September 18, 2022

The Australian native magpie is notorious for swooping in Spring. Learn how to avoid them!

Not surprisingly, swooping season starts around September, the first month of Spring and the start of breeding season for our great Australian native bird, the magpie.

Whilst it can be terrifying if you are on the receiving end of a swooping magpie, it is important to understand that this behaviour is a protective mechanism to scare off perceived predators or threats to their nests. Imagine if you were a parent or parent-to-be, what would you do if you felt something or someone was a threat to your young? Instinctively, you react to protect. It is the same for magpies, and indeed most other animal species.

The magpie is a native Australian bird species and they are protected by:

  • Nature Conservation Act 2014; and
  • Animal Welfare Act 1992.

It is illegal to harm or kill a magpie, therefore it is important we learn how to interact with them during the breeding season. Experts believe that magpies only swoop for a period of 6-8 weeks during their breeding season. However, not all magpies will swoop, just those whose nesting is close to areas where humans may frequent.

Due to the increasing urban development in our country, suitable native landscape for magpies to roost and breed has decreased significantly, which is why swooping often occurs in parks within our community.

Patience during breeding season for magpies is important, because locations for them to breed are severely limited. Remember, outside of swooping season, our native magpie is actually a friendly and important part of our eco-system.

Tips to avoid swooping magpies:

Firstly, if you know an area where magpies swoop and you can avoid the location, this avoidance is the best choice. If possible, we want to allow magpies to breed in peace, and also avoid the stress of being targeted by this species.

In the event you cannot avoid a swoop zone:

  • Walk fast! Running or riding a bike heightens the sense of danger for a magpie. So remove yourself from the area quickly, but not too quick! Don’t run, and dismount from your bike.
  • Don’t turn your back to a magpie. Face the bird and remove yourself from the location.
  • Cover your head. Popular protective items are umbrellas, helmets and even just your hands above your head.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • Try not to panic. When you panic, you are likely to rush a movement or make a misstep, meaning you may fall or hurt yourself in a fluster as you try to get away from the bird.
  • Where possible, walk in groups as magpies are more likely to swoop an individual.  

At the Bird Advocacy Foundation (BAF), we promote better outcomes for our native bird species. We work with a range of partners to drive new initiatives which promote the availability of food, water and shelter for the preservation of our bird wildlife. Our research suggests that many challenges faced between humans and birds can be remedied with proactive planning and the implementation of wildlife support strategies.