As you are aware, issues arise seasonally throughout Queensland regarding conflicts between magpies and people. This usually involves male magpies displaying territorial behaviour during the nesting time and swooping at passers by, and sometimes results in persons being struck by the bird.
Attacks from aggressive magpies can cause distress or injury to members of the public and frequently result in demands for action to remove the bird.There are various issues and responsibilities associated with magpie nesting season, which takes place annually between July and December, and peaks in August to October.Only a small percentage of male magpies act aggressively in the defence of their nest. These magpies will try to deter pedestrians and cyclists from approaching their nesting area by swooping, beating their wings, clicking their beaks and in the case of the more aggressive birds occasionally pecking. This behaviour usually occurs within 100 m of the nest and only occurs when chicks are present, and will usually last for only six to eight weeks.
Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) provides the following standard public information to calls it receives on how to minimise the potential for a magpie attack and to reduce the consequences of an attack taking place.There are a few techniques that can be used to avoid or minimise the chance of a magpie attack. The best is to simply avoid the territory where magpies are known to be swooping.If you must enter the area, keep the bird under constant observation as it is less likely to swoop when it is being watched. Also wear a hat or helmet or carry an umbrella. Bike riders should dismount and walk through the territory.If you are swooped, do not crouch in fear or stop. Move on quickly but do not run. Most importantly, never deliberately provoke or harass a magpie as this usually results in greater defensive behaviour.
The information includes a magpie safety flyer and poster, which may be downloaded and printed. DEHP (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services Division) also has copies of the flyers available for distribution.
Should you have any further enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services (QPWS) on 4796 7777
Magpie Nesting Season – Magpies and people living together
Our Suburban Home
Because magpies are adapted to open environments, and find their food on the ground, they love living in town. There are vast areas of lawns for foraging, scattered trees for nesting and plenty of food and water. Even though they get used to seeing people around, they are still wild animals, defending their territories from other magpies and keeping real and would-be predators away from their precious nests.
Protecting their babies
Most magpies accept the presence of people in their territories and that we are not competitors or dangerous predators. A few birds, however, become convinced that some people are a threat to their chicks and attempt to scare them away from the vicinity of the nest. Usually this is a small area (the ‘defence zone’, about 100 metres radius) around the tree containing the nest, although it may be a wider area when cyclists are involved.
Keep away! The magpies “Defence Zone’
Magpie swooping is almost entirely limited to the ‘defence zone’. Swooping lasts only while there are chicks in the nest (about six weeks), and is launched by the male. His aim is to drive the intruder away from the nest, not to cause injury. If you leave the area quickly, the bird almost always stops swooping.
Magpies are specialists
We now know that most magpies that swoop people are strict specialists. Some are threatened only by pedestrians and others only by cyclists. The few magpies that swoop anyone are usually nesting near a concentration of people (especially schools), where harassment by people (especially children) has probably occurred.
They know their neighbours
Magpies specialising in pedestrians are the commonest sort. Latest research shows they usually target a small number of people known to them. This means that these magpies recognise people and for some reason see these individuals as potential threats to their chicks. These unfortunate people account for a large proportion of the attacks that occur.
Cyclists should dismount
In contrast, the magpies that swoop cyclists will target anyone riding past. It’s not known why these particular birds start swooping bikes bit the research shows they are responding mainly to movement: stopping, dismounting and walking away will instantly stop the swooping.
The latest research has also confirmed that the best way to avoid being swooped is to avoid places where aggressive magpies are nesting. if that is difficult, protect your head with a good hat or umbrella. And never harass the bird: that only ensures an even worse attack next time.
When action is needed
Of course some magpies may be difficult to avoid, or are so aggressive that serious injuries can occur. In these cases, magpies may be relocated away from people. However, these birds are rare.
Council will if neccessary arrange to get a caller bird down from QPWS and trap the offending bird. This bird will then be relocated.
In most cases, it is best to learn to co-exist for the breeding period of about six weeks and take some simple precautions.
Who to Contact
For further information on living safely with magpies please call Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services on 4796 7777.
Additional information regarding magpies and how to live safely with them can be found on the DEHP website.