirds found here in Australia (the same species as the Common Blackbird of Europe) are not aggressive like the birds you are experiencing. Take care – they sound terrible.

  71. Birdster says:

    Ray– Where did this happen—are you writing from Australia?

  72. dodgem says:

    Hi Trevor,
    in response to your question Do blackbirds swoop I can confirm that they do. I know that this is not the norm and have not experienced this behaviour before though I was surprised when I was swooped by a crow. This is in inner Melbourne along the federation bike path near Geelong rd. I’m used to magpies at this time of year but the crow…?

  73. Trevor says:

    Welcome to the discussion dodgem. It is not normal Blackbird behaviour and I am interested in hearing more. Can you give more details of the circumstances around the swooping?

  74. dodgem says:

    Just on my daily commute to/from work along the bicycle path by bike. It has swooped me twice this week – once of the evening just after sunset and the other in the morning. Both approaches have been from directly behind flying low just above head height both times preceeded by a characteristic crow’s “laugh”. I would describe both swoops as being not particularly aggressive – just a swoop no contact.

  75. […] they are very glossy, crisp black and white with great shaded beaks. There are some great pictures here of various Aussie birds as well as what to do if Mom and Dad Magpie do show […]

  76. Karen F says:

    Hi, I just got back from a walk and I was swooped by a crow. I live at Woody Point nr Recliffe just north of Brisbane. I’m looking at your website because I’ve never heard of this before either. The crow actually swooped at me 4 times until I got far enough away. It seemed very aggressive and came very close but no contact (thank goodness!). Magpies can be scary but crows are so much bigger! I couldn’t see a nest anywhere so I’m not sure of the reason for the attack. I just kept my head down and kept walking at a normal pace, but I had a heart rate monitor on for my exercise and you should have seen my heart rate shoot up!

  77. Trevor says:

    Hi there Karen – thanks for stopping by and for relating your experiences. This is certainly unusual behaviour for ravens and crows.

    My guess is that it had either a nest or some young close by and viewed you as a threat. It would be interesting to know if other people have been swooped.

    Good to hear that your heart is working well – despite the shock it received.

  78. Gopi says:

    WARNING: All heart patients, do not read further as this is seriously worded as a adrenaline rush, heart-breaking thriller true story. The beginning may be calm but the climax builds at a very rapid pace with scary stuff. PG-Rated stuff.

    This is my own personal experience with a female magpie guarding her nest of evil pests. Seriously, i think Australians eradicated the wrong species. They mistook rabbits for magpies. Magpies are a pest. Read ahead to find why.
    I was cycling on one of the cycle paths in Canberra, Australia. I was passing by on a path alongside the edge of a park with a playground with the swings and slides. The park on my left and a rainwater drain ditch on the right separating the bicycle path and the elevated main road. Then, 10 metres in front of me was a junction with an uphill path leading up a bridge out of the park onto the overhead bridge. The other path continued under the bridge out of the park. A magpie came out of nowhere from the direction of the trees in the playground park area. Previously, on the news, I had heard of a girl who was in the Intensive Care Unit of our hospital after being pecked in the eye by a magpie as the girl was walking near the magpie’s nest’s territory. So, anyway, by now, adrenaline pumping, she’s swooping around me. I did not bother to look at her in the fear that she would be in front of my face. Kept face down just like when one would do when one hears a gunshot. i sped up to 4th gear tried to sway a bit to avoid her. Went through under the bridge and back to the junction. Did not work. Switching from third gear to 2nd gear,get out of the park area onto the hill path taking a right, switching from 2nd gear to 1st gear(magpie’s advantage in my speed reduction), she tried to peck me and missed with a peck on my helmet instead. Cycle helmet has holes in it as we all know. You obviously cant peck between the lines. Worse than a motorcycle helmet. All this time, head low just like one would have it when you hear a gunshot. Lucky, he did not peck in the holes, my head would be pecked. Dont doubt a magpie’s peck. It can be dangerous and if your skin gets damaged, as a first aider, I know that it can create unwanted and possibly dangerous infections. But, unfortunately, I lost pace. I think either i shifted gears too late or i didn’t have enough pace. This is the first time that i was not able to make this hill and,obviously,at the wrong time too. Braked (smoothly to avoid skidding)in the middle of the hill and to my surprise, the magpie landed down below me on the grass. I started and the magpie flew up. Braked. The magpie landed back further out below me again. What a fool. So, i edged slowly and watched her every move. Braked when she flew and moved when she landed. Slowly, I edged my way out off the hill onto the pavement. The road is on my right and the park is on my left. T Junction on the road 15 metres ahead. Taking a left staying on the pavement with the trees of the park overhanging the pavement and the road on my right. From the beginning of the story to now, I have made a 180 degree turn to the left going from the park on my left, uphill onto the bridge, and left at a T junction with the park still on my left. Anyway, now that i was out of the park and it was only on the border, i sped up to 3rd gear. By the way, this is a 18 speed mountain bike with back and rear lights and reflectors, drink holder, bike stand. You name it. I was wearing a helmet and knee pads. Short sleeved shirt and shorts. minimal body protection as you can see to manage a magpie. Anyway, getting back to the story. Seeming as the magpie retreated to going from tree to tree beside the pavement, i figured that he would not go beyond the trees out onto the road to follow me. So,as it was dark, I switched on my lights to increase visibility to cars, and hit the road on my usual high speed 5th gear suited to the uphill gradient of that section of the road. I felt lucky to escape untouched. Thrilled to defeat the foolish magpie. No magpie will ever beat me. Not in my life and not even my grave as i shall be burnt to ashes and spread away in the waters of Sydney not to be buried.

