Dealing with swooping birds
Native birds, including Australian Magpies and plovers (Masked Lapwings), are highly protective of their eggs, nest and young and will often ‘swoop’ unsuspecting passers-by if they feel threatened. Only a small percentage of birds attack during spring as a ‘warning’ to ward off intruders to their territory, which may include your local park, backyard or schoolyard.
Protection and avoidance
All native birds are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975 and there are serious penalties for taking, harassing or injuring native wildlife. It is illegal to kill birds, or to interfere with their nests containing eggs or young without a permit or authority. There are ways to minimise attacks.
Top 10 tips to protect yourself from swooping birds
1. Know your local swooping hotspots. Keep informed about parks, schoolyards and bike trails in your local area by reading your local newspapers.
2. Avoid the area. The best way to protect yourself from a swooping bird, is to avoid venturing into their territory.
3. Move quickly. If you must pass through the area – move quickly – do not run.
4. Cover your head. Wear a hat or carry a stick or umbrella above your head. Cyclists should wear a helmet, dismount and walk through the area.
5. Eyes at the back of your head. Birds may be less likely to swoop if they think you are watching them. Draw a pair of ‘eyes’ and attach to the back of hats and helmets. A printable set of ‘eyes’ is available for you to download.
6. Do not harass wildlife. Don’t interfere with or throw stones at birds. This gives them added reason to see humans as a threat and may increase swooping behaviour.
7. Do not destroy nests. This may prompt birds to rebuild their nests, prolonging the swooping behaviour.
8. Don’t feed swooping birds.
9. Travel in a group. If possible, try to travel in a group in areas where there are swooping birds.
What can be done about swooping birds?
The best strategy is to avoid areas where aggressive birds are swooping at people during breeding season, based on local knowledge. However, don't be concerned simply because there are magpies present.
If it can be shown that all avoidance strategies have failed and the bird continues to attack and is likely to cause injury, the bird may be relocated or destroyed by a licensed wildlife controller. All native birds are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975 and there are serious penalties for taking, harassing or injuring native wildlife. It is illegal to kill birds, or to interfere with their nests containing eggs or young without a permit or authority.
For many months of the year Magpies are just another part of the environment, with many Australians not giving them another thought. It's not until they start swooping that Magpies become a problem.
It is important to realise that swooping is a natural behaviour, as the birds defend their nesting territory. Swooping only occurs for about eight weeks in spring, from August until October.
There are things we can do to avoid being swooped:
Remember that Magpies are protected throughout NSW and it is against the law to kill the birds, collects their eggs, or harm their young.
For more information on Magpies visit NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website.