Magpie swooping season is here and they have been active for a few months. Magpies are well-known for swooping humans and pets during their breeding season, July to December, with the peak swooping month September. This has resulted in the magpie becoming a nuisance to some people.
Many species in the animal kingdom have the natural instinct to protect their young, and our favourite Aussie swopping-extraordinaire, the magpie, is no exception.
Magpie nests are a bowl shape made from dry sticks with a lining of grass and bark or any other non-plant materials that the birds can find. The clutch size is usually around three to four eggs, though this varies according to season, weather, predators, and the general health of the parents. Both parents will raise their young.
Although being swooped can be scary, the magpie’s reputation as being a bloodthirsty monster isn’t true.
Just like us, they are using their body language – beak clapping, whooshing above your head and screeching – to warn other birds, animals, and humans to keep away from their eggs or newly-hatched chicks.
Females will typically sit on them for three weeks until they hatch. Some males defend their nests from the time the eggs are laid until the young birds are fledged. They will attack anything they consider to be a threat – from a sparrow to a dog to a human.
So, what can you do to make it through magpie breeding season unscathed by a swoop?
If you’re out and about enjoying the warmer weather, the best way to avoid being swooped is to change your route.
Magpies only swoop within about 100 metres of their nests, so it’s best for people to stay away from known magpie nesting areas.
Also, magpies usually go back to the same spot every year, so if there was a swooping danger zone on your route last year, it is likely to be there again this year.
If changing your route isn’t possible, here are some other tactics to avoid then magpie dive:
- Travel in groups, as swooping birds usually only target individuals.
- Carry an open umbrella above your head.
- Wear sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat.
- If you ride a bike, walk it through magpie territory or have a flag on the back of the bike that is higher than your head.
- Do not act aggressively. If you wave your arms about or shout, the magpies will see you as a threat to the nest – and not just this year, but for up to five years to come.
- Walk, don’t run.
- Avoid making eye contact with the birds.