    MORAL OF THE STORY: The natural tendency for a human when threatened is to run. For a magpie, the opposite applies. Use the 3S-OS tactic. The name of the game is to STOP, SLOW, SNEAK Out Slowly out of the magpie’s territory. Once, the magpie’s released you, then you can go as fast or as slow as you like. You can even jiggle to celebrate your successful escape if it’s your first magpie attack or rather threat since you succeeded. If you succeeded with any other way, than the 3S-OS strategy, tell me and us so we can defeat the foolish magpie.

    Disclaimer: In the event of injury to you in your efforts to meet this challenge, i am not legally liable to anyone for any injury caused whatsoever to you or anyone involved in your undertaking of this challenge due to your undertaking of this challenge and you take this challenge at your own risk. This challenge is only for risk-seekers not risk-avert investors. Legal illiteracy, carelessness and mistake does not hold me or my relatives liable to any extent for any cause.

  79. Trevor says:

    Thanks Gopi. Your disclaimer is interesting when you claim you are not legally liable etc. The fact remains – Australian Magpies – like all native birds in Australia – are protected by law. If you take the nest, eggs or young or capture an adult bird in any way, you are breaking the law. Period. Your challenge is therefore ill-advised and quite illegal. It cannot be condoned in any way.

    I have therefore removed that part of your comment. As owner of this site I reserve the right to do that.

  80. Cathy says:

    Dear Dear Gopi

    I think you have been mistaken – the Magpies are not the pest in this story, from what I can read, there is only one real pest and that is the human who cannot understand that the magpie is protecting her/his young for a period may be not more than one/two months.

    The real moral of this story is typical human ignorance! How about you learn more about the magpies and why they react the way they do, instead of issuing challenges for people to stop them.

    There that is my challenge to you Gopi – see what you can learn about our native species the Magpie – because education is power!

    You might even become an advocate for these amazing birds

  81. Trevor says:

    Hear! Hear!

    Well said Cathy. Sadly though, most people who are the chief offenders are not only ignorant, they probably can’t even read this. If if they can read, don’t understand. Or won’t try to understand.

    Thanks for coming to my defence.

  82. Cathy says:

    Hi Trevor

    I can only hope that young Gopi can read (as he can write)…and that maybe some sense might get through….

    On another level – I just organised a fundraising dinner for Australian Seabird Rescue on the Central Coast and we raised over $6,000 – was an awesome night!!

    We rescue and care for all sea and water birds and marine reptiles on the Central Coast – with pelicans being our main animal that needs our help – due to fishing hooks and line injuries.

  83. Karen F says:

    I completely agree with you Trevor and Cathy! I feel guilty if birds swoop me because it means I’m stressing them and I should take care to avoid the area until they’ve raised their young.

    I have the same difficulty trying to explain to people at work why they should give the plover pair who are nesting on our Oval a wide berth. Some people seem to feel that it’s their god-given right to go wherever they want whenever they want with complete disregard for the native population.

    Incidentally, after the crow swooped me the other day I checked out the area (from a distance!). No nest that I can see but one very large baby sitting on a power line, so that explains why!

  84. Trevor says:

    That’s really awesome Cathy. Six grand is not chicken feed. Well done you.

    Is there a web site I can link to or direct readers to so the group can get more publicity? I have over 700 readers daily on this site – and rising.

