Reducing the risk from swooping magpies
If you have problems with a swooping magpie, several avenues of action are open to you. Keep in mind that the birds swoop only during the nesting and rearing period (from August to October) and each bird generally only swoops for a few weeks during this time. If we can understand the catalysts and the patterns of magpie behaviour, we can greatly reduce the risk.
Living safely with magpies
The following steps can be followed to avoid or reduce the impact of a swooping magpie:
- Never deliberately provoke or harass a magpie. Throwing sticks or stones usually makes them more defensive. Magpies have good memories and they may continuously swoop a potential aggressor.
- Avoid areas where magpies are known to swoop. Remember, magpie hostility lasts only a few weeks and they usually only defend a small area of about 100 m radius around their nest.
- Locate the bird and keep watching it when entering its territory. If it swoops, don’t crouch in fear or stop: move on quickly but don’t run.
- If you are riding a bike make sure you wear a helmet, and dismount and walk through nesting magpie territory.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses or carry an umbrella for protection. Magpies initially attack from behind but can swoop back around.
- Adopt a confident stance as this can have a strong deterrent effect.
- Remember that the magpies are just trying to protect their young. Learning to live alongside wildlife is an important step towards building a better living environment, and observing and listening to magpies can be an enjoyable experience.
- Taking a bird or nest from the wild is illegal without a permit and while such actions may temporarily stop attacks, it is not uncommon for another nesting bird to move in. It is better to avoid the area or live with the swooping bird for six to eight weeks until the chicks learn to fly and the problem ceases.