Everything you need to know about magpie swooping season

Protecting your baby is natural – and it’s the same for magpies. Here’s how to avoid their protective spring swoop.

Magpies are definitely not bloodthirsty monsters out to get us at this time of year. They are just using their body language – beak clapping, whooshing above your head and screeching – to warn others to keep away from their eggs or newly-hatched chicks.

Magpies usually breed between August and October every year, and it’s during this time that their protective swooping behaviour is in full force.

The good news is that a single magpie will swoop for only about six weeks until their chicks are fledged and leave the nest, so magpie breeding season is usually all over by November.

It’s the males that defend their nests from the time the eggs are laid until the young birds are fledged, and they will attack anything they consider to be a threat, from a raven or a dog to a human.

But, what if you’re out and about enjoying the warmer weather on your bike, walking your dog or going for a jog? What can you do to make it through magpie breeding season unscathed by a swoop?

The best way to avoid being swooped is to change your route. Magpies only swoop within 50 metres of their nests so 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.

But if that’s not possible, here’s some tactics to avoid being swooped:

  • 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.
  • If you know of an area that has swooping magpies, put a sign up to warn passers-by.

You can also keep track of recent attacks around South Australia and Australia, as well as record your own on Magpie Alert.

Bird-watching tip: Here’s how to spot a new magpie family – dad has a white back, mum and chick have grey backs and the chick is the one with its head down, mouth open, screeching for food!

Do you love birds? You might like our stories about birds of prey that you can see in SA, types of birds nests you might find in your yard, or how to attract birds to your garden.

(Main image courtesy of Jason Armstrong)

This story was originally posted in August 2017.

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