    Another way could be for you to write an article about your work and I’ll publish it here. Say 400 – 600 words. What do you think?

    As this is getting off topic now, perhaps use the contact form on the sidebar so we can talk via email. I’ll be away from my computer for most of tomorrow, so I can’t reply until evening.

  85. dodgem says:

    I can’t say I’m particularly fond of birds at this time of the year but I agree with Cathy. Learn about your natural environment and learn to live in harmony with it – even the birds. Check out on how to defeat the foolish magpies without doing anything harmful.

  86. Julie says:

    I am a teacher at a preschool. we are currently experiencing a problem with kookaburras swooping for the children’s food at their morning tea and lunch times. They are taking food out of the children’s hands, landing on the lunch tables and coming very close to the children’s faces. This is frightening the children and I am worried a child will get hurt by the kookaburras beak. Any ideas?

  87. Trevor says:

    Sorry about the delay in replying Julie. This is certainly a difficult and frightening situation for the children. I am not sure if my solution will work as I’ve never tried this, but for the safety of the children and the welfare of the birds it might be worth a try.

    Is there somewhere nearby where you could divert the attention of the birds with a supply of food scraps? Perhaps you could locate a feed tray on a stand or hanging in a tree nearby. Place some food scraps (eg fruit, mince, bits of meat) on the tray about ten minutes before the children come out to eat. The birds may need a few weeks of training to accept this food. Once they are used to accepting the provided food, time it closer to the children’s meal time. In that way the birds will hopefully go to the tray and not bother the children.

    The only other solution is to eat indoors, probably not your preferred option. Let us know how it goes.

  88. […] Dealing with aggressive bird behaviour Thursday November 6th, 2008 | Categories: Bird Behaviour » Leave a comment   […]

  89. Jennifer says:

    We are a family of bird lovers but the aggressive behaviour of a pair of noisy miners is diminishing our bird love of late.

    The birds have a nest in a gum tree on the naturestrip (above the footpath) adjacent to the driveway of the next door neighbour’s house. Initially, we observed the neighbours being repeatedly stalked and divebombed when they were in their driveway or collecting their mail. The birds appear to have reliable memories of the arrival and departure times of the neighbours and can seem to identify human individuals and target them.

    Alas, these birds have now decided to extend their territory to our property and include us in their war zone. Our driveway and front door is approximately 60 feet away from their tree (nest). It is now not possible to walk in the front driveway or check the mail without being repeatedly swooped and screamed at by two noisy miners (in what appears to be a co-ordinated attack).

    We have a nectar feeder accessible from a front window for the rainbow lorrikeets. Up until this year, the noisy miners historically have feed there as well. Now the problem birds land on the feeding stand and peer through the window. If they see us, but most particularly me, they screech their warning cry and keep coming back, checking to see if I am still there – it feels kind of like avian stalking :).

    For years we have feed an extended family of magpies in the back garden (they are old friends) and we are safe there when the magpies are about but it seems that the noisy miners are trying to take over the backyard too.

    Last week the birds started swooping our cars as we entered and exited the front driveway. We really are starting to feel under siege.

    This behaviour has been going on for over 2 months now. Our street connects to a popular walking track that leads to a retirement village. The birds are attacking walkers on the footpath as well.

    Up until now, I have never heard of noisy miners exhibiting such behaviour and am at a loss about how we are to co-exist together.

    I understand and appreciate that the birds are most probably being territorial because of young in their nest but their aggressive behaviour is escalating and their territory range extending. In all truth, it would appear that one of the birds, in particular, has developed a pathological rage!

    Does anyone have any experience of attacks by noisy miners? Will it always be like this? Or, is there a definite breeding season when the birds will do their ‘roid rage thing and quieten down for the rest of the year?

    Any thoughts or ideas on how to call a truce with the Stalker Birds gratefully received.

  90. Trevor says:

    Hi there Jennifer. Thanks for stopping by and relating your perplexing experiences.

    Noisy Miners can be quite aggressive towards other bird species and that is well documented. Targetting people the way these birds are doing seems a little out of the ordinary. I really do not know how to deal with your problem.

    Their breeding season lasts from June to December. I hope things calm down for you in the new year.

  91. Bon says:

    On my early morning jog in the Turramurra bush today, I was swooped three times by a Butcher Bird. Each time it launched in a vitual straight line from a high gum tree. It’s unnerving to watch this dot zooming in size straight towards you. Interestingly, it was mobbed by Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and Noisy Mynahs who also seemed disturbed by it’s aggressive behaviour.

