Magpies in Australia are well-known for swooping humans and pets during their breeding season between July and December, but peak swooping month is September in Brisbane. This is normal defensive behaviour in springtime as the birds are trying to protect their eggs or newly hatched young in the nest.
Walk the long way home! Swooping season can be a nuisance to some people, but often Magpies will accept the presence of people within their territories (they do get to know human families) however when attacks do occur, they usually take place within a hundred metre radius around the tree containing their nest.
I know from experience that a sudden rush of wings and a sharp, snapping beak at the side of your head is a very scary thing.
While most Magpie attacks are mild, they could cause serious injury to your eyes and head.
Seven tips to protect yourself against swooping birds:
(1) Wear a hat or carry an umbrella
(2) Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes
(3) Do not interfere with the birds or their nest
(4) Watch the birds while walking away quickly and calmly
(5) A bird is less likely to swoop if it knows you’re watching
(6) If you ride a bike, dismount and walk
(7) Never aggravate a Magpie as this can make the bird defensive and lead to a more severe swooping attack next time.
Some people paint big eyes on their bike helmets or stick drinking straws on their hats to repel Magpies, but I’m not sure these ideas work. Wearing head protection stops wayward claws from tangling in hair.
Magpies are vocal birds with a carolling call. They adapt well to open and cleared environments and thrive in large areas of lawn (like parks, golf course, school grounds) which provide foraging sites, and where there are scattered trees available for nesting, and a water source.
Usually Magpies eat garden pests and insects but they are inventive when it comes to cat food. In my photo sequence this one peered into the car scrounging for a snack.
The nest of a Magpie is bowl-shaped and made from dry sticks with a lining of grass, bark and other fibres. The clutch size is usually around three to four blue-grey eggs, though this varies according to season, predators and health of the parents. Magpie lifespan is about 25 years and I have had two hanging around my place for several years. Both parents raise their young and guard their territory and they are a natural part of my outdoor life.
PLEASE NOTE The Australian Magpie (Cracticus tibicen) is a native Australian bird and is PROTECTED under the State Wildlife Legislation (Nature Conservation Act 1992). It is a serious offence to harm Magpies and penalties apply for attempting to harm them. Information Brisbane City Council Biodiversity Living with Wildlife.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward