It’s magpie breeding season and Queenslanders are reminded to be aware of the risk of injury from magpie attacks near their nests.
The breeding season typically occurs from July to November with swooping usually ceasing once the chicks have left the nest. Only a small proportion of nesting magpies swoop on people and those which do will attack cyclists riding past and anyone walking near to their nests.
Almost all swoops at people are carried out by male magpies defending their eggs and chicks. It’s important to be aware of the potential for this to occur and to make sure children in particular are equipped with some simple tips to stay safe during magpie season.
A magpie’s defensive behaviour can range from a non-contact swoop, with or without beak snapping, through to pecking, dive-bombing and sometimes front-on attacks from the ground.
Tips to stay safe during magpie season include:
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses or shelter under an umbrella to protect your face from swooping magpies (painting or sticking large ‘eyes’ on the back of your hat can also deter magpies—but this may not work for cyclists).
- If a magpie swoops while you are cycling, it will probably stop swooping if you get off your bike and walk.
- Avoid ‘defence zones’ around magpie nests by taking alternative routes during the breeding season.
- If you must enter a ‘defence zone’, magpies will be less likely to swoop if they are watched constantly, or if people walk in close groups.
- Use signs to warn others of the location of nests and defence zones, particularly in areas used by children and the elderly.
- Waving sticks or umbrellas in the air or attaching a brightly coloured flag on a long pole to your bicycle can stop magpies from swooping.
- If a magpie swoops shield your face and head and leave the area quickly but carefully, being mindful of your surroundings such as roads.
- Never approach a young magpie. If you pick them up or get too close the parent bird may think you are a possible predator.
In Queensland all native birds, reptiles and amphibians are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. This includes the magpie.
If a magpie that is defending its nest becomes aggressive and a risk to human safety the magpie may, in some instances, have to be removed.
Check your local directory for details of your nearest licensed magpie relocator. This is a commercial service and a fee is usually charged, typically paid by the complainant or landowner.
Further information on living with magpies, along with printable signs http://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/wildlife/livingwith/magpie_safe.html