  92. Trevor says:

    Thanks for stopping by Bon – and for leaving a comment. Being swooped can be VERY unnerving to the unwary. I once had a butcherbird take a sandwich out of my hand while having a picnic lunch.

    I read only yesterday that up to 10% of bird swoops attributed to Australian Magpies are are misidentified and are actually Butcherbird attacks.

    There is quite likely to be a nest with young nearby.

  93. Jennifer says:

    Hi again, Trevor. Thank you for your comments.
    Just an update to our Noisy Miner experiences.

    I’ve since learnt that another neighbour on the other of us has also been repeatedly and consistently attacked by the Noisy Miners. She says these attacks have been going on for a couple of months. She says the birds swoop her in her front and back yard. She is a very keen gardener and she has now become anxious being out in her garden. It’s such a pity as her garden is suffering and she has lost the enjoyment that it brought to her.

    As well, one of the birds has connected with our son one day when he was getting out of his car. Fortunately, he was wearing a cap so he was not injured.

    Two of the birds have added swooping our cars to their repertoire.

    December has now arrived and all of us are hopeful that the birds will check their calendar and get into an appropriate festive spirit. Truly, this has been the most enduring and strangest experience our family has had with birds, particularly Noisy Miners.

    Can you tell me please, do the birds build their nests in the same location each year? Gosh, I hope not!

  94. Trevor says:

    I have some bad news for you Jennifer – Noisy Miners are reasonably territorial so they are likely to nest in the same locality in future years. Perhaps not in the same tree or bush be certainly nearby – say within a few hundred metres of the current nest.

    The only suggestion for a solution I can think of is to contact your local wildlife authority (eg National Parks and Wildlife) and see if they can give any advice.

  95. Kathy Patten says:

    This blackbird is swooping in San Francisco:

  96. Trevor says:

    Thanks for visiting Kathy, and for leaving a comment. Thanks for the link to that story.

    We are actually talking about very different species of birds. My article here is about the Common Blackbird in Australia, an introduced species from Europe. As far as I know there are no records of this species actually swooping people.

    The article doesn’t give the correct name for the bird mentioned. Would it actually be a Grackle? I’ve heard that they swoop. The Red-winged Blackbird of north and central American is also very aggressive, I believe.

    Thanks again for your contribution.

  97. claire says:

    Hi Trevor,

    My family recently moved into a rental property adjacent to a small nature reserve. Yesterday, two crows began to aggressively swoop our dog. Later that day, our dog discovered a fledgling crow in our bushes and had it cornered while its parents swooped frantically overhead. I managed to call our dog away and placed the baby over the fence for its parents to deal with. I thought I’d been doing a good deed but the crows seem to have me marked as some kind of enemy as they now swoop me very aggressively whenever I leave the house. They don’t swoop any other family members. I have read that crows remember individuals and once considered an “enemy” they will constantly harass you. Do you have any advice on how to change a crow’s mind about you”?!!!

  98. Trevor says:

    Hi there Claire,

    This is somewhat bizarre behaviour for a crow. Of course, they are defending the young one, but to then swoop you is unusual. They are know to swoop and harass other bird species, and other crows who are intruders to their territory. There have be instances of them also attacking foxes, cats and dogs too.

    Changing the behaviour of the bird towards you is problematic. The young has already left the nest, so it is only weeks away from becoming fully independent so the problem should then go away.

    What happens next time they breed is another question!! Don’t leave home without a helmet!

  99. Ian says:

    Hi All,

    I recently experienced being swooped by crows as they have decided to build a nest at my work a noisy asphalt plant of all places! They come close enough to ruffle your hair or skim a hard hat but no pecking or other aggressive behaviour. As others have said they seem to take a dislike for certain people as well attacking them more than others. But working near them all day they seem to leave you alone for hours at a time. Also for the readers having trouble with magpies swooping while they are riding their bicycles, try attaching plastic cable ties through the vents in the helmet. The plastic sticking up deters the birds before they get close and it is harmless to them if they touch it.

  100. Trevor says:

    Thanks for this suggestion Ian.

  101. Lynsey says:

    A pair of grey butcher birds nested in the exact centre of our small garden while we were on holiday for a short week in September. They are extremely aggressive and the weeds are growing, the summer vegies are unplanted, as I have tried to give them space to get on withtheir breeding and get it over. The babies are now flopping around on the ground and I feel that I will never get my garden back. Worse, I have now read that the offspring will hang around and help rear next season’s brood. I’m prepared to live and let live, but I’m not prepared to give up my garden in perpetuity to this crowd. There is plenty of bush around, and plenty of trees in the neighbourhood, too.

    I’ve been advised to feed the birds to get them used to the idea that humans are benign, but then they started demanding food with menaces, too.

    The only preventative I can think of is to remove the central tree and hang cds in all the perimeter trees next year – no small task. And will it deter the butcher birds?

    Yes, I do love their song, even when it wakes me at 5 a.m.

    I have been astounded to see that the babies left the nest before they could fly. They have been hopping about on the lawn for three days (and nights) now. Do all butcher birds attempt to rear young in this inefficient way? What would they do if the neighbours had cats? Surely the parents can’t protect the young from predators in the wild?

    I would love to hear more on this subject!

    What are other people doing in this situation?

  102. Lynsey says:

    Have just had a fascinating time reading all the “Older Comments” on the website. I’m so glad I stumbled across it. I will be a regular visitor. Bird aggression seems to be a growing phenomenon. Sadly, the old population of crested pigeons and even sulphur-crested cockatoos have disappeared since the butcher birds moved into my garden. I hope they don’t eat rainbow lorikeets. The frogs and cicadas are gone, too, and I bet we won’t have any golden orb spiders this year.

  103. Trevor says:

    Hi there Lynsey,

    welcome to my birding blog. Thanks for leaving some comments, adding to the discussion on this fascinating and sometimes frustrating topic.

  104. Mary says:

    I think I have finally, correctly, identified our backyard “swoopers”: mockingbirds. I ID’d them with help from the Visual Key for Bird Identification website I found at It has a simple silhouette ID system and some of birds also link to recorded sounds. The mockingbird recording didn’t remind me of the birds I have, probably because I primarily associate their sound with that which they make when they are screeching (almost like fingernails on a blackboard)at my cat!

  105. Trevor says:

    Hi Mary,

    The Mockingbirds you are referring to are a north American species which are known for swooping anything that threatens their nests and young, including pets like cats and dogs, as well as humans.

    Mockingbirds are nothing like the Common Blackbirds found here in Australia, which do not swoop.

  106. […] found an interesting site on swooping birds today: Interestingly enough, the Indian Minor does not get a mention. I find these birds to be the most […]

  107. […] are very cantankerous given the right circumstances. A few years ago I wrote a long article about dealing with aggressive bird behaviour. It has proved to be one of the most popular articles on this […]

  108. brett says:

    On the day of May, 12 2010, i was paragliding as usual along the cliffs of the Torrey Pines Glider-port in San Diego, California. I was flying along at about cliff height when suddenly i was struck in the helmet……..VERY hard. i looked around the skies to see if somebody had maybe thrown a rock at me from the top of the cliff or something like that. When i turned around in my harness, i saw a huge hawk (not sure what kind) about 3 feet directly behind me with its claws fully out trying not only to grab my head but also he was trying to attack my para-glider! i was pretty vulnerable since my para-glider was flying slower than him. He aggressively chased me through-out the skies for about a mile. The only way i kept him from hitting me a second time was to do unsafe high banked turns to loose altitude. The biggest problem i was having was getting back to the grass area that i had launched from……..which of course happened to be on the other side of this crazy bird! evey time i would get within a half mile or so of this bird, he would leave his nest and try to attack me again! this went on for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. luckily another paraglider was flying in the same area as me and when the bird went to attack the other paraglider, thats when i FINALLY saw an opportunity to pass that crazy ass territorial bird. i wouldnt mind if it was a little bird but this thing was huge! i would guess his wingspan was about 4-5 feet……not to mention i could see his claws from 30 feet away! what the hell bird!

  109. Trevor says:

    Hey Brett – what a terrifying experience. I am pleased that you lived to tell the tale. Thanks for sharing with my readers.

    I understand that in some parts of the world eagles and hawks are a very real hazard for paragliders. Take care when you go out next.

  110. Trevor says:

    Brett responded via email:

    Thanks for responding back. Your website is awesome. I talked with some locals in the area and they told me it was most likely a peregrine falcon. I didn’t know that when I posted a few weeks ago. I was told that it had just had two babies in it’s nest and that’s why it was so aggressive.

  111. Joanne says:

    Hi Trevor,
    Just letting you know that crows in Australia do swoop. There is an issue with this right now at the playground at Westfield Helensvale (Gold Coast). I thought I was mistaken the first time I saw it (crows don’t do that) but the evidence show that they do!

  112. Trevor says:

    Thanks Joanne, your observation is an interesting one as I’ve not heard of crows or ravens swooping in Australia. Mind you, many of them don’t need to swoop – just staring you down with those big eyes alongside that massive beak is scary enough!

    Is it just one bird causing this problem, or a group? Are they nesting, or feeding young nearby?

    Can you point me to some local online newspaper reports about this?

  113. Joanne says:

    Not sure if is a group or individual – they all look the same to me! Also unsure if nesting, though the plovers and magpies in the area have been.
    No news articles as of yet – if I see anything I’ll pass it on.
    They don’t swoop adults, just children (normally the smallest) that venture onto the grassed area.

  114. […] Do Blackbirds swoop? Dealing with aggressive birds. Tags: Adelaide Zoo, Blackbirds, Zoos Tweet « Prev: A short non-birding holiday     […]

  115. Otis Emalus says:

    I just had a rather scary encounter with a noisy miner. (Not an Indian miner.) It swooped me about 7-8 times, and was not intimidated when I just stood there, facing it, while it came in for the swoop. I punched the air to scare it off. Didn’t get physical with me…but I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had made contact. I think the other miners chip in when they see it attacking. Got the adrenaline pumping!

  116. Bless says:

    I had a bad experience with a butcherbird it used to swoop down at me every time i went to dry my clothes in the backyard.It was such a nuisance,I used to dread going to the backyard and the local council wouldn’t do anything about it.

  117. Alan says:

    Blackbirds have been nesting in my back garden in Croydon SA for 7 or 8 years. This year, March ’12, they have all disappeared from the neighbourhood. I miss their morning and evening song! Why have they gone? Has any else experienced their loss?

  118. Lisa Yusko says:


    I would like some advice on dealing with a very aggressive Red Winged Blackbird who has decided to nest near my yard. This happened last year..and I fear he or she is back!! I don’t know how to mow my lawn, tend to my flowers, water my any time I go out there…the thing will swoop and swauk..while I get it…you are nesting…I have to live in my own space…what do I do..any suggestions!!??

    Thank you.

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for your comments and question. Sorry about the long delay in replying – your comments slipped through amongst the many I get and has remained unanswered for too long. Sorry.

      I can’t help you with your questions, unfortunately. You are talking about a totally different species. I was writing about the Common Blackbird, a European species introduced here in Australia. I have never seen a Red Winged Blackbird as they live in America and are unrelated to the European Blackbird we get here in Australia.

      Sorry I couldn’t help you.

  119. mary says:

    I recall reading that some gardeners found a good repellent effect by wearing a cap or hat with very large handmade cutouts that look like large eyes. Please let us know how this or other ideas/solutions go for you.

  120. Emily says:

    Hi Trevor,

    I have a question for you regarding a regular visitor to our new home, in the form of a long-billed Corella nicknamed ‘Cecil’.

    We moved in about a month ago and discovered our new friend after a few days. The previous owner had obviously been feeding him and the other birdlife in our new backyard, so we put out a little bit of seed each night to keep them happy! Over christmas when my Dad visited, Cecil became territorial and had a go at him, which involved Cecil clamping onto Dad’s shoe with Dad kicking wildly to get him off.

    Since this time he has been aggressive towards my partner, swooping down to his feet and then charging at him, but he shows no aggression towards me. We both spent time with him outside and both had been putting seed out when he was around. Do you have any suggestions as to why he has started acting like this? Is the best thing just to stop feeding him?

    We both love having the local birdlife in our backyard, but I don’t want my partner to have to worry about being attacked in his own backyard – that beak alone is a bit frightening! We would love to try and be his friend – but I’m not sure if Cecil is seeing it that way at the moment!

    Hope you can help!

  121. andrew says:

    just a post to let you all know i live in new zealand , we have eurasin blackbirds . i am constantly swooped upon by 1 male blackbird it flys in my face so close i can feel its wings flapping and brushing past my cheek , it is a myth that they are timid and do not swoop

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Andrew,
      This is an interesting observation, but it is merely anecdotal. One swooping Blackbird is only an aberration in my opinion, just an individual with an aggressive streak. I stand by my assertion that Common Blackbirds in general do not swoop. A search of the relevant literature* did not mention aggression towards humans, but it did highlight fighting between males during breeding season, usually territorial disputes.
      *HANZAB (Handbook of Australian New Zealand and Antarctic Birds Vol 7 p.1844.

  122. […] Do Blackbirds swoop? How to deal with aggressive birds. […]

  123. […] Do Blackbirds Swoop? How to deal with aggressive behaviour in birds. […]

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