AGGRESSIVE BIRD: A magpie, the culprit in the swooping season, is protecting a nest.
AGGRESSIVE BIRD: A magpie, the culprit in the swooping season, is protecting a nest. Tony Martin

’Tis the season for swooping

SPRING is high season for swooping magpie attacks and the Australian Veterinary Association is warning people to take precautions around places where magpies nest.

Native birds such as Australian magpies are highly protective of their eggs, nest and young and will often swoop at unsuspecting passers-by if they feel threatened.

President of the AVA's avian special interest group, Dr Robert Johnson, says that some magpies can become highly aggressive during breeding season, from late August to early October.

"Fast-moving objects such as people and bikes and anyone who moves directly towards their nests are perceived as threats and are likely to be swooped," he said.

"Dog walkers and toddlers in prams are also a common target.

"Tolerance is the best policy.

"We need to appreciate that some magpies will defend their territory from intruders because of a natural instinct to protect their offspring.

"Think about using different pathways because moving the bird is not an option."

Top tips

  •  Wear a hat or carry a stick or umbrella which can be raised to fend off serious attacks.
  •  Cyclists should wear a helmet, dismount and walk through the area.
  •  Draw a pair of eyes and attach to the back of hats and helmets, as birds may be less likely to attack if they think you are watching them.
  •  Don't interfere with or throw stones at birds. This may give them more reason to see humans as a threat and lead to increased swooping.
  •  Put up warning signs for others who may not be aware there are swooping birds in the area, or ask your council to do so.


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