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Everything you need to know about magpie nesting season, including how to reduce your chances of getting swooped.

Spring has sprung and so has magpie swooping season. Things got pretty rough in Sydney last year with many attacks reported and even the controversial culling of aggressive magpies in the Lane Cove area by Council. To avoid this happening again here are some tips from the experts on how to get along with our magpie mates.

It’s good to know that for most of the year, these intelligent birds are docile. They start swooping for around 4 to 6 weeks of the year during nesting. This is, of course, is merely a defence tactic to chase away threats, including pedestrians or bike riders, within 50 to 100 metres of their nest.

According to our nation’s largest bird conservation organisation, BirdLife Australia, “the faster you’re moving, the greater the threat.”

However, there’s no need to fear. BirdLife Australia shares that “despite their bad reputation, magpie attacks are relatively rare.” Less than 10% of male magpies swoop people and most don’t actually come close enough to make physical contact. Here are some of their tips on how to best avoid trouble with your neighbourhood maggie…

Image Credit: AndyRenolds.com  @anydreynoldsphoto

Pedestrians: How to avoid getting swooped

  • Take a slight detour to avoid walking where magpies are nesting. BirdLife Australia advises avoiding the area “usually for a month or so while the young are still in the nest.”
  • If you do have to pass by, walk quickly. But do not run.
  • Keep an eye on the magpie, as you walk past. They’re less likely to swoop if they see you’re watching them. Alternatively, draw or sew a pair of eyes onto the back of your hat or wear sunglasses on the back of your head.
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes.
  • Carry an open umbrella, stick or small branch over your head. Do not swing it at the magpie, as this will only provoke it.
  • Travel in a group. Swooping birds generally target individuals.
  • Don’t provoke or harass magpies – this only makes them more aggressive.
  • Don’t remove/destroy nests – magpies may re-nest which then extends the breeding (and swooping) season.


magpie swooping cyclist
                                             Image: Shane Miller – GPLama

Cyclists: How to avoid getting swooped

  • Dismount and wheel your bicycle quickly through the area or take an alternate route.
  • Put stickers of a pair of eyes on your bike helmets.
  • Fit a red bike flag to your bike or add plastic cable ties to the front of your helmet and over the ear. This directs birds to the highest point, away from your face.

magpie on wall

Remember to make friends (not enemies) with your neighbourhood magpies. They play an important role in natural pest management and help to maintain Australia’s unique biodiversity.

Main image: with thanks to Shane Miller – GPLama