The problem of swooping magpies

Australian Magpie (male)

Australian Magpie (male)

It’s magpie swooping time again.

At this time of year people in many places around Australia are ducking for cover. It is magpie swooping time again. Around July and onwards our Australian Magpies start building or refurbishing their nests ready for the breeding season. Once the female has laid to eggs she is the only one to hatch them. Meanwhile, the male keeps guard over his territory.

Territorial

This species is highly territorial and disputes over their patch are hotly contested. On our five acre (2 hectare) property we have three intersecting territories, so the conflict can sometimes get quite boisterous. Once nesting commences, these bird wars calm down. You could say that they are real life “angry birds”.

Attacks

The fighting doesn’t always end there, however. While the female is sitting on the eggs, or the young are being fed while still in the nest, the male can be very aggressive in guarding his territory against anything, or anyone, he sees as a threat to the success of his progeny. Animals – including dogs, cats, foxes – other birds, walkers, gardeners, joggers and anyone misguided enough to venture within a hundred metres or so of the nest are all fair targets. Cyclists are a particular object of attack.

Damage

The male magpie will usually wait until the target has passed by, and will then attack from behind, a swift, smooth, nearly silent swoop aimed at the head. A swoosh of the wings and a few snaps of the beak from less than a metre behind is often the only warning one gets. By then it is too late. If contact is made the result can be both frightening and bloody. Their sharp beak can inflict a nasty break in the skin, and in a worst case scenario they have been known to damage an eye.

Preventing being swooped

So – what can one do to prevent getting swooped? I recently read this great list which was published here in South Australia in Weekend Plus: a digital magazine for seniors.

“We do need to take care around them because they have sharp beaks and claws and if they make contact, they can draw blood.

“The good news is that swooping season only lasts about six weeks, beginning when the eggs hatch and finishing when the young birds leave the nest.

“The best way to avoid being swooped is to change your route if possible, as they’ll only swoop within 50m of their nests.”

More tips for surviving the spring swoop

  • Avoid making eye contact with magpies.
  • Walk, don’t run past their nests.
  • Travel in groups where possible as swooping birds generally target individuals.
  • Carry an open umbrella or wear sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat.
  • If you’re riding a bike, walk your bike through magpie territory or attach a flag to the back that is taller than your head.
  • Don’t wave your arms or shout – this just proves you are a threat to the nest.
  • If you know of a swooping magpie, put up a sign to warn others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further reading:

Australian Magpie (male)

Australian Magpie (male)

Australian Magpie (male)

Australian Magpie (male)

 

 

5 Responses to “The problem of swooping magpies”

  1. thomas says:

    WHEN DOES MAGPIE STOP SWOOPING AORUND CAPLABA 4157.

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Thomas, Magpies can have several broods in one breeding season so that the species survives. The death rate of birds under 1 year old is very high so they breed several times a year to ensure at least one or two reach adulthood. They usually stop breeding around December in most parts of Australia, depending on the available food.

  2. thomas says:

    I LIVE AROUND CAPLABA I WHANT MAGPIES TO GO AWAY SO I CAN GET OVER TO MY CLUB IN CAPLABA SPORTS CLUB THEIR ONE THEIR WHAT CAN I DO A BOUT IT THANK YOU